Researchers have developed soft actuators that allow you to feel the touch of virtual objects.
A team of engineers from the Federal Polytechnic School of Lausanne decided to make VR technology more realistic by adding tactile sensations to physically non-existent objects. To do this, scientists have created tiny capsules that can inflate and deflate under the influence of an electric current..
Each capsule 1 mm in size is covered with an insulating silicone membrane with an inner pocket filled with oil, under which there are four electrodes. When voltage is applied, the electrodes attract, causing the center of the capsule to swell like a blister. This system allows you to mix the bubble in different directions, giving the impression of touching a solid object..
Researchers are already working on integrating an array of such capsules into a thin glove to mimic the sensations of contact with various materials such as wood, plastic or ceramic. They also compose special software that will help trick our brains into giving virtual objects the necessary properties and mass. According to the team, the technology can be used not only for video games, but also in simulators for training specialists, for example, surgeons..
Other teams are also working in this direction. Earlier, another group of engineers presented an alternative a variant of the glove that allows you to feel and manipulate virtual objects.
text: Ilya Bauer, photos and videos: EPFL