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New array measures vibrations across skin may help engineers design tactile displays
Date:6/13/2013

ickly in all three locations, within 8 millimeters from where the vibrations originated.

Jones also gauged participants' perception of vibrations, fitting them with a 3-by-3 array of pancake motors in these three locations on the body. While skin generally stopped vibrating 8 millimeters from the source, most people continued to perceive the vibrations as far away as 24 millimeters.

When participants were asked to identify specific locations of motors within the array, they were much more sensitive on the palm than on the forearm or thigh. But in all three locations, people were better at picking out vibrations in the four corners of the array, versus the inner motors, leading Jones to posit that perhaps people use the edges of their limbs to localize vibrations and other stimuli.

"For a lot of sensory modalities, you have to work out what it is people can process, as one of the dictates for how you design," says Jones, whose results will appear in the journal IEEE Transactions on Haptics. "There's no point in making things much more compact, which may be a desirable feature from an engineering point of view, but from a human-use point of view, doesn't make a difference."

Mapping good vibrations

In addition to measuring skin's sensitivity to vibrations, Jones and co-author Katherine Sofia '12 found that skin has a strong effect on motor vibrations. The researchers compared a pancake motor's frequency of vibrations when mounted on a rigid structure or on more compliant skin. They found that in general, skin reduced a motor's vibrations by 28 percent, with the forearm and thigh having a slightly stronger dampening effect than the palm of the hand.

The skin's damping of motor vibrations is significant, Jones says, if engineers plan to build tactile displays that incorporate different frequencies of vibrations. For instance, the difference between two motors one slightly faster than the other may be
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Contact: Andrew Carleen
acarleen@mit.edu
617-253-1682
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Source:Eurekalert

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