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reverse electrovibration (virtual touch)

Contributor(s): Stan Gibilisco

Reverse electrovibration, also known as virtual touch, is an augmented reality (AR) technology that facilitates electronic transmission of the human tactile sense, allowing end users to perceive the textures and contours of remote objects. The field of study involving virtual touch is known as haptics

Advancements in reverse electrovibration are under development by Disney Research of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Disney's system, called REVEL, imparts a low-level signal, creating an oscillating, weak electric field around the user’s skin. Signal variations correspond to texture variations in the distant object. The signals are generated in such a way that the resulting sensation in the fingers mimics the sensation of sliding the fingers over the object. No gloves or specialized back-pressure-sensor-like devices are necessary. The technology delivers such a small amount of current into the user's body that it poses no health risk.

The most highly anticipated application of reverse electrovibration is one allowing a person to sense the texture of a distant object on the touch screen of a computer or tablet device. The technology can allow for the transmission of Braille characters, as well as conveying the "feel" of everyday objects.

This was last updated in August 2012

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