13.04.16

University research leads way for using skin as touchscreen

Soon using our skin as a touchscreen could become part of everyday life as new research demonstrates how ultrasound technology can create tactile sensations sent through the hand.

Research from the UK’s University in Sussex supported by the Nokia Research Centre and European Research Council has developed a device which could be used for having ‘smart hands’ in the future.

The ‘SkinHaptics’ device sends ultrasound from the back of the hand through to the palm for potential use as a screen display. The first of its kind to be introduced in the industry, developers hope it can be connected to smartwatches and other smart devices to expand the display space these products offer.

Time-reversal processing is incorporated to send ultrasound waves through the hand, with waves becoming more targeted as they travel though the hand, ending at a precise point on the palm. Haptics technology also allows touch to be used to control interaction with computers and technology.

The device incorporates ultrasound transmitters, a transmitter board, XMOS micro-controller, and a receiver transducer and receiver board.

“As we wear technology more, it gets smaller and we look at it less, and therefore multisensory capabilities become much more important,” said Sriram Subramanian, professor of informatics and lead on the work of the Interact Lab at the University of Sussex. He added: “What we offer people is the ability to feel their actions when they are interacting with the hand.”

The model currently relies on vibrations and pins that require contact with the palm and interrupt the display.

The university research was presented at the IEEE Haptics Symposium 2016 earlier this week in Philadelphia, USA.