Monday, February 02, 2009

Fingerprints amplify and filter out vibrations

To anyone who has ever worn gloves, this might already be obvious - there is something special about fingerprints such that they send accurate information back to the brain about the surface of the object you are holding. Fingerprints enable your hands to do the most delicate of tasks.

Research has now shown exactly how this works - by creating a tactile sensor with "fingerprints" and one with a smooth surface, and measuring the difference between the two.

Interestingly, "the researchers noted that their artificial fingerprints worked only if the direction of motion was perpendicular to the direction of the ridges. Thankfully, the whorls, arches, and loops on real human fingertips mean that swiping in any direction will activate the filtering effect.
This could imply that the contours of our fingerprints are patterned to optimize texture perception"

I wonder about this, because the ridges of arches can be relatively 'horizontal', i.e. in one direction only. Does this mean that people with arches may have a lower sensitivity when swiping the finger in the same direction as the ridges? That would be an interesting experiment.

Source: discovermagazine