Traditional technologies for virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) create human experiences through visual and auditory stimuli that replicate sensations associated with the physical world. The most widespread VR and AR systems use head-mounted displays, accelerometers and loudspeakers as the basis for three-dimensional, computer-generated environments that can exist in isolation or as overlays on actual scenery. In comparison to the eyes and the ears, the skin is a relatively underexplored sensory interface for VR and AR technology that could, nevertheless, greatly enhance experiences at a qualitative level, with direct relevance in areas such as communications, entertainment and medicine1,2. Here we present a wireless, battery-free platform of electronic systems and haptic (that is, touch-based) interfaces capable of softly laminating onto the curved surfaces of the skin to communicate information via spatio-temporally programmable patterns of localized mechanical vibrations. We describe the materials, device structures, power delivery strategies and communication schemes that serve as the foundations for such platforms. The resulting technology creates many opportunities for use where the skin provides an electronically programmable communication and sensory input channel to the body, as demonstrated through applications in social media and personal engagement, prosthetic control and feedback, and gaming and entertainment.
Virtual reality focuses on sight and sound, but there are very few technologies that tackle touch, until now. Researchers at Northwestern University have created a flexible ‘haptic skin’ which hopes to provide a virtual sense of touch