A research team at the Georgia Institute of Technology is proving that you don't need to be bitten by a radioactive spider or be dumped into a vat of mysterious chemicals to enjoy superpowers. In fact, having an enhanced sense of touch could be as simple as wearing a glove like this.
The glove, worn above by Georgia Tech mechanical engineering assistant professor Jun Ueda, uses actuators mounted beside where one's fingertips would rest, and stimulates them with high-frequency vibrations.
The concept at work here is called stochastic resonance, and the idea is that by adding an element of white noise — in this case, the vibrations applied to the tips of the fingers by the glove — a person's vision, hearing, balance and more can be enhanced. How much one's touch is enhanced and by how much vibration varies, but "all of the experimental results showed that some mechanical vibration was better than none at all," said Professor Ueda. The team at Georgia Tech believes that this could be the first proper stochastic resonance device that's wearable, in fact.
The concept is still early and it's future applications unclear, but the tests conducted showed that with varying levels of vibration, a person's sense of touch could be increased quite a bit. It's not just about feeling something more, but collecting more data about something with just a touch. Test subjects putting their enhanced fingertip to several pieces of very similar sandpaper, for instance, were able to tell the difference and find the correct piece asked 15 percent more than those with any stimulation from stochastic resonance.
More than just possibly allowing bloggers to hammer on keys with more gusto in the future, the development shows promise in medicine, too, such as helping to restore the sense of touch to people with nerve damage.