King's College London, Ericsson and Konica Minolta
Much of the development activity in virtual reality to date has been in the creation of engaging visual environments. Yet one of the key elements in creating truly convincing virtual environments will be technologies that cater for the other senses, such as haptic and tactile technologies. Without tactile feedback the user cannot experience genuine interactivity with the virtual environment. Moreover, there are major gains to be had from such a technology: from creating tactile surfaces for the blind to enabling users to feel and manipulate virtual objects, catering for touch as a sense will be a major component of VR in the future.
However, while there has been some innovation in this area, it is at an especially nascent stage and there are a variety of questions and challenges yet to be worked on. How do we convert sensory stimuli into transmittable and readable information? What devices or technologies could encode, transmit and then decode/reproduce touch data and information?
These questions are particularly pertinent in a medical setting where doctors and other healthcare specialists touch and feel patients to diagnose physical ailments. Bringing tactile technology to this area would be a major step forward for the application of VR to medicine.
While this is a very specific application, the underlying technological solutions developed for this will have much broader application to those tasks and activities which involve human touch in a virtual environment.
This challenge therefore calls for solutions which explore the development of tactile transmission perceived in real-time, with the application enabling a doctor to measure the softness of parts of the human body remotely. The doctor's evaluation will not be to diagnose critical conditions; rather as a test for the effectiveness of the tactile experience under non-critical situations
For this challenge applicants:
· Need not make it a wireless solution.
· Could consider a physical piece of hardware (such as a glove, accurate touch sensors, a flexible exoskeleton, an augmented joystick or ultrasound based technology)
· Could look at creating software which enables the encoding, transmission and/or decoding of readable tactile information.
· Could focus on creating technology which differentiates between different materials, textures and qualities of touch or strengths of grip.
The successful applicant will have the opportunity to trial their application in the tactile internet lab within the King's College facility in London; in partnership with Ericsson and Konica Minolta.