New 'smart skin' may let you reach out and virtually touch – anyoneNew 'smart skin' may let you reach out and virtually touch – anyoneBy Sandee LaMotte, CNNPosted at 1:00 PM ET, Wed November 20, 2019Box, dance and ride through virtual reality Box, dance and ride through virtual reality 01:25(CNN) — Visualize touching your sweetheart's face on the screen of your laptop and seeing a reaction to your touch in real time, even though you are miles apart. Suddenly, you feel a touch on your face.Or if you're a grandparent, imagine making a hugging motion during an internet video call with your grandchild and watching them squirm in delight. Now imagine feeling that child's sweet kiss on your cheek.Technology allows us to see and hear each other from almost anywhere in the world, but our devices still can't give us that kind of one-on-one sense of touch – that proof of human connection."Physical touch, human touch, is probably the deepest, most significant emotional connection that you can establish with a loved one or friends," said nanoengineer John Rogers, a professor of bioengineering at Northwestern University.For years, science has been scrambling to add tactile sensation to our virtual experiences. Various types of electronic skins have been developed, typically reliant on clunky wired electrodes that provide less than instantaneous response and a lack of two-way feedback.In a paper published Wednesday in the journal Nature, Rogers and his team at Northwestern report a new wireless and battery-free smart skin that could shift the course of this technology. Through a fast, programmable array of miniature vibrating disks embedded in a soft, flexible material, this smart skin can contour to the body and deliver sensory input – what you'd feel when using it – that Rogers says is quite natural."I would say a gentle touch or kind of a stroke, a type of sensation that you might feel if you rub your finger across your skin," Rogers said.The applications for such a flexible smart skin are wide: social media, entertainment, virtual reality and video gaming, sensory feedback for amputees, even telemedicine could be given a human touch, the study said. At the office, employees could shake the hand of every businessperson attending a virtual meeting and feel a squeeze in return.