Research brings 'smart hands' closer to reality

April 11, 2016 by James Hakner, University of Sussex
Research brings ‘smart hands’ closer to reality
The SkinHaptics device sends ultrasound through the hand to precise points on the palm, paving the way for next-generation smart technology that uses your own skin as a touchscreen.

Using your skin as a touchscreen has been brought a step closer after UK scientists successfully created tactile sensations on the palm using ultrasound sent through the hand.

The University of Sussex-led study - funded by the Nokia Research Centre and the European Research Council – is the first to find a way for users to feel what they are doing when interacting with displays projected on their .

This solves one of the biggest challenges for who see the , particularly the hand, as the ideal display extension for the next generation of smartwatches and other smart devices.

Current ideas rely on vibrations or pins, which both need contact with the palm to work, interrupting the display.

However, this new innovation, called SkinHaptics, sends sensations to the palm from the other side of the hand, leaving the palm free to display the screen.

The device uses 'time-reversal' processing to send through the hand. This technique is effectively like ripples in water but in reverse – the waves become more targeted as they travel through the hand, ending at a precise point on the .

It draws on a rapidly growing field of technology called haptics, which is the science of applying touch sensation and control to interaction with computers and technology.

Professor Sriram Subramanian, who leads the research team at the University of Sussex, says that technologies will inevitably need to engage other senses, such as touch, as we enter what designers are calling an 'eye-free' age of technology.

He says: "Wearables are already big business and will only get bigger. But as we wear technology more, it gets smaller and we look at it less, and therefore multisensory capabilities become much more important.

"If you imagine you are on your bike and want to change the volume control on your smartwatch, the interaction space on the watch is very small. So companies are looking at how to extend this space to the hand of the user.

The SkinHaptics device sends ultrasound through the hand to precise points on the palm, paving the way for next-generation smart technology that uses your own skin as a touchscreen. Credit: Sri Subramanian / University of Sussex

"What we offer people is the ability to feel their actions when they are interacting with the hand."

The findings were presented at the IEEE Haptics Symposium 2016 in Philadelphia, USA, by the study's co-author Dr Daniel Spelmezan, a research assistant in the Interact Lab. The symposium concludes today (Monday 11 April 2016).

Explore further: The future of TV? How feely-vision could tickle all our senses

Related Stories

Robot 'shadow hand'

December 12, 2014

Picking up an apple is one of those jobs requiring the delicate touch of the human hand – or its robotic counterpart.

UltraHaptics—it's magic in the air (w/ Video)

October 7, 2013

A system that allows users to experience multi-point haptic feedback above an interactive surface without having to touch or hold any device will be unveiled this week [Friday 11 October] at one of the world's most important ...

HaptoMime offers mid-air interaction system (w/ Video)

October 29, 2014

HaptoMime gives the word "touchscreen" a new meaning—one that will need to be carefully reworded, as HaptoMime involves a screen that you cannot touch. All the same, it enables interaction with floating images in the presence ...

Recommended for you

Electrode shape improves neurostimulation for small targets

April 24, 2018

A cross-like shape helps the electrodes of implantable neurostimulation devices to deliver more charge to specific areas of the nervous system, possibly prolonging device life span, says research published in March in Scientific ...

China auto show highlights industry's electric ambitions

April 22, 2018

The biggest global auto show of the year showcases China's ambitions to become a leader in electric cars and the industry's multibillion-dollar scramble to roll out models that appeal to price-conscious but demanding Chinese ...

Robot designed for faster, safer uranium plant pipe cleanup

April 21, 2018

Ohio crews cleaning up a massive former Cold War-era uranium enrichment plant in Ohio plan this summer to deploy a high-tech helper: an autonomous, radiation-measuring robot that will roll through miles of large overhead ...

How social networking sites may discriminate against women

April 20, 2018

Social media and the sharing economy have created new opportunities by leveraging online networks to build trust and remove marketplace barriers. But a growing body of research suggests that old gender and racial biases persist, ...

Virtually modelling the human brain in a computer

April 19, 2018

Neurons that remain active even after the triggering stimulus has been silenced form the basis of short-term memory. The brain uses rhythmically active neurons to combine larger groups of neurons into functional units. Until ...

0 comments

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.