Researchers at The University of South Australia’s Wearable Computer Lab (WCL) have developed a ‘Digital Foam’ material that recognizes and responds to touch. The foam material is highly flexible and can accurately detect multiple simultaneous deformations in its surface. Several applications for Digital Foam are anticipated, from an augmented reality controller and home entertainment games controllers, to medical mannequins used for training surgeons and doctors.


Surface modelling and geometry capture are used in a range of fields including Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR), computer graphics, medical imaging, visualization systems, and artistic fields. To support these systems, a variety of input devices and techniques have been developed to assist the modelling process.

Digital Foam presents a novel and unique technology that enables the capture of the size and shape of a piece of foam. With this information the foam can be wrapped around hard surfaces, and can capture precise touch-based movements with various degrees of pressure. The technology allows for accuracy, control and manipulation of the surface via soft, touchable controls and has the potential for numerous applications.

Potential Markets

The technology is ideally suited to applications where a highly flexible, soft material can be used
as a means to control or respond to single or multiple touches.

Example applications include:

  • AR/VR input controllers
  • ‘Smart skin’ for medical practitioner training
  • Digital clay for facial reconstruction or special effects
  • Sports training, for study of hand grip, position and pressure
  • Gaming consoles and mobile devices
  • Soft controls to replace solid controls in confined areas

IP Status

A granted US patent (US20100225340A1) application has been filed covering the design of Digital Foam, currently held by the University of South Australia.

Partnering Opportunities

An opportunity exists to be involved in the ongoing development of this technology as it moves closer to the market, with a range of intellectual property and commercialisation pathways currently available.