When I hear the word “Skinterface,” my mind immediately jumps to some cyberpunk future. Skinterface sounds like the skin that an android might bear—like in HBO’s Westworld, or Blade Runner. Skin that isn’t just skin; skin that’s embedded with technology. Skinterface’s very name draws the line between skin and technology with no effort, which for a new project trying to bring us closer to feeling the virtual world, might be perfect.
Bringing us haptically closer to accessing the virtual world
Skinterface is a project from Royal College of Art students Ka Hei Suen, Charlotte Furet, George Wright, and Andre McQueen. Skinterface is, as a video introduction explains, “a passport to alternate realities that enables full immersion into the virtual world.” In layman’s terms, Skinterface wants to let the user tangibly explore virtual worlds—just as they could otherwise through sight or sound, except with skin and feeling. Sort of like how we interact with our real world.
Skinterface is built using an alternate skin-like body suit, adorned with magnet nodes designed to handle the diversity of touch that we actually feel in our everyday lives. There’s other elements that were taken into account when designing the suit, according to the video demonstration, such as how the mind often determines how things should feel through vision before we even touch it. But for Skinterface’s technology to feel realistically immersive, the user doesn’t need to see what they’re feeling. You merely reach out into the ether of a designated area, and the magnetic nodes do their work.
Skinterface was recently on display at Milan Design Week, where patrons were able to stick their hand into an arm-length, Skinterface-crafted glove. They reached out over a glowing “digital” space, and felt a world there, one totally unlike the vacant IRL space they were sticking their hand out into. Skinterface wants to help bridge the problems we face with the current state of immersion. “If skin is our interface to the physical world, it must also be our interface to the digital world in order for one to feel fully immersed,” Skinterface’s description reads. “To go from being an observer to an active participant, a person must be able to feel the world they are entering and feel the transition into it.”
Learn more about Skinterface by visiting their website.