After touch screens, researchers demonstrate electronic recording and replay of human touch (w/ Video)

Sep 07, 2013
Tactile feedback display system and demonstration of real-time reproduction and modification of touch contact with temporal and spatial resolutions.

Researchers at the University of California, San Diego report a breakthrough in technology that could pave the way for digital systems to record, store, edit and replay information in a dimension that goes beyond what we can see or hear: touch.

"Touch was largely bypassed by the digital revolution, except for touch-screen displays, because it seemed too difficult to replicate what analog – or human touch – can produce," said Deli Wang, a professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) in UC San Diego's Jacobs School of Engineering. "But think about it: being able to reproduce the in connection with audio and visual information could create a new communications revolution."

In addition to uses in health and medicine, the communication of touch signals could have far-reaching implications for education, , e-commerce, robotics, gaming, and military applications, among others. The sensors and sensor arrays reported in the paper are also fully transparent (see of transparent ZnO TFT sensor array at right), which makes it particularly interesting for applications in mobile devices.

Wang is the senior author on a paper appearing in Nature Publishing Group's Scientific Reports, published online Aug. 28. Co-authors include 11 researchers at UC San Diego, including fellow ECE professor Truong Nguyen, and UCLA professor Qibing Pei, whose team contributed to the sections on using polymer actuators for analog reproduction of recorded touch.

The first authors of this article, Siarhei Vishniakou and Brian Lewis of UCSD and co-authors Paul Brochu and Xiaofan Niu from UCLA, received the Qualcomm Innovation Fellowship (QInF) in 2012. (This project is partially supported by a Qualcomm Innovation Fellowship.)

This video is not supported by your browser at this time.

In addition to professors Wang and Nguyen, other researchers on the project affiliated with the Qualcomm Institute at UC San Diego include recent Ph.D., Ke Sun, and Namseok Park, recipients of the institute's Calit2 Strategic Research Opportunities, or CSRO, Graduate Fellowships in 2010 and in 2012, respectively.

"Our sense of touch plays a significant role in our daily lives, particularly in personal interaction, learning and child development, and that is especially true for the development of preemies," said Nguyen, another senior author of this Scientific Reports paper. "We were approached by colleagues in the UC San Diego School of Medicine's neonatology group to see if there was a way to record a session of a mother holding the baby, which could be replayed at a different time in an incubator."

In their Scientific Reports paper, the researchers reported the electronic recording of touch contact and pressure using an active-matrix pressure sensor array made of transparent zinc-oxide (ZnO), thin-film transistors (TFTs). The companion tactile feedback display used an array of diaphragm actuators made of an acrylic-based dielectric elastomer with the structure of an interpenetrating polymer network (IPN). The polymer actuators' actuation – the force and level of displacement – are modulated by adjusting both the voltage and charging time.

This video is not supported by your browser at this time.

One of the critical challenges in developing touch systems is that the sensation is not one thing. It can involve the feeling of physical contact, force or pressure, hot and cold, texture and deformation, moisture or dryness, and pain or itching. "It makes it very difficult to fully record and reproduce the sense of touch," said Wang.

As noted in the article, there has been significant progress on the development of flexible and sensitive pressure sensors, as well as tactile feedback displays for specific applications such as for remote palpation that could be used during laparoscopic surgery.

Structure and electrical properties of ZnO TFT pressure sensor.

Digital replay, editing and manipulation of recorded touch events were demonstrated at various spatial and temporal resolutions. The researchers used an 8 × 8 active-matrix ZnO pressure sensor array, a data acquisition and processing system ( reader circuit, computer, and actuator array driver circuit), and a semi-rigid 8 × 8 polymer diaphragm actuator array (click here to see video of the experiments).

The ability to digitize the touch contact enables direct remote transfer of touch information, long-term memory storage, and replay at a later time. "In addition, with the ability to reproduce and change the feeling of touch with both temporal and spatial resolutions make it possible to produce synthesized touch," said UC San Diego's Wang. "It could create experiences that do not exist in nature, as we have done with computer-generated imagery and synthesized music."

While Wang and his colleagues recognize that the touch revolution is still in its infancy, and human trials will probably be needed to calibrate the optimal actuator response needed to conform to the human perception of pressure strength, which depends on actuator displacement (amplitude), frequency, and how much time the actuator spends in its on- or off-state (duty cycle). Yet, say the researchers, there is every reason to believe that their experimental system, by adding an extra dimension to existing digital technologies, could extend the capabilities of modern information exchange.

Explore further: For Google's self-driving cars, learning to deal with the bizarre is essential

Related Stories

World's thinnest wireless touch surface (w/ Video)

Sep 04, 2013

Bluetooth Smart innovator CSR plc has developed the world's thinnest wireless touch interface to demonstrate the revolutionary potential of the technology for computing interfaces. The flexible device, w ...

APA: iPad use in classroom ups communication in ASD

Aug 01, 2013

(HealthDay)—Use of handheld touch devices in classrooms may be beneficial for enhancing communication skills among children with autism spectrum disorders, according to a study presented at the annual meeting ...

Sense of touch reproduced through prosthetic hand

May 10, 2013

In a study recently published in IEEE Transactions on Neural Systems and Rehabilitation Engineering, neurobiologists at the University of Chicago show how an organism can sense a tactile stimulus, in real time, through an art ...

Recommended for you

Audi to develop Tesla Model S all-electric rival

10 hours ago

The Tesla Model S has a rival. Audi is to develop all-electric family car. This is to be a family car that will offer an all-electric range of 280 miles (450 kilometers), according to Auto Express, which ...

A green data center with an autonomous power supply

16 hours ago

A new data center in the United States is generating electricity for its servers entirely from renewable sources, converting biogas from a sewage treatment plant into electricity and water. Siemens implemented ...

After a data breach, it's consumers left holding the bag

17 hours ago

Shoppers have launched into the holiday buying season and retailers are looking forward to year-end sales that make up almost 20% of their annual receipts. But as you check out at a store or click "purchase" on your online shopping cart ...

Can we create an energy efficient Internet?

17 hours ago

With the number of Internet connected devices rapidly increasing, researchers from Melbourne are starting a new research program to reduce energy consumption of such devices.

Brain inspired data engineering

18 hours ago

What if next-generation ICT systems could be based on the brain's structure and its cognitive and adaptive processes? A groundbreaking paradigm of brain-inspired intelligent ICT architectures is being born.

User comments : 3

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

manifespo
not rated yet Sep 07, 2013
what is different about this new touch screen?
baudrunner
not rated yet Sep 07, 2013
It's not really about the touch screen, This is the first step toward providing robotic hands with the kind of tactile feedback that we humans feel when we touch something. You know when you are touching human skin, a plate of glass, a rock, a pile of sand, a basketball or a golf ball, and so on. In the case of a robot, its OS can be coded to respond according to the hardness, material and texture of what is being touched. Soon we will be reading articles describing how a robot correctly guesses the nature of an object it touches without any visual input. A combination of visual, tactile, auditory, and even olfactory clues will soon enable robots to provide accurate descriptions of certain details of its environment that might be missed, using conventional Mars rovers for example.
beleg
not rated yet Sep 07, 2013
O.k. Can we replace all mechanical switches/dimmers/toggles now with touch sensors?
The blind and deaf can participate as well. A surface capable of vibration to signal the intensity of light or heat manipulation. For example the stronger the vibration the greater the intensity of the medium being manipulated.
Or the frequency of vibration instead of amplitude of vibration to indicate the intensity of a medium being manipulated. Or combinations of frequency and amplitude etc., etc.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.