Indian-origin professor brings ‘smart hands’ closer to reality

London, April 12 (IANS) In a boost to the idea of human hand becoming an ideal display screen for the next generation of smartwatches and other devices, an Indian-origin scientist-led team has created tactile sensations on the palm using ultrasound sent through the hand.

The research — funded by the Nokia Research Centre and the European Research Council – is the first to find a way for users to feel what they are doing when interacting with displays projected on their hand.

According to professor Sriram Subramanian from University of Sussex, technologies will inevitably need to engage other senses such as touch as we enter into an “eye-free” age of technology.

“Wearables are already big business and will only get bigger. But as we wear technology more, it gets smaller and we look at it less, and therefore multisensory capabilities become much more important,” Subramanian added.

The new innovation called SkinHaptics sends sensations to the palm from the other side of the hand, leaving the palm free to display the screen.

The device uses “time-reversal” processing to send ultrasound waves through the hand.

This technique is effectively like ripples in water but in reverse – the waves become more targeted as they travel through the hand, ending at a precise point on the palm.

It draws on a rapidly growing field of technology called haptics, which is the science of applying touch sensation and control to interaction with computers and technology.

“If you imagine you are on your bike and want to change the volume control on your smartwatch, the interaction space on the watch is very small. So companies are looking at how to extend this space to the hand of the user,” Subramanian noted.

What we offer people is the ability to feel their actions when they are interacting with the hand, he pointed out.

The findings were presented at the “IEEE Haptics Symposium 2016” in Philadelphia last weekend.

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