20 Jan 2022 00:59 GMT
With enhanced tactile feedback, the patch allows an operator to remotely control a robot and feel what it feels without the danger of being exposed to infection.
The coronavirus disease has generated global panic due to its high contagiousness. In this period, one of the most important applications of robotic virtual reality is to help medical personnel to carry out their tasks and reduce the risk of exposure to infectious environments of SARS-CoV-2.
With that in mind, a team from several Chinese institutions has developed a flexible, wireless skin patch that enables the exchange of tactile stimuli between a human operator and a robot, reports TechXplore.
Designed by the City University of Hong Kong, Dalian University of Technology, Tsinghua University and the University of Electronic Science and Technology of China, the device is sensitive enough to capture motion and stress factors, for example , twists and turns.
Although the technology that allows humans to remotely operate robots already exists, this ‘electronic skin’ patch is much less bulky, easier to handle and apparently provides more information than its analogs.
In an article published in the magazine Progress of science, Chinese researchers explain what technical characteristics make it possible.
The patches are placed on the joints of the operator, they have sensors that react when the operator is bent and send the corresponding signal to the robot directly through Bluetooth or through a local network or the Internet.
The sensors are made of materials whose electrical resistance changes when subjected to mechanical stress, allowing the operator’s movements to be captured.
The system allows bidirectional feedback, since similar sensors are connected to some elements of the robot. The signals are sent to the electronic skin, where they activate small magnets that vibrate at different frequencies, depending on the pressure applied.
Although it is still a prototype, the system could be useful in the future, as the user can remotely control an intelligent robot to perform various complicated tasks, such as squatting, walking, cleaning the room and taking care of patients.
The integration of visual and haptic virtual reality, through electronics embedded in the skin, in robotic virtual reality shows great potential in the collection of biological samples without contact or the nursing of patients with infectious diseases, among others, indicates the study.
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