Cornell University Researchers Create Device that Could Help People Feel Things In VR

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Cornell University researchers have created a fiber-optic sensor that could help people feel characters in a VR session.

The device combines low-cost LEDs and dyes, resulting in a stretchable ”skin” that detects deformations such as pressure, bending and strain.

The 3D-printed glove was created with a SLIMS (Stretchable lightguide for multimodal sensing) sensor running along each finger.

The glove is powered by a lithium battery and equipped with Bluetooth so it can transmit data to basic software, which was designed by Hedan Bai.

The software then reconstructs the glove’s movements and deformations in real time.

According to the research summary published on Science Daily,

This sensor could give soft robotic systems – and anyone using augmented reality technology – the ability to feel the same rich, tactile sensations that mammals depend on to navigate the natural world.”

The group of researchers, which was led by Rob Shepherd, an associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering; and co-led by doctoral students – Hedan Bai and Shuo Li, said the group is “working to commercialize the technology for physical therapy and sports medicine.”

The report of the research is titled “Stretchable Distributed Fiber-Optic Sensors“, and published in Science Journal.

Hedan Bai, one of the researchers on the project, claimed that the inspiration for the device was derived from “silica-based distributed fiber-optic sensors and developed a stretchable lightguide for multimodal sensing (SLIMS).”

The prototype of the device works by equipping each finger with a stretchable lightguide. This stretchable lightguide then combines one transparent polyurethane core as well as an LED-linked core loaded with absorbent dyes.

When the lightguide is deformed through bending of the fingers, or encountering pressure, the dyes serve as “spatial encoders” that lights up, and register exactly what’s happening, and where it is happening.

Although, the researchers intend the device to be used for physical therapy and sports medicine, the device could also grant robots a sense of touch, further helping them react to their environment and better handle delicate objects.

Engadget believes that when inserted into the Future VR/AR gloves, the tech could give the user feedback when they touch and grab virtual objects.

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