Scientists at the Georgia Institute of Technology have developed a new glove with a special fingertip designed to improve the wearer's sense of touch.
According to the researchers, applying a small vibration to the side of the fingertip improves tactile sensitivity and motor performance.
The Georgia Tech prototype is believed to be the first wearable stochastic resonance device, attaching to the fingertip to improve the sense of touch.
"This device may one day be used to assist individuals whose jobs require high-precision manual dexterity or those with medical conditions that reduce their sense of touch," said Jun Ueda, an assistant professor in the George W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering at Georgia Tech.
The device uses an actuator made of a stack of lead zirconate titanate layers to generate high-frequency vibration. The ceramic layers are piezoelectric, which means they generate an electrical charge when a mechanical force is applied to them. The actuator is attached to the side of the fingertip so that the palm-side of the finger remains free and the individual wearing the glove can continue to manipulate objects.
'The future of this research may lead to the development of a novel orthopedic device that can help people with peripheral nerve damage resume their daily activities or improve the abilities of individuals with jobs that require skills in manipulation or texture discrimination," said Ueda.
Details of the device and preliminary test results were presented in May at the 2011 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation in Shanghai.