Researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder have unveiled a compact, shape-shifting gadget that could revolutionize remote communication by digitizing touch. The device, roughly the size of a Scrabble board, consists of a grid of robotic components that can sense external pressure and move in multiple directions.

The innovative technology aims to bridge the gap in long-distance communication methods. Currently, text, audio, and video can be transmitted over great distances, but the sense of touch has been notably absent. This new device may pave the way for sending touch digitally by creating 3D images of objects, such as a hand, and transmitting them to a remote device, allowing the recipient to virtually experience the sensation of holding the sender’s hand.

Beyond digitizing touch, the gadget exhibits other impressive capabilities. It can alter its surface texture, agitate a beaker filled with liquid, display scrolling 3D text, and manipulate a ball without dropping it. These features suggest a wide range of potential applications. This new device represents a significant advance over previous iterations by other researchers. It boasts enhanced speed, reduced noise, and a more compact size. Its robotic machinery can activate up to 50 times per second, offering a more efficient and responsive user experience. Researchers are working to further miniaturize these actuators to improve display resolution, potentially enabling features such as generating braille on phone screens.

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