An electronic ‘tattoo’ to recover the sense of touch
Arianna Mazzotta and Virgilio Mattoli, two researchers at the Italian Institute of Technology, have developed a ‘tattoo’ made with ultra-thin electronic materials, capable of transmitting tactile sensations. This innovation could be used to provide sensory input to amputees, to control robotic limbs, or to move in virtual environments. The device, just a few micrometers thick, was presented in an article published in the journal Advanced Electronic Materials.
Touch: a fundamental sense
Touch is one of our main senses. Touching what surrounds us is a perception that is part of our daily lives and is essential to carry out endless tasks. The ability to replicate these sensations through electronic devices could have applications in numerous sectors. For example, it could restore the sense of touch to those who have suffered an amputation and use a robotic limb, improve the manipulation of teleoperated robots such as those used in surgery, or be used in interfaces for virtual reality.
The operation of the device.
The new device developed by Mazzotta and Mattoli, from the IIT Materials Interfaces Center, is capable of transmitting the sense of touch by generating a force that acts on the user’s skin. This is achieved by applying an ultra-thin film to the skin, similar to those used in temporary tattoos for children. Inside this film there is a small air bag that inflates quickly and precisely, exerting pressure on the skin and therefore transmitting the sensation of touch.
Touch pixels and power.
Different touch points, called taxels (i.e. touch pixels), can be activated independently and transmit different types of sensations. The device runs on a small low voltage battery. This innovation offers a series of new technological solutions that could become the standard of the future.
This electronic ‘tattoo’ represents an important step forward in the field of sensory technology. Not only could it improve the quality of life of those who have suffered amputations, but it would also open up new possibilities in the field of robotics and virtual reality.