Taking touch technology to the next level

Researchers created a phone case, computer touch pad and smart watch to demonstrate how touch gestures can convey expressive messages for computer mediated communication

A new interface developed by researchers in Bristol and Paris takes touch technology to the next level by providing an artificial skin-like membrane for augmenting interactive devices such as phones, wearables or computers.

The Skin-On interface, developed by researchers in the Faculty of Engineering at the University of Bristol in partnership with Telecomm ParisTech and Sorbonne University, mimics human skin in appearance but also in sensing resolution.

The researchers adopted a bio-driven approach to developing a multi-layer, silicone membrane that mimics the layers present in human skin. This is made up of a surface textured layer, an electrode layer of conductive threads and a hypodermis layer. Not only is the interface more natural than a rigid casing, it can also detect a plethora of gestures made by the end-users. As a result, the artificial skin allows devices to ‘feel’ the user’s grasp – its pressure and location, and can detect interactions such as tickling, caressing, even twisting and pinching.

“This is the first time we have the opportunity to add skin to our interactive devices. The idea is perhaps a bit surprising, but skin is an interface we are highly familiar with so why not use it and its richness with the devices we use every day?” said Dr Anne Roudaut, Associate Professor in Human-Computer Interaction at the University of Bristol, who supervised the research.

“Artificial skin has been widely studied in the ?eld of Robotics but with a focus on safety, sensing or cosmetic aims. This is the first research we are aware of that looks at exploiting realistic arti?cial skin as a new input method for augmenting devices,” said Marc Teyssier, lead author.

In the study, researchers created a phone case, computer touch pad and smart watch to demonstrate how touch gestures on the Skin-On interface can convey expressive messages for computer mediated communication with humans or virtual characters.

“One of the main use of smartphones is mediated communication, using text, voice, video, or a combination. We implemented a messaging application where users can express rich tactile emotions on the arti?cial skin. The intensity of the touch controls the size of the emojis. A strong grip conveys anger while tickling the skin displays a laughing emoji and tapping creates a surprised emoji,” said Marc Teyssier.

“This work explores the intersection between man and machine. We have seen many works trying to augment human with parts of machines, here we look at the other way around and try to make the devices we use every day more like us, i.e. human-like,” said Dr Roudaut.

It may not be long before these tactile devices become the norm. The paper offers all the steps needed to replicate this research, and the authors are inviting developers with an interest in Skin-On interfaces to get in touch.

Researchers say the next step will be making the skin even more realistic. They have already started looking at embedding hair and temperature features which could be enough to give devices – and those around them – goose-bumps.

Learn more: Artificial skin creates first ticklish devices

 

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A significant breakthrough could revolutionize surgical practice and regenerative medicine

Phase 1 Skin injury Phase 2 Application of the solution Phase 3 Using pressure to hold the edges together Phase 4 Skin closure Illustration of the first experiment conducted by the resear chers on rats: a deep wound is repaired by applying the aqueous nanoparticle solution. The wound closes in thirty seconds. Credit: “Matière Molle et Chimie” Laboratory (CNRS/ESPCI Paris Tech)

Innovative strategy to facilitate organ repair

A significant breakthrough could revolutionize surgical practice and regenerative medicine. A team led by Ludwik Leibler from the Laboratoire Matière Molle et Chimie (CNRS/ESPCI Paris Tech) and Didier Letourneur from the Laboratoire Recherche Vasculaire Translationnelle (INSERM/Universités Paris Diderot and Paris 13), has just demonstrated that the principle of adhesion by aqueous solutions of nanoparticles can be used in vivo to repair soft-tissue organs and tissues. This easy-to-use gluing method has been tested on rats. When applied to skin, it closes deep wounds in a few seconds and provides a esthetic, high quality healing. It has also been shown to successfully repair organs that are difficult to suture, such as the liver. Finally, this solution has made it possible to attach a medical device to a beating heart, demonstrating the method’s potential for delivering drugs and strengthening tissues. This work has just been published on the website of the journal Angewandte Chemie.

In an issue of Nature published in December last year, a team led by Ludwik Leibler 1 presented a novel concept for gluing gels and biological tissues using nanoparticles 2. The principle is simple: nanoparticles contained in a solution spread out on surfaces to be glued bind to the gel’s (or tissue’s) molecular network. This phenomenon is called adsorption. At the same time the gel (or tissue) binds the particles together. Accordingly, myriad connections form between the two surfaces. This adhesion process, which involves no chemical reaction, only takes a few seconds. In their latest, newly published study, the researchers used experiments performed on rats to show that this method, applied in vivo , has the potential to revolutionize clinical practice.

In a first experiment, the researchers compared two methods for skin closure in a deep wound: traditional sutures, and the application of the aqueous nanoparticle solution with a brush. The latter is easy to use and closes skin rapidly until it heals completely, without inflammation or necrosis. The resulting scar is almost invisible.

