New 'Smart-Skin' Senses Pressure, Humidity, Heat

A "smart" skin developed by researchers at the Seoul National University, Republic of Korea, may provide realistic touch sense to robots or prosthetic devices.


(New 'Smart-Skin' Senses Pressure, Humidity, Heat)

Under the leadership of biomedical engineer Dae-Hyeong Kim, the team has developed a skin that can stretch over the entire prosthesis; and its applications aren't just limited to pressure. It's embedded with ultrathin, single crystalline silicone nanoribbon, which enables an array of sensors.

These include pressure arrays, of course, but also temperature arrays and associated humidity sensors, strain sensors, electroresistive heaters and stretchable multi-electrode arrays for nerve stimulation.

"This collection of stretchable sensors and actuators facilitate highly localised mechanical and thermal skin-like perception in response to external stimuli, thus providing unique opportunities for emerging classes of prostheses and peripheral nervous system interface technologies," the study's abstract reads.

This skin, according to the study, allows for faster response times -- but also more closely replicates the abilities of real skin to sense the world. For example, temperature and humidity sensors would allow the user to touch a child's forehead and feel whether it was hot and damp enough to indicate a fever.

In his Hugo award-winning 1966 novel This Immortal, Roger Zelazny refers to a robot wrestler named Rolem which is sensitive to pressure and touch:

A worthy opponent was the golem. Hasan had it programmed at twice the statistically-averaged strength of a man and had its reflex-time upped by fifty percent. Its memory contained hundreds of wrestling holds and its governor theoretically prevented it from killing or maiming its opponent - all through a series of chemelectric afferent nerve-analogues, which permitted it to gauge to an ounce the amount of pressure necessary to snap a bone or tear a tendon.

The bionic arm imagined by Martin Caidin in his 1972 novel Cyborg had this capability:

"When you think to pick up an object, what happened before with your original arm is repeated. The electrical impulses generated by your brain command everything... The artificial muscles.. which in this case are silastic and vitallium pulleys, then contract, twist, and tighten. You can even sense with your fingertips..."

Find out more about various attempts to create more realistic humanlike robot skin:

Via CNET.

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