Synthetic skin is bringing the sense of touch to VR

Britta de Vries
April 29th 2020

Current social distancing measures are all about keeping a physical distance from each other in order to flatten the curve. But this does not mean we have to keep a distance from each other virtually. Modern-day technologies not only provide us to still keep in touch socially, but in the distant future also have the ability to provide us with our physical needs. With new developments in the field of robotics, it will soon be possible to download a hug, shake hands during virtual job applications or play games together and give teammates a pat on the back. 

Virtual Reality (VR) technology is working on ways to make their virtual worlds more realistic by implementing the element of touch. While so far VR has primarily focused on the senses of sight and hearing, the implementation of touch gives unprecedented opportunities, especially in the times we live in today.

The field of robotics is integrating synthetic skin and haptic suits (that allow you to feel physical sensations) into VR which will allow people to experience sensations such as hot, cold, wet, warm but also the sensation of touch. While the synthetic skin is still being developed, and is now only available as a small patch of ‘skin’, implementing this into a full-body suit can open a whole new world to us. 

The sense of touch provides the most profound emotional connection between people, therefore the improvement of synthetic skin and haptic interfaces can eventually lead to the creation of a VR suit which can provide a fully immersive VR experience. Just imagine, you can be video chatting with family, and with the ability of these suits you are also able to hold them. Or what about virtual job applications where you will still be able to shake each other's hands. This will also allow us to continue living our lives online when for instance thinking about things such as dating and relationships.

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