Smart textiles make remote hugs tangible

Smart textiles are making virtual reality more immersive and allowing users to experience the sensation of physical touch. An ultra-thin film that can transmit sensations of touch is able to transform textiles into a virtual second skin. For seriously ill children in hospital isolation wards, this new technology offers them the opportunity to feel the physical closeness of their parents during computer-simulated visits and to re-experience the sensation of being hugged, cuddled or held.

An interdisciplinary research team from Saarland University, the Centre for Mechatronics and Automation Technology (ZeMA) and the German Research Centre for Artificial Intelligence (DFKI) is working on a technology that will allow children in hospital isolation wards to very naturally feel the physical closeness of their parents during virtual visits.

The “Multi-Immerse” project is at the interface of engineering science, neurotechnology, medicine and computer science and the members of the research team are developing ways of realising multi-sensory virtual encounters between individuals. The aim is to create a technology that allows young patients to see, hear and feel their parents and siblings as realistically as possible, so that the children experience a strong sense of close physical interaction, even if they are not physically close to them.

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