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Soft, stretchy wearable electrode simulates touch sensations for VR, other uses

Jun. 29, 2024.
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Amara Angelica

198.01421 MPXR

Electronics engineer/inventor

Soft, stretchable electrode recreates sensations of vibration or pressure on the skin through electrical stimulation (credit: Liezel Labios/UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering)

A team of researchers led by the University of California San Diego has developed a soft, stretchy electronic device capable of simulating the feeling of pressure or vibration when worn on the skin, for use in virtual reality, medical prosthetics and wearable technology.

Wearable on a sticker on the fingertip or forearm

The idea is to create a wearable system that can deliver haptic (feeling) touch sensations (pressure or vibration) using electrical signals, but without causing pain for the wearer. (Existing technologies that recreate a sense of touch through electrical stimulation often induce pain due to the use of rigid metal electrodes, and do not conform well to the skin.)

This device, reported in Science Robotics, consists of a soft, stretchable electrode attached to a newly designed silicone patch (based on PEDOT:PSS and PPEGMEA) that can be worn like a sticker on the fingertip or forearm as either pressure or vibration. The electrode, in contact with the skin, is also connected to an external power source via wires.

The work was supported by the National Science Foundation Disability and Rehabilitation Engineering program.

Citation: Blau, R., et al. (2024). Conductive block copolymer elastomers and psychophysical thresholding for accurate haptic effects. Science Robotics. 10.1126/sci-robotics.adk3925

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