Researchers develop wireless, ultrathin ‘Skin VR’ to provide a vivid, ‘personalized’ touch experience in the virtual world

Enhancing the virtual experience with the touch sensation has become a hot topic, but today’s haptic devices remain typically bulky and tangled with wires. A team led by the City University of Hong Kong (CityU) researchers recently developed an advanced wireless haptic interface system, called WeTac, worn on the hand, which has soft, ultrathin soft features, and collects personalised tactile sensation data to provide a vivid touch experience in the metaverse.

The system has application potential in gaming, sports and skills training, social activities, and remote robotic controls. “Touch feedback has great potential, along with visual and audial information, in virtual reality (VR), so we kept trying to make the haptic interface thinner, softer, more compact and wireless, so that it could be freely used on the hand, like a second skin,” said Dr Yu Xinge, Associate Professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering (BME) at CityU, who led the research.

Together with Professor Li Wenjung, Chair Professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering (MNE), Dr Wang Lidai, Associate Professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering (BME) and other collaborators, Dr Yu’s team developed WeTac, an ultra-flexible, wireless, integrated skin VR system. The research findings were published in the scientific journal Nature Machine Intelligence as the cover article, titled “Encoding of tactile information in hand via skin-integrated wireless haptic interface.”

Light-weight, wireless, wearable hand patch instead of bulky gloves

Existing haptic gloves rely mostly on bulky pumps and air ducts, powered and controlled through a bunch of cords and cables, which severely hinder the immersive experience of VR and augmented reality (AR) users. The newly developed WeTac overcomes these shortcomings with its soft, ultrathin, skin-integrated wireless electrotactile system.

The system comprises two parts: a miniaturised soft driver unit, attached to the forearm as a control panel, and hydrogel-based electrode hand patch as a haptic interface.

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