We’ve covered all sorts of exoskeletons that augment or restore a body’s ability to move, but what if you had a suit that could simulate touch? Haptic feedback gives the sensation of something touching you, or of you touching an object. What if you could provide this sensation remotely?
To some, the Teslasuit may be a solution in search of a problem. It is a full-body smart suit (pants and jacket) of form-fitting flexible material. It has four functions built in: haptic feedback, motion capture, temperature control, and biometric sensing. The manufacturer envisions its use in everything from virtual reality (VR) gaming to motion picture production. Perhaps its most unique feature is the haptic feedback. Rather than using physical actuators as found in other devices such as smartphones, it uses the wearer’s body as the actuator. It relies on transcutaneous electrical nerve and muscle stimulation to convey the sense of physical contact. In other words, it shocks specific locations to trigger the sensation of contact. The smart clothing is wireless, relying on Bluetooth or WiFi to transmit data with a local controller.
The company cites industrial training as one possible application. Research shows that haptic feedback can speed the learning of new physical skills. Wearing such a suit could guide workers through the process of learning new procedures, reducing training time and possible injury by helping workers learn the right way from the start. I can imagine other applications for health and medical uses, however. For example, a suit like this could deliver remote feedback from a physical therapist to help a patient go through rehab exercises at home. The suit could also send data about the patient’s movements. The motion detection could also be used to help with remote the diagnosis of diseases or injuries.
At present, the suit appears to be available only to developers and potential partners. The company does not expect that the product will be widely available before 2019, at the earliest.