It may sound like something from a far-fetched sci-fi novel – but soon you could be able to use your skin like a touchscreen.
Scientists in the UK have managed to create tactile sensations on the palm of a human hand using ultralight beams.
The hand is seen as a potentially ideal display extension for future smartwatches, but current ideas rely on pins which need contact with the palm to work.
The new proposal – called SkinHaptics, sends sensations to the palm from the back of the hand, so that the palm is free to display the screen.
The team from the University of Sussex is the first to find a way for users to feel what they are doing when interacting with displays projected onto their hand.
A technique called time-reversal processing is used to send ultrasound waves through the hand.
The waves of ultrasound become more targeted as they travel through the hand, ending at a specific point on the palm.
Professor Sriram Subramanian, who leads the research team at the University of Sussex, said: “Wearables are already big business and will only get bigger.
“But as we wear technology more, it gets smaller and we look at it less, and therefore multisensory capabilities become much more important.
“If you imagine you are on your bike and want to change the volume control on your smartwatch, the interaction space on the watch is very small. So companies are looking at how to extend this space to the hand of the user.
“What we offer people is the ability to feel their actions when they are interacting with the hand.”
The findings were presented at the IEEE Haptics Symposium in Philadelphia, by the study’s co-author Dr Daniel Spelmezan.