Menthol is being used by researchers to simulate cold weather in virtual reality.


2 min read

article by Amit caesar


Skin chemicals could be the future of VR haptics. Researchers at the University of Chicago's Computer Science Department's Human Computer Integration Lab are developing a new type of haptic feedback technology that uses specific chemicals to simulate various sensations in virtual reality, ranging from heat and cold to numbness, stinging, and tingling.



We can wear anywhere these futuristic wearables on the body as long as they are in direct contact with the user's skin. These "topical stimulants," which comprise silicone patches and micro pumps, release five different chemicals when they come into contact with the skin. To simulate heat, capsaicin, a key chemical found in spicy foods, is used. Menthol is used to produce a chilling sensation. There's also lidocaine, a topical anesthetic that numbs the skin, and sanshool, a tingling sensation. Last but not least, there's cinnamaldehyde, an organic compound that can sting.


"Our strategy has two distinct advantages. For starters, it enables sensations like numbing that aren't possible with current haptic devices. Second, our approach provides a new pathway for achieving multiple haptic sensations with a single actuator via the skin's chemical receptors, which would otherwise cause combining multiple actuators (e.g., Peltier, vibration motors, electro-tactile stimulation)," the team writes in their research paper.



Check out the Human Computer Integration Lab's official research paper, Chemical Haptics: Rendering Haptic Sensations via Topical Stimulants, for more information on their chemical haptics technology.


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