New e-skin allows you to manage virtual objects
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    • New e-skin allows you to manage virtual objects

    New e-skin allows you to manage virtual objects

    Photo: Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf eV

    A new electronic skin with a magnetic field sensor allows the wearer to control virtual objects without touching them. The new technology may well push augmented and virtual reality to the next stage of development.

    Scientists have been working on the development of e-skin for a long time – soft, flexible and comfortable to wear. But newly created technology in this area has the potential to revolutionize virtual reality (VR) in the future. It allows the user to control objects that exist only in the virtual world – this is proved by a study published in the journal Science Advances. It shows how this electronic skin can interact with magnets.

    Photo: Science AdvancesPhoto: Science Advances

    The new technology is based on the operation of a magnetic field sensor, which is a thin film with a thickness of 3.5 microns. E-skin can be worn on the arm and controlled by a magnet that is nearby. Depending on the position of the user’s hand and the angle of inclination, the strength of the magnetic field and its direction will change.

    Specially developed software, which can control what is happening in different positions, allows you to perform specific actions using different hand movements, for example, pressing virtual light switches and typing on a virtual keyboard.

    Photo: Science AdvancesPhoto: Science Advances

    Study author Gilbert Canyon Bermudez of the A. Helmholtz Dresden-Rossendorf says e-skin is not intended to replace existing VR technology. The plan is to use it in combination with other VR-compatible technologies for a more organic result.

    Where can e-skin be applied?

    Current VR devices use cameras to detect and track motion. However, this method is usually not sufficient for tracking subtle finger movements and other “smaller” gestures. With the advent of e-skin technology, it is possible not only to detect such movements, but also to use it to better control and interact with the virtual environment.

    The obvious use for e-skin is in standard VR technologies, from games to training. But, in addition to VR, e-skin technology can radically change the existing possibilities in augmented reality (AR), which allows you to see physically non-existent objects in the world around you (a striking example of this is the recently popular game Pokemon Go). Using e-skin it is possible to interact with such virtual objects.

    Moreover, in real life, e-skin can be used in prosthetics and robotics. For high-risk jobs, the technology can be used to interact with virtual buttons, controls or doors that function without physical contact. For those who handle explosives or work in other hazardous environments, using e-skin can reduce the likelihood of injury.

    Currently, researchers developing new e-skin are using magnetic fields similar to the size of a refrigerator magnet. The work is carried out with small fields so that using the technology, it was possible to recognize subtle gestures.



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