A new type of electronic skin allows the wearers to manipulate holograms and virtual objects without touching them.
The innovative electronic skin has the potential to revolutionize the future of AR and VR. Also known as e-skin, the material is comprised of ‘bendable’ wearable tech that enables the user to manipulate holograms and software constructs that exist in the augmented and virtual worlds.
The study published in the journal Science Advances on the 19th of Jan, 2018 shows that the electronic skin can also interact with magnets. The electronic skin is made of a thin film that can be worn on the hand to manipulate nearby magnets thanks to special software that controls what happens at each incremental angle, allowing the motions of the wearer’s hand to dictate specific commands.
The artificial skin is only 3.5 micrometres thick – about the same width as a single thread of spider silk – and consists of a small magnetic field sensor sandwiched between two layers of film. When the skin is near a magnet, the sensor produces a voltage, which varies depending on its angle relative to the magnetic field.
Gilbert Santiago Cañón Bermúdez, a researcher at Helmholtz-Zentrum-Dresden-Rossendorf Institute for Ion Beam Physics and Materials Research in Germany, thinks that the electronic skin will be fast adopted and combined with AR/VR-compatible technologies and business ideas, in the years to come.
Existing AR/VR devices use cameras to detect and track motion but the method is not accurate enough to register subtle finger movements or more nuanced gestures. However, the electronic skin allows for detailed movement detection, eliminating the need for extra gadgets and accessories.
In addition to the AR/VR applications, electronic skin could be incorporated into advanced prosthetic devices, soft robotics and even high-risk jobs. Moreover, given the fast advancements in virtual worlds/communities such as Second Life and the blockchain based Decentraland (see above), and growing interest in self-sovereign digital identities, electronic skin could prove vital in the adoption of digital luxury goods and holographic fashion accessories.