In a second experiment, still on rats, the researchers applied this solution to soft-tissue organs such as the liver, lungs or spleen that are difficult to suture because they tear when the needle passes through them. At present, no glue is sufficiently strong as well as harmless for the organism. Confronted with a deep gash in the liver with severe bleeding, the researchers closed the wound by spreading the aqueous nanoparticle solution and pressing the two edges of the wound toget her. The bleeding stopped. To repair a sectioned liver lobe, the researchers also used nanoparticles: they glued a film coated with nanoparticles onto the wound, and stopped the bleeding. In both situations, organ function was unaffected and the animals survived.

“Gluing a film to stop leakage” is only one example of the possibilities opened up by adhesion brought by nanoparticles. In an entirely different field, the researchers have succeeded in using anoparticles to attach a biodegradable membrane used for cardiac cell therapy, and to achieve this despite the substantial mechanical constraints due to its beating. They thus showed that it would be possible to attach various medical devices to organs and tissues for therapeutic, repair or mechanical strengthening purposes.

This adhesion method is exceptional because of its potential spectrum of clinical applications. It is simple, easy to use and the nanoparticles employed (silica, iron oxides) can be metabolized by the organism. It can easily be integrated into ongoing research on healing and tissue regeneration and contribute to the development of regenerative medicine.

Read more . . .

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Magnets make droplets dance

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This is the first time researchers have demonstrated reversible switching between static and dynamic self-assembly.

Researchers from Aalto University and Paris Tech have placed water droplets containing magnetic nanoparticles on strong water repellent surfaces and have made them align in various static and dynamic structures using periodically oscillating magnetic fields. This is the first time researchers have demonstrated reversible switching between static and dynamic self-assembly.

“We are conducting this line of research because it opens up a way to create new responsive and intelligent systems and materials,” said Dr. Robin Ras of Aalto University.

Self-assembly is a process in which multiple components form organized structures or patterns without external direction. The process is very interesting both for scientists and industry, because many natural systems rely on self-assembled structures and they can further inspire technological applications.

“The structure formation can either be static, driven by energy minimization, or dynamic, driven by continuous energy feed. Over the years we have managed to create functional materials based on static self-assembled hierarchies. This model system paves the way towards even more versatile dynamic materials, wherein the structures are formed by feeding energy,” said Academy Professor Olli Ikkala.

By using the new model system, the researchers demonstrated that static droplet patterns can transform reversibly into dynamic ones when energy is fed to the system via an oscillating magnetic field. The transition was observed to be complex and the most complicated patterns emerged when the energy feed was just enough to enter the dynamic self-assembly regime.

In addition to the hard science behind the self-assembly, the droplet patterns are also visually captivating.

“In some patterns, the motion of the droplets resembles that of dancing. We find it simply beautiful,” said Dr. Jaakko Timonen.

Read more . . .

via Aalto University
 

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Could ancient Egyptians hold the key to 3D printed ceramics?

Video: Professor Stephen Hoskins shares more about the latest 3D printing methods in ceramics in this insightful interview.

A 7,000 year old technique, known as Egyptian Paste (also known as Faience), could offer a potential process and material for use in the latest 3D printing techniques of ceramics, according to researchers at UWE Bristol.

Professor Stephen Hoskins, Director of UWE’s Centre for Fine Print Research and David Huson, Research Fellow, have received funding from the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC to undertake a major investigation into a self-glazing 3D printed ceramic, inspired by ancient Egyptian Faience ceramic techniques. The process they aim to develop would enable ceramic artists, designers and craftspeople to print 3D objects in a ceramic material which can be glazed and vitrified in one firing.

The researchers believe that it possible to create a contemporary 3D printable, once-fired, self-glazing, non-plastic ceramic material that exhibits the characteristics and quality of Egyptian Faience.

Faience was first used in the 5th Millennium BC and was the first glazed ceramic material invented by man. Faience was not made from clay (but instead composed of quartz and alkali fluxes) and is distinct from Italian Faience or Majolica, which is a tin, glazed earthenware. (The earliest Faience is invariably blue or green, exhibiting the full range of shades between them, and the colouring material was usually copper). It is the self-glazing properties of Faience that are of interest for this research project.

Current research in the field of 3D printing concentrates on creating functional materials to form physical models. The materials currently used in the 3D printing process, in which layers are added to build up a 3D form, are commonly: UV polymer resins, hot melted ‘abs’ plastic and inkjet binder or laser sintered, powder materials. These techniques have previously been known as rapid prototyping (RP). With the advent of better materials and equipment some RP of real materials is now possible. These processes are increasingly being referred to as solid ‘free-form fabrication‘ (SFF) or additive layer manufacture. The UWE research team have focused previously on producing a functional, printable clay body.

This three-year research project will investigate three methods of glazing used by the ancient Egyptians: ‘application glazing’, similar to modern glazing methods; ‘efflorescent glazing’ which uses water-soluble salts; and ‘cementation glazing’, a technique where the object is buried in a glazing powder in a protective casing, then fired.These techniques will be used as a basis for developing contemporary printable alternatives.

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via UWE – Bristol
 

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