The technology is also wearable. The researchers designed a 3D-printed glove with a SLIMS 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, designed by the researchers, that reconstructs the glove’s movements and deformations in real time.
"Right now, sensing is done mostly by vision," says lead researcher Rob Shepherd, associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering in the College of Engineering. "We hardly ever measure touch in real life. This skin is a way to allow ourselves and machines to measure tactile interactions in a way that we now currently use the cameras in our phones. It's using vision to measure touch. This is the most convenient and practical way to do it in a scalable way."
The researchers are currently working to commercialize the technology for physical therapy and sports medicine. While both fields have leveraged motion-tracking technology, until now, say the researchers, they have lacked the ability to capture force interactions.
The researchers say they are also looking into the ways SLIMS sensors can boost virtual and augmented reality experiences.
“VR and AR immersion is based on motion capture." says Shepherd. "Touch is barely there at all. Let's say you want to have an augmented reality simulation that teaches you how to fix your car or change a tire. If you had a glove or something that could measure pressure, as well as motion, that augmented reality visualization could say, 'Turn and then stop, so you don’t overtighten your lug nuts.' There's nothing out there that does that right now, but this is an avenue to do it."
For more, see " Stretchable distributed fiber-optic sensors ."