Abstract

A particle mechanical constraint (PMC) is a soft vinyl tube containing Styrofoam beads. It can be freely compressed, elongated, bent, twisted, or otherwise manipulated in all degrees of freedom. Evacuation of the air inside the tube makes the PMC rigid so that it maintains whatever shape it has been given. The stiffness of the PMC is proportional to the reduction in internal pressure below atmospheric pressure. Viscosity is also controlled virtually by changing the inside air pressure in proportion to the speed of transformation of the PMC. We used a PMC to develop a wearable force display that provides the sensation of coming into contact with a wall or of moving in water with viscosity, in addition to that of moving in air. PMC is an inherently passive device that never exerts excessive force if it were to malfunction. In short, it is suitable as a wearable human interface because it is light, soft, and safe.

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