Facebook Patent | Indexable strain sensor

Patent: Indexable strain sensor

Publication Number: 10197459

Publication Date: 2019-02-05

Applicants: Facebook

Abstract:

A deformation sensing apparatus comprises an elastic substrate, a conductive element, and an additional conductive element. The conductive element includes conductive joints that are separated from each other by resolving elements along a length of the conductive element. Different combinations of conductive joints and resolving elements correspond to different segments of the deformation sensing apparatus. Based on a change in capacitance between a conductive joint and the additional conductive element when a strain is applied to the deformation sensing apparatus, the deformation sensing apparatus generates a signal that allows determination of how the strain deforms the deformation sensing apparatus.

Background:

Virtual reality (VR) systems typically provide multiple forms of sensory output, such as a VR headset and headphones, which operate together to create the illusion that a user is immersed in a virtual world. A VR system can also include an input or wearable device. such as a VR glove. that detects position, acceleration, orientation, and other information associated with the user’s hand and provides the information as input. The input can then be used to move a corresponding item in the virtual world (e.g., a hand or other appendage belonging to a character in the virtual world) when the glove detects movement of the user’s hand in the real world. A VR glove can also be used to facilitate interactions with other objects in the virtual world. For example, the VR system can allow the user to use the glove to manipulate virtual objects by touching them, picking them up, and moving them.

Strain sensors may be included in an input or a wearable device, such as a VR glove, to facilitate virtual manipulation of virtual objects. Strain sensors measure strain resulting from applied deformations based on a change in an electrical characteristic (e.g., a resistance, an inductance, or a capacitance) of electrical elements (such as resistive strain gauges, capacitive sensors, or inductive sensors) formed therein. However, a conventional strain sensor is unable to resolve multiple measures of deformation (stretch or flex) occurring at different portions (segments) along its length through a common electrical interface (e.g., a single pair of terminals for an array of two terminal devices). Multiple strain sensors, if cascaded along their lengths to resolve measures of deformation along portions of the combined length, use multiple independent conductive wires or terminals to obtain signals from the various different cascaded sensors. This additional wiring can make cascaded sensors unwieldy in some devices.

Summary:

A deformation sensing apparatus comprises an elastic substrate, a multi-segment conductive element formed on a surface of the elastic substrate, and an additional conductive element formed on the same or an additional surface of the elastic substrate. In one or more embodiments, the elastic substrate is a dielectric, so a capacitor is formed by an electric field coupling between charges resident on each conductive element on the surface of the elastic substrate and the additional conductive element on the opposing, parallel, surface of the elastic substrate. Accordingly, a plurality of conductive joints are formed along a length of the multi-segment conductive element. In some embodiments, different conductive joints, or “segments,” correspond to regions of interest that can be independently interrogated based on properties (e.g., amplitude, frequency) of an interrogating stimulus signal. Different segments may be separated by physical or mechanical resolving elements (e.g., physical switching elements such as electromechanical switches), or may be formed in a physical continuum without being separated by changes in geometry and without physical or mechanical demarcation.

In embodiments where the segments are not separated by physical switching elements but rather form a physically continuous indexable surface, where different segments are identified by an index, the multi-segment conductive element may be a continuous strip where different segments respond to different frequencies. For example, the multi-segment conductive element is sufficiently resistive so capacitive coupling between different segments of the conductive element with respect to the additional conductive element result in different segments along the length of the conductive element having different effective RC time constants. In the case of the physically continuous indexable surface, the resistive elements along the length of the surface correspond to resolving elements separating conductive joints that can be resolved to spatially interrogate segments of the conductive element based on properties of an interrogating stimulus signal applied to the multi-segment conductive element. In some embodiments, a strain on each segment or joint of the multi-segment conductive element is separately obtained by varying the frequency of the stimulus signal applied to the deformation sensing apparatus based on the complex circuit created by the deformation sensing apparatus.

The deformation sensing apparatus may be used in wearable devices such as gloves, headsets, or any other fabric that conforms to a user’s body part and can be used to detect and resolve movement of multiple spatial regions or portions of the user’s body part. For example, using an indexable sensor within a region of a wearable device that internally undergoes different measures of stretches or bends along different indexed segments of the deformation sensing apparatus is beneficial. As an example, different amounts of stretching occur in different parts of a moving object wearing a wearable device, which can be independently resolved and measured by different segments of the indexable sensor. Similarly, in the case of bending deformations, an object (e.g., a body part) wearing a wearable device including the deformation sensing apparatus may bend at a location of one of the conductive joints of the deformation sensing apparatus, but not at other conductive joints of the deformation sensing apparatus. Hence, a location of the deformation sensing apparatus corresponding to the bend of the object can be more precisely resolved if the different conductive joints of the deformation sensing apparatus are spatially indexable.

According to one or more embodiments, a wearable device comprises one or more indexable deformation sensors, a measurement circuit, and a deformation analyzer. Each indexable deformation sensor includes an elastic substrate comprising a flexible, electrically-insulating dielectric material, a multi-segment conductive element formed on a side of the elastic substrate and comprising a plurality of conductive joints formed along a length of the element. The conductive joints are separated from each other by resolving elements. An additional conductive element is formed on an additional side of the elastic substrate. In some embodiments, an indexable deformation sensor outputs a signal responsive to an applied deformation, the signal obtained between the multi-segment conductive element and the additional conductive element and indicating an electrical capacitance across the elastic substrate. In some embodiments, the additional conductive element formed on the additional surface of the elastic substrate is a strain gauge whose resistance changes based on a strain applied along a length of the strain gauge. The deformation analyzer computes a measure of stretch deformation and a measure of flex deformation at different spatial regions of the indexable deformation sensor based on signals obtained from segments of the elastic substrate corresponding to the different spatial regions.

In some embodiments, the orientations or positions of points on the wearable device (such as a glove) worn around a user’s body part (e.g., fingers of a hand) are used to determine a state of the user’s body part. For example, the orientations or positions of points on a glove (or other wearable device) are provide information about or to render a state of the hand (or other body part) in a VR (virtual reality) environment. For example, states of a user’s hand (e.g., open, closed, pointing, gesturing, etc.) are determined based on the bend angles of the user’s fingers or finger tips corresponding to the positions or orientations of points on the glove.

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