updated 06:30 pm EDT, Fri August 10, 2012
Electrostatic field generator offers multiple touch sensations
A team at Disney Research has created a new wearable tactile technology that effectively changes the sensation felt when touching physical objects, using electricity. Revel can add artificial tactile sensations to almost any surface or object, without having to use the motors and actuators currently employed by touchscreen haptic feedback found in phones and tablets, and force feedback rumbling found in game controllers.
The system is based on Reverse Electrovibration. An oscillating electrical field is formed by injecting a weak electrical signal into the user's body, the effects of which are felt when touching a surface. Changing signal properties, such as the amplitude and frequency, alters the tactile sensation felt by the subject. The electrostatic field generator could be embedded into objects, removing the need for it to be warn by the user and potentially allowing more than one person to feel its effects.
Disney is an extensive user of technology. An iPad and RFID-based "FastPass" system for customer management recently appeared at its Orlando facilities, while it is widely known that rides and attractions at its parks use various technological elements. In May, similar research was unveilled by Disney and Carnegie Mellon University, showing how everyday objects and even liquids could use an advanced form of touch sensitivity called Swept Frequency Capacitive Sensing. [via MIT Technology Review]