Creators of the world’s thinnest electro-mechanical polymer (EMP) actuator and sensor technology, Novasentis want to use their innovative micro-material dynamics to redefine man-machine interactions. By creating a lighter, thinner, smaller, and more flexible components they are aiming to radically transform devices, bringing new user interfaces, experiences, and modes of interaction. Founded in 2006, Novasentis was the brainchild of entrepreneur and former Apple Corporation executive Ralph Russo and the inventor of electro-mechanical polymer (EMP) technology, Dr. Qiming Zhang. In 2012, Christophe Ramstein, PhD joined as President and CEO, leading the helm with a vision of a Neo-SensoryAge by demonstrating the unique uses of EMP technology in consumer devices. Christophe Ramstein spent his career developing technologies that humanize and enhance user experiences through design so I asked him about his leadership role, and his thoughts on how this new technology will impact the medical device industry.
Tom Fowler, Medgadget: Tell us more about the specifics of electro-mechanical polymer (EMP) technology, how does it work?
Christophe Ramstein, PhD: Novasentis EMP material and products are created from a paper-thin plastic-based technology. When electricity is applied, the molecular structure of the material begins to expand and elongate. When mounted to a surface, this elongation in the material creates the haptic vibrations that can be felt on the surface. The EMP can create vibration, play audio, or even morph and change shape depending on the information sent to the actuator.
Medgadget: What do you currently consider the best applications EMP has for the medical device industry?
Christophe Ramstein, PhD: Cardiovascular disease is a global problem, and the core guide-by-wire catheter technology used to treat this disease has remained the same for seven decades. The ability to dynamically drive devices inside the body will drastically simplify the everyday challenges of surgeons. With Novasentis’ digital catheter solution, surgeons no longer need to use pre-shaped catheter tips, and can dynamically navigate the catheter within the body to reach arteries. This increases patient safety, decreases chances of damage within the body, and greatly minimizes in-surgery time. This is an extraordinary development and we are very excited for the new possibilities it represents.
Medgadget: Any other unique applications of EMP that was discovered unexpectedly during research? Or what is your favorite use of EMP?
Christophe Ramstein, PhD: We have always had a robust understanding of our material, but it is the new applications that are most exciting. Our technology is a platform technology applicable to not only the medical space, but has amazing applications in consumer electronics, automotive, and more. From paper-thin keyboards less than 1mm to the morphing surfaces of tomorrow’s displays, haptics and vibro-tactile feedback is a very exciting application. Haptics refers to our sense of touch and being touched. Our hands have over 14,000 sensors; when we touch things, it is these sensors that communicate textures, kinesthetic feedback, temperature, and pressure—all of which allow us to “feel.” Imagine a keyboard which is thinner than 1 mm, but can play various vibrations and sounds to alert you of mistyped words, help you learn how to type, or even appear only when you need it. This is just one of many examples about how vibro-tactile feedback can make a huge difference in user experience and new interfaces.
Medgadget: Lastly, where do you see Novasentis 25 years down the road?
Christophe Ramstein, PhD: Today, Novasentis is at the cusp of a Neo-Sensory™Age where we are just beginning to see the demand and need for sensory technologies. In the coming years, we will see a proliferation of sensory and motor technology in all parts of our lives that will make devices more alive, expanding human capabilities far beyond imagination. In 5 years such devices will deform and live in our hands and on our skin to give us a more profound sense of interaction, in 10 years these devices will be acting as a second skin and give us a true multi-sensorial way of communicating and interacting, in 25 years, there will be a transparent interface between reality and the digital world that will give users access to amazing new worlds, hard to imagine today. I am beyond excited to see what the future brings.
Link: Novasentis Website…