Could 'E-Skin' Give Robots a Sense of Touch? [VIDEO]
Electronic skin out of California doesn't just light up when touched.
The super-flexible, paper-thin material is pressure-sensitive, with the ability to provide instant touch feedback to a computerized system.
It could be the first step toward a robot capable of responding to touch cues in its environment, Wired reports.
Scientists at University of Califnia, Berkeley demonstrated the capabilities of e-skin by producing a prototype that glows brighter the harder you press on it.
The skin is made from layers of plastic and pressure-sensitive rubber, with a thin film of transistors sandwiches in between. Applying pressure sends a signal