Tacterion Brings Capacitive Touch to Smart Clothing and Various Materials or Surfaces

With the advance of smartphones and other mobile devices, we’ve all been used to capacitive touch screens, but Tacterion, a German company born out of the Institute of Robotics and Mechatronics, at the German Aerospace Center, has designed “artificial skin” sensors that bring capacitive touch and other features to all sort of materials.

Fingerprint scanner based on Tacterion high-resolution skin

Since the company wants to protect its IP they don’t disclosed much details about the inner working of their sensors:

The patent protected technology is completely polymer-based. The technological principle are sensitive elements that measure based on transition resistivity: The more pressure is exerted on the polymer-based, electrically conducting elements, the lower the transition resistivity is, which is being measured continuously. Using our highly integrated high-speed readout electronics, a matrix of sensor elements can be combined to form sensitive surfaces. The readout electronics provides information regarding pressure and its distribution at a frame rate of 400 Hz.

Smart clothing where you could implement the sensors into your clothes or wearables is one application, but the company also foresee a multitude of other applications for:

  • Robotics – Artificial Skin on the robot surface, intuitive human-robot interaction, use of artificial Skin on fingertips, reactive grasping, object recognition, etc…
  • Automation –  artificial Skin on grippers to enable intelligent handling of non-standardized objects (e.g. fruit, vegetables)
  • Medical Tech & Health care –  Gathering of on hospital bed sheets or mattress, avoiding pressure ulcers, etc…
  • Wearables –  Artificial Skin on wristbands, smart apparels, haptic communication, etc…
  • Human-Machine-Interaction – Adds additional degrees of freedom (e.g. in CAD/CAM, Design), enables intuitive interfaces, enables cyber-physical gaming…
  • Automotive –  Application on interior surfaces (steering wheel/seats, driver/passenger surveillance and assistance, driver identification, user interface for Infotainment…

Charbax interviewed the company at IDTechEx Printed Electronics Europe 2016 exhibition, where you can see capacitive touch on clothing, strechting of material with sensors, and resistance to shock (with hammer) thanks to the polymer-based design.

The technology is still work in progress, as they have to make it washable, and implement support for multi-touch in order to support gestures. The technology must also be integrated into their customers’ designs, which means solutions based on Tacterion artificial skin should only become available in 2018 and beyond.

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