CU Boulder creates technology that could allow users to digitize touch

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A new 3D technology the size of a Scrabble board may be the key to sending physical touch, like holding the hand of a loved one, over long distances.

University of Colorado Boulder researchers created a new shape-shifting gadget compact enough to fit on a card table that may be able to digitize touch. The device is made from a grid of robotic parts that can sense outside pressure and can move up, down and around.

“As technology has progressed, we started with sending text over long distances, then audio and now video,” said Brian Johnson, one of two lead authors of the study, in a news release.  “But we’re still missing touch.”

The technology has the potential to send touch digitally by creating 3D images of a hand, for example. It could then send the image to another device across the country or world, allowing the receiver to hold the sender’s hand. The device can already change its surface, shake a beaker filled with liquid, generate scrolling 3D text and move a ball around its surface without it falling off.

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