MELBOURNE (TIP): Scientists have developed a soft, flexible and stretchable keyboard using a type of rubber known as a dielectric elastomer that can be wrapped around any object.

“Imagine a world where you drop something, and it bounces back without any damage. That’s the benefit of these rubber devices that can flex and stretch,” said Daniel Xu, from the University of Auckland in New Zealand.

The keyboard was made from a single laminated structure with two sensing layers oriented at 90 degrees apart.

This took advantage of their mechanical coupling while at the same time still provided an electrical separation.

A total of nine different positions were distinguished within the sensor keyboard. “A key benefit of our keyboard is that essentially, it’s just a thin sheet of rubber. It can be wrapped around any object which turns it into a keyboard,” said Xu.

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“It can also be made into a sensing skin for motion capture, which is useful for athletes, clinicians, and for new interactive gesture controllers,” he said. The researchers often used video games to test the functionality of the keyboard – and as part of a separate project have made a sensing glove to interface with shooting games.

Researchers are working with a spin-off company, StretchSense, to develop wearable and other technologies designed to sense stretch.

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