This Electronic Skin Allows You to Control Virtual Objects

Sunday, 21 January 2018 - 5:12PM
Technology
Virtual Reality
Sunday, 21 January 2018 - 5:12PM
This Electronic Skin Allows You to Control Virtual Objects
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Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf
As virtual reality continues to grow in popularity, users are naturally going to want more control over their virtual environments. But VR is still limited, and you often can't manipulate virtual objects with just a wave of your hand.

Luckily, a group of scientists are working on tech that lets you manipulate virtual objects with just a wave of your hand. Specifically, they've constructed a form of electronic skin - a thin and bendable sheet which you can attach to your hands, and which contain sensors capable of interacting with magnets. 

The team recently published a study about their new "e-skin" in Science Advances, and included a number of demonstrations showing how the technology can allow someone to type on a virtual keyboard, or twist a virtual light switch back and forth, simply by moving their hands around. 



There is already VR tech which can do this sort of thing, but for the most part, it's all optic-based. Which means that if the device can't see the object, it doesn't work properly, which ruins the VR experience as soon as the lights go out, or something else blocks the view. 

The electronic skin, on the other hand, is based entirely on magnets; and magnets work regardless of how dark your surroundings are. The study explains it as follows:

Opening quote
"[The electronic skin] resembles a new class of interactive devices extracting information from the surroundings through magnetic tags... This technology will enable a cornucopia of applications from navigation, motion tracking in robotics, regenerative medicine, and sports and gaming to interaction in supplemented reality."
Closing quote





The e-skin utilizes the sort of bendy electronics becoming popular in the field of soft robotics, and could potentially become useful there as well. In the meantime, the skin has a big future in both virtual and augmented reality

For sci-fi fans, this could be the key to recreating Tom Cruise's computer interface from Minority Report, which was controlled entirely through flicks of his hand.

Others are already attempting to recreate that in AR, but allowing the interface to be controlled through magnets instead of video sensors would make things run much more smoothly.
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