Perfecting virtual touch

November 09, 2017 // By Julien Happich
Perfecting virtual touch
Until recently largely focused on the design and manufacture of medical devices, 30-year old company Morgan Innovation & Technology Limited (MIAT) is now expanding its horizons, making others benefit from its inventions beyond the medical world.

One of the latest projects the company is pursuing for its diversification is the design of a glove-based touch simulation technology, dubbed RealSim. 

With RealSim, the company aims to provide the most realistic sensation of touch available in the market for virtual reality applications, ranging from gaming to training emergency services and hospital doctors to rehab or for military simulation exercises.

Based in Petersfield (Hampshire, UK) MIAT is not a huge company, having only about 38 employees. But as well as designing, manufacturing and commercializing its own medical devices, MIAT also helps others turn their ideas into products, with consultancy and a complete idea to manufacture service, in effect acting as an incubator. Although the company was originally founded in 1987 to market radio frequency (RF) lesion generators for back pain relief, it has taken a promising new turn.

Interviewed by eeNews Europe, MIAT's CEO Nigel Clarke gave us an overview of the company's novel mode of operation.

"About six years ago, we decided to invest up to 20% of our turnover in R&D for diversification and to help other inventors bring innovative products to market. Actually last year, we invested 25% of our turnover in R&D and have a range of products we are developing, including a screening test for liver cancer, an anti-snoring device based on electrical pulses, a hybrid advanced awareness device to track people's health metrics, and an inflatable baby incubator for disaster and emergency situations" told us Clarke.

"In 2011, we took this change of direction with the aim to bring one new product to market per year. Up to 2016, about 98% of our turnover came from historical products. In 2016, we brought our first new products to market which represent 20% of our turnover. This year we are taking two new products into manufacture and next year, three more products. We'll get about 60% or our revenues from manufacture" the CEO explained.

"When being approached by inventors or startups, we try not to take equity, but we look into each case. Sometimes we secure an exclusive license agreement to sell the product or we manufacture the device for a number of years or we get royalties. In some cases, we can form a joint venture".

"The idea for RealSim came from two researchers from the University of Southampton working to improve stroke survivors' rehabilitation, to stimulate their sense of touch. But in order to be able to bring RealSim to this niche market, we need the traction of larger markets such as virtual reality and augmented reality" continued Clarke.

"We've developed two proof-of-concept prototypes over the last year, thoroughly tested by stroke alive and non-impaired patients with a combination of stimulation trials".

Early proof-of-concept prototype of the ReaSim haptic glove.

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