VR haptics can use chemicals on the skin to make you feel

Image for article titled Future VR Haptics May Use Chemicals on the Skin to make you feel

Virtual reality experiences will never feel like the real world until we can use all our senses, not just seeing and hearing. As a possible way to simulate a human’s ability to feel physical sensations, researchers have developed haptic VR hardware that: applies chemicals to your skin until trigger reactions that translate into what happens in a virtual world.

The purpose of haptic technologies is to allow a user of a device to experience physical sensations that are simulated through the use of other technologies. Some of the earliest examples of this are cell phones and pagers that used spinning motors and compensated weight to generate vibrations that would grab a user’s attention without making any noise. In 1997, Nintendo was the first to bring similar technology to video games through the N64’s Rumble Pak, which: caused the console’s controllers to vibrate and vibrate in response to action in a game – a feature now commonplace.

Haptic technology has been much refined since then, to the point where Apple can simulate the feeling of pressing a button on a laptop. touchpad that doesn’t actually move, but simply vibrating a VR headset or a pair of VR controllers isn’t enough to simulate all the sensations you can experience in the real world. So it’s time for haptics to take the next step.

Researchers from the Human Computer Integration Lab at the Computer Science Department at the University of Chicago have developed an entirely new approach called chemical haptics, which instant triggers receptors in human skin in different ways. As detailed in a recently published article, the researchers designed and built self-contained wearables that can be worn anywhere on the human body — arms, legs, and even the face are options — as long as it can make contact with the skin.

The wearables use silicone patches and micropumps to deliver five different chemicals to the surface of the skin that produce five unique physical sensations at the point of contact. Menthol induces a feeling of cooling the skin, possibly simulating hiking on a snowy day, while capsaicin, the ingredient that makes spicy food spicy, creates a feeling of warmth or exposure to something hot.

With the other chemicals tested, it gets a little more extreme. lidocaine can create numbness, sanshool makes the skin feels like it is tingling, and cinnamic aldehyde creates a tingling sensation and can be used as a negative form of haptic feedback in a VR game where players are tasked with protecting themselves but fail to do so. All chemicals used are safe for humans to use, so it’s not like being sprayed with caustic acid while playing and Aliens VR simulation, but you also don’t want to spread lidocaine all over your body, because that feeling (or lack of it) won’t go away right away.

Is this the future of advanced haptic feedback? Probably not exactly as shown here, but finding ways to activate the body’s natural receptors in new and new ways is a definite step in the right direction. simulating physical sensations that don’t actually happen.

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