Wearable Haptic Devices Bestow Sixth Senses

Engadget recently posted a story about a flexible tactile display that can be wrapped around any part of the body and give haptic feedback to the user. The research team from Korea’s Sungkyunkwan University that developed the device are focusing on applications like Braille for the visually impaired or transmitting tactile data to a remote user, but this is just the beginning; the applications for wearable haptic feedback are wide open.

The Feelspace tactile compass is a good example. It is little more than an electronic compass hooked to array of vibrators arranged along a belt, but it allows the wearer to know which way is north at all times by pulsing only the northernmost vibrator. It’s intended to be worn at all times, so it creates a sort of directional sixth sense for the user without the need to constantly check a device. If they are able to reduce the size of the housing unit and combine it with these new displays, it could be worn inconspicuously under clothes.

If you want more native superpowers, body modder [Steve Haworth] has a solution. By implanting a silicone-coated neodymium magnet into the fingertip, the owner of the implant becomes capable of sensing magnetism with a degree of sensitivity unattainable by simply holding a magnet. One person who had the magnet implanted reported feeling magnetic sensors at a library and feeling the location of a motor in an electric can opener six inches from his hand.

We’re always curious about input fed to the body by worn or implanted devices, and with these advances, the notion of data and sensory integration is almost a palpable reality. Pun intended, but can you blame us?

[via Engadget]

14 thoughts on “Wearable Haptic Devices Bestow Sixth Senses

  1. The magnet one has always been interesting for me, but… it’s so alien. I’m always one for letting people do what they want with their body, such as tattoo’s, piercing’s, body mods (Tongue splitting or elf ear making), but unneeded implants just irk me. I would (90% sure) never do it, even though I would no doubt enjoy the intended outcome of the procedure (Magnetic 6th pseudo-sense). I would also never do (But want) the eyeglasses held by an implanted bar thru the nose bridge (also from bme http://www.bmezine.com/news/pubring/20041214.html )

    The best use of this would of course nolonger be needed. It would be very steampunk like. Super Private Morse Code. Prevent other’s from acousticly listening in on a public Morse code transceiver. Instead of the clacker piece, you put your finger in and feel the magnetic pulses without hearing them.

  2. Remember kids, silicon != silicone. One makes CPUs, the other makes boobies.

    Also, in the future can we not have pictures of fingers being cut open without advance warning? Some of us are squemish little babies.

  3. My old roommate had the magnets implanted in his fingers, they’ve been experimenting with different coatings for the magnets, since the magnet itself will come apart in your body. Most piercers won’t do them because they don’t last for long, and then you have to have someone dig around in your body to try to get all the magnet bits.

    They’re planning on trying new coatings and different placement to both minimize impact and also to make retrieval easier.

    While he had them, he definitely could feel the magnet reacting, and he could lift paperclips and other magnets.

  4. As much as the idea of implanting magnets interests me, it is the flexible tactile display that I think warrants the most attention. That thing begs to be remade. I mean, magnets are great, but I’d prefer a console.

  5. Sorry for the double post, but reading the article Engadget linked to mentioned dielectric elastomers. One Wikipedia search later, and I saw mention of the acrylic elastomer VHB 4910. Apparently, that is some tape that 3M sells.
    Is truly all one would need to duplicate that tactile display is some tape and an electrode?

  6. I actually got one of the new magnetic implants done about a month ago. They are using an injection mold to coat them in the silicone instead of the hand dip method that was causing the silicone sheath to seperate from the magnet. So far it has been pretty sweet, and I am enjoying to experience.

    I also have an RFID implant inbetween my knuckles for implementing into an electric door lock and computer identity verification.

  7. and the magnets would make travelling a real pain. you would get to the airport and then shipped way for life because they’d think you were some computer-destroying terrorist. you wouldn’t even be allowed anywhere near the stock market (not that you’d want to go there anyway) but the other thing is cool

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