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September 13, 2023

Wearable Haptic Textiles

NSF-supported researchers at Rice University have developed a textile system that could put haptic feedback in your clothing. Photo credit: Preston Lab/Rice University.

Credit: U.S. National Science Foundation

Modern electronic devices offer a limitless stream of content for our eyes and ears, but clicking and scrolling aside, little of that experience involves our sense of touch, but what if complex cues were introduced into the very fabrics we are wearing? We'll explore the future of haptics in the U.S. National Science Foundation's "Discovery Files."

Our smart devices contribute to a lifestyle where we're always connected, sending, and receiving information virtually anywhere we may go. But the current generation of haptic devices generally require extensive equipment. What if you could substantially reduce that hardware and have the look and feel of everyday clothing?

NSF-Supported researchers at Rice University have developed a smart textile system that offloads a lot of the complexity of modern haptic devices by using fluidic controls and a limited number of electronic inputs to provide complex haptic stimulations in a wearable device.

Comprised of a belt and textile sleeves, the system uses 4 inputs to control the pressure and flow rate of the fluids to inflate quarter sized pouches in each sleeve with variable force and frequency, allowing the ability to incorporate complex, immersive feedback into the very clothing you are wearing.

The device could integrate with navigation systems to offer directions without needing to look at a map or listen to a virtual assistant. Beyond uses that augment how we receive information, the device could also help compensate for sight or hearing loss in complex and noisy environments, opening a new door for greater accessibility.

To hear more science and engineering news, including the researchers making it, subscribe to "NSF's Discovery Files" podcast.

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