The film essentially acts as a medium for spontaneous interaction and communication between a human user and a machine while also providing tactile feedback to the user in the form of pulses, vibrations, taps, or audible feedback in the form of acoustic signals. “The films that we use are only about 50 microns thick (1 micron = 1 thousandth of a millimeter), which makes them both very thin and extremely light.
Essentially the films are ready to use and don't require any additional technology to make them into flexible and elastically deformable sensors and/or actuators – they are, effectively, a kind of micromotor,” explained Stefan Seelecke, Professor of Intelligent Material Systems at Saarland University, who together with his research team is studying these smart polymer films at ZeMA (Center for Mechatronics and Automation Technology) in Saarbrücken.
When getting integrated into a glove or deposited onto a display screen, the polymer film functions as an interactive mediator, providing tactile feedback to the user and allowing a human operator to tell the computer system what they want through gestures or finger movements. Applications include smart textiles for gaming or industrial gloves, virtual reality games, and incorporating the film into clothing for children in hospital isolation units to experience bodily contact with their parents.