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British Scientists have discovered that Star Trek’s holodeck, which allows people to interact physically with a virtual world is feasible thanks to the “universal law of touch.”

Scientists from the University of Birmingham implemented on so-called Rayleigh waves. The Rayleigh waves is an energy that passes over the surface of an object when it hits the object.

Their research also revealed that the waves also travels through layers of skin and bone and gets picked up by the touch receptor cells in the body.

Although the research is still in theory, Scientists say the waves could be used to create virtual reality items that can be felt physically even though they are not real.

The scientists say that our brains can detect Rayleigh waves as our skin comes in contact with it. They further explained that it could be possible to use other objects to create virtual reality systems that integrate the sense of touch, but they didn’t reveal how it could be done specifically.

In the movie Star Trek, the ‘holodeck’ allows starship crew members to interact with virtual reality items like they were real.

The researchers from Birmingham university say there is a ‘universal law of touch’ which speaks of the way receptors in the brain detect Rayleigh waves as our skin comes into contact with the waves and applies to all species.

The team modeled the touch receptors mathematically to show the location of the waves in specific depths of the skin, allowing the waves to respond.

The effect of the waves on receptors of different species are different, but the ratio of the receptor depth and wavelength are the same.

This result of research helped the scientists to create a universal law which can be used in future research, called the Universal Law of Touch.

The researchers say results found in their research is the latest discovery in a line of work going back in 100 years. This announcement was in support of the predictions of the Nobel-Prize-winning physicist Georg von Békésy, who first suggested that earthquakes could be used to explore connections between Rayleigh waves and touch.

It was also revealed in the research that the interaction between receptors and the waves were the same even with the difference in texture of skin.

Study leader Dr Tom Montenegro-Johnson, of the University of Birmingham’s School of Mathematics, explained that touch was a primordial sense.

“Touch was as important to our ancient ancestors as it is to modern day mammals, but it’s also one of the most complex and therefore least understood,” he explained.

“While we have universal laws to explain sight and hearing, for example, this is the first time that we’ve been able to explain touch in this way.”

Currently, virtual reality systems can only be used with a headset and a pair of gloves with heptic feedback.

Co-author James Andrews, of the University of Birmingham, also added to the principles that further explained the effect of touch in different species.

‘For example, if you indent the skin of a rhinoceros by 5mm, they would have the same sensation as a human with a similar indentation – it’s just that the forces required to produce the indentation would be different,’ he explained.

‘This makes a lot of sense in evolutionary terms, since it’s connected to relative danger and potential damage.’

Rayleigh waves travel along the surface of solids when they come in contact.

The waves can be created in materials through touch,. It is also created in earthquakes.

The waves are mainly used in testing defects in company products.

Rayleigh waves were discovered in 1885 by Lord Rayleigh as part of the seismic waves produced by earthquakes.

A new study was created that suggested Rayleigh waves were created in certain depths of the skin during touch. This new study is called the “Universal law of touch”.


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