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Scientists adjust the configuration parameters of ‘phantom sensations’ so that people can perceive them

Scientists change the configuration parameters of 'phantom sensations' so that they are perceived by individuals

The scientific article “Phantom sensation: Threshold and quality indicators of a tactile illusion of motion”, published in Displays, is the result of the thesis of researcher Paul Byron Remache-Vinueza (seated), directed by the professor of the School of Industrial Technology Fernando Vidal and Andrés Trujillo (standing). Credit: University of Malaga

Can people feel through the sense of touch in the absence of real tactile stimulation? In other words, can we feel like we are being touched when in reality we are not? This is what is known as ‘phantom sensation’, which occurs when the nervous system perceives a tactile illusion that does not correspond to an authentic physical stimulus, i.e. it does not exist.

The term appeared several decades ago, according to researchers from the UMA’s “Electronics for Instrumentation and Systems” group. However, thanks to their work, it has been possible for the first time to determine the minimum distance a vibrating point must travel before this moving phantom sensation can be perceived. The results of this research have been published in the journal Displays.

One of the authors of this study, professor of electronics at the Department of Electronics Andrés Trujillo, points out that the illusion of movement is created when we place two vibrating devices – known as vibrotactile actuators – in two different locations on the skin.

“With proper stimulation, instead of sensing two isolated vibrations, an individual can experience the sensation of a vibrating point moving between these two devices, although this point does not actually exist, it is an illusion,” he explains.

According to this engineer, thanks to the experiments carried out at the UMA, they have managed to change the configuration parameters of the “phantom sensation” used so far. “We have developed a manual to know the operational limits of this tactile illusion,” Trujillo explains.

For example, the engineers at the University of Malaga have found that, on average, individuals are able to perceive the illusion of phantom movement of an illusory vibration point when the distance traveled is at least 20% of the distance between the actuators.






Credit: University of Malaga

Potential applications

Implementing tactile illusions in virtual or augmented reality is one of its potential applications, the main advantage being that its use makes it possible to create moving sensations with just a few actuators.

“The conventional application would be to place a series of actuators, not just two, and systematically turn them on and off to create the feeling of movement,” says Trujillo, adding that this finding therefore translates into the development of cost-effective, lighter devices with higher resolution.

For example, their use in haptic vests, video games, touch screens for the blind or concerts are other applications of these phantom or apparent movements, offering users realism and new sensations.

The scientific article “Phantom sensation: Threshold and quality indicators of a tactile illusion of motion”, is the result of the thesis of researcher Paul Byron Remache-Vinueza, directed by the professor of the School of Industrial Engineering Fernando Vidal and Andrés Trujillo, which is making progress in the goal of transmitting musical sensations through the skin for people with hearing problems.

More information:
Byron Remache-Vinueza et al, Phantom sensation: threshold and quality indicators of a tactile illusion of movement, Displays (2024). DOI: 10.1016/j.displa.2024.102676

Offered by the University of Malaga

Quote: Scientists adjust configuration parameters of ‘phantom sensations’ so humans can perceive them (2024, May 29) retrieved May 29, 2024 from https://techxplore.com/news/2024-05-scientists-configuration-parameters-phantom-sensations .html

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