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Electronic skin offers tactile feedback 

What's New? | June 26, 2023 | By:

The WeTac system consists of a thin, skin-friendly palm patch. Photo: The City University of Hong Kong (CityU).

A team of researchers at the City University of Hong Kong (CityU) has recently introduced a thin, wearable electronic “skin” that provides tactile feedback to users in virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) environments. Called “WeTac,” the wireless electro-tactile system is made of a skin-friendly hydrogel layer that sticks onto the users’ palms and collects their personalized tactile sensing data to bring a more realistic and vivid virtual touch experience to the Metaverse. 

Tactile gloves currently on the market consist mainly of air pumps and air ducts, as well as control systems powered by wires and cables, which significantly compromise users’ immersive experience. In contrast to bulky gloves, WeTac, is thin, soft and skin-friendly, thus providing a better user experience.

“In addition to vision and hearing, tactile feedback will further enhance the experience of virtual reality,” says Dr. Yu Xinge, associate professor in the Dept. of Biomedical Engineering at CityU and leader of the research.

The WeTac system developed by CityU consists of two parts: a tiny flexible actuator that serves as a control panel, and a palm patch with hydrogel electrodes as a tactile interface. The entire actuator weighs only 19.2 grams and is small enough (5 cm x 5 cm x 2.1 mm) to be worn on the user’s forearm. It is also equipped with Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) and a small rechargeable lithium-ion battery used for wireless transmission and power. The thickness of the palm patch is only 220 microns to 1 mm. The electrodes extend from the palm to the fingertips.

The innovation has application potential in virtual games, sports, technical training, social interaction or remote-control robots.

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