ultra-thin electronic ‘skin’ to provide vivid virtual tactile experience in the metaverse

‘wetac’ electro-tactile feedback system

 

A team of researchers at the City University of Hong Kong (CityU) has recently introduced ‘WeTac’, a thin, wearable electronic ‘skin’ that provides tactile feedback to users in VR and AR environments. This wireless electro-tactile system is made of a skin-friendly hydrogel layer that sticks onto the users’ palms and collects their personalized tactile sensing data, hoping to bring a more realistic and vivid virtual touch experience to the Metaverse. The newly developed innovation has great application potential in virtual games, sports, technical training, social interaction, or remote control robots.

 

‘In addition to vision and hearing, tactile feedback will further enhance the experience of virtual reality (VR). Therefore, we are committed to developing a wireless tactile interface that is thinner, softer, and more skin-friendly, and the user can still move freely when wearing it in hand, just like a second skin.’ shares Dr Yu Xinge, Associate Professor of the Department of Biomedical Engineering at CityU and leader of the research.

the WeTac system consists of a thin skin-friendly palm patch | all images courtesy of the City University of Hong Kong (CityU)

 

 

wireless wearable palm patches replace bulky tactile gloves

 

Tactile gloves currently on the market consist mainly of air pumps and air ducts, as well as control systems powered by wires and cables, which significantly compromise users’ immersive experience in virtual and augmented reality. In contrast to these bulky gloves, the newly developed WeTac, is thin, soft, and skin-friendly, thus providing a better user experience.

 

The WeTac system developed by CityU (find more here) consists of two parts: a tiny flexible actuator that serves as a control panel, and a palm patch with hydrogel electrodes as a tactile interface. The entire actuator weighs only 19.2 grams and is small enough (5 cm x 5 cm x 2.1 mm) to be worn on the user’s forearm. It is also equipped with Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) and a small rechargeable lithium-ion battery used for wireless transmission and power. The thickness of the palm patch is only 220 microns to 1 mm. The electrodes extend from the palm to the fingertips.

ultra-thin electronic 'skin' to provide vivid virtual tactile experience in the metaverse
the flexible actuator is attached to the user’s forearm

 

 

Potential for a wide range of applications

 

The WeTac system has been successfully integrated into virtual scenes such as VR and AR and can also work along devices like robotic arms via BLE communication. Its lightweight, portable, and wireless control design and sensitivity-based intensity adjustment allow users to easily experience virtual touch with ‘hands and feet.’ Users can experience virtual objects in different scenarios, such as grasping a tennis ball during sports practice, touching a cactus in virtual social networks or games, or feeling a mouse walking on their hands.

 

‘The team believes that this research can provide an effective development tool for virtual contact, and also bring enlightening significance to the development of ‘Metaverse’, human-machine interface operation and other different fields of technology.’ says Dr. Yu. 

ultra-thin electronic 'skin' to provide vivid virtual tactile experience in the metaverse

 

 

project info: 

 

name: WeTac
author: City University of Hong Kong (CityU)

myrto katsikopoulou I designboom

dec 19, 2022