Scientists at Northwestern University in the USA have unveiled a prototype ‘epidermal VR’ patch that is powered by NFC and holds the promise of enabling sensory feedback to be added to a wide range of gaming, entertainment, communication and medical applications.
“The device communicates touch through a fast, programmable array of miniature vibrating actuators embedded into a thin, soft, flexible material,” the researchers explain.
“The patch wirelessly connects to a touchscreen interface (on a smartphone or tablet). When a user touches the touchscreen, that pattern of touch transmits to the patch.
“If the user draws an ‘X’ pattern on the touchscreen, for example, the devices produce a sensory pattern, simultaneously and in real-time, in the shape of an ‘X’ through the vibratory interface to the skin.”
“The actuators are embedded into an intrinsically soft and slightly tacky silicone polymer that adheres to the skin without tape or straps. Wireless and battery-free, the device communicates through near field communication (NFC) protocols.”
“With this wireless power delivery scheme, we completely avoid the need for batteries, with their weight, size, bulk and limited operating lifetimes,” biotechnologist John A Rogers says.
“The result is a thin, lightweight system that can be worn and used without constraint, indefinitely.”
“Eventually, the devices could be thin and flexible enough to be woven into clothes,” Northwestern explains.
“People with prosthetics could wear VR shirts that communicate touch through their fingertips. And along with VR headsets, gamers could wear full VR suits to become fully immersed into fantastical landscapes.”