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PhD student brings touch sensation to virtual reality

Virtual reality Monday 9 May 2016

New technology that recreates the sensation of touch in virtual reality has been developed by PhD student Andualem Maereg.

While the visual and sound effects used in virtual reality software are fairly sophisticated, touch still has a significant way to go.

Working with Lecturer in Electronic Engineering Dr Emanuele Secco, Andualem is researching wearable haptic technology that integrates touch and feeling.

Through a system of motors and electrodes attached to the wrist and fingertips, a user receives the sensation of touch when moving items in 3D virtual reality.

Vibrations and pulses fire nerves in the fingers that trick the brain into thinking the user is touching what they see.

Andualem, who completed his undergraduate in Ethiopia and Masters in Italy, said: “The technology allows you to be immersed in a virtual world and interact with the virtual object.

“We’re pleased with the progress made and the next step is to develop a way for users to differentiate the amount of force being used.”

The technology will help to bring an extra dimension to gaming and could even transform the medical landscape.

“Long-term we would like to work with amputees to replicate touch on a prosthetic hand,” said Andualem. “As well as explore robotic surgery, working with surgeons to create a touch sensation.”

Andualem joined Hope through the Vice-Chancellor's PhD Scholarships scheme. The programme recognises outstanding applicants of a high calibre, who are invited to undertake a broad range of thematic and inter-disciplinary projects. 

See the technology in action

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