Augmenting Sense of Touch Now PossibleCategory: Science & Technology
Posted: August 9, 2012 04:15PM
As the name suggests, augmented reality deals with the changing how we preserve the world around us. Normally this is done by altering visual or auditory stimuli, or changing the psychology of something in the case of Augmented Reality Games (ARGs), but rarely touch is modified, potentially because it is difficult to do so. Researchers at Disney Research however have come up with a technology that could enable almost any surface to be given a new feeling.
Called REVEL, the technology uses "reverse electrovibration." Electrovibration has been documented since 1953 and involves someone touching an electrically charged surface. When running their fingers along a smooth piece of metal with a small alternating current, they reported it had a rubbery feel. This is because a current was induced in the deeper tissues of the skin, and the two currents attract. Reverse electrovibration reverses the rolls of the fingers and the surface as it would be you with the generated current and the surface with the induced current.
All that is required is that the skin be attached to a small and cheap device that can generate a current, and that both the person and the surface have the same ground. The current itself is quite small at just microamperes, which is less than a static shock, so this technology is safe to use. Some surfaces may have to be specially prepared for REVEL as they must have a conductive layer beneath an insulator for this to work.