"And the stars are projectors, yeah, projecting our lives down to this planet Earth." - Modest Mouse
Scientists in Japan have developed an electric skin for robots that is supposedly as sensitive as our own.
"Recognition of tactile information will be very important for future generations of robots," says Takao Someya at the University of Tokyo who developed the skin. A sense of touch would help them to identify objects, carry out delicate tasks and avoid collisions.
[The skin] consists of a sheet of rubbery polymer, impregnated with flakes of electrically conducting graphite. The electrical resistance of the sheet changes when it is squeezed, and this change is detected by an array of transistors beneath the rubber.
Of course our own sense of touch doesn't rely on pressure alone; we can also detect temperature and humidity, for example. The Japanese team hopes to add such features to their artificial skin. They also want to make it stretchy. At present it is more like a sheet of paper; bendy but not elastic.
Meanwhile, Someya is confident that his skin could find many applications beyond robotics, for example in sport, security or medicine. A pressure-sensitive carpet on the floor of a house could distinguish family members from strangers just from their footprints, he suggests, or sense if an elderly person had collapsed on it. Tactile mats could monitor the performance of athletes in the gym, while tactile seat coverings might measure the physical condition of car drivers.
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