'Smart Skin' Transistors Give Robots "Sense of Touch," Better Interaction With Touch Screens for Humans

  • Michael Briggs , Design & Trend Staff Writer
  • Apr, 26, 2013, 09:05 AM
Tags : Robots

Researchers have officially made robots creepy.

The creation of an array of piezotronic transistors using nanowires that convert mechanical motion to electronic controlling signals means we will now have better touch-screen interactions with our tablets and smartphones—but also robots that have "a sense of touch."

The arrays contain about 8,000 touch-sensitive transistors called taxels that are are thin, clear, flexible sheets that wrap around a robotic limb like our skin.

"When we [humans] touch fire, we know it's hot. [This technology] can allow robots to have that human sense - in other words, make robots more like humans," lead researcher Zhong Lin Wang told TechNewsDaily.

The achievement of mimicking touch through electronic devices came through measuring changes in resistance caused by mechanical touch.

"Any mechanical motion, such as the movement of arms or the fingers of a robot, could be translated to control signals. This could make artificial skin smarter and more like the human skin. It would allow the skin to feel activity on the surface," said Zhong Lin Wang, from the Georgia Institute of Technology and one of the study authors. 

"This is a fundamentally new technology that allows us to control electronic devices directly using mechanical agitation," Wang added in a news release. "This could be used in a broad range of areas, including robotics, MEMS, human-computer interfaces and other areas that involve mechanical deformation." 

The study was published in the journal Science.


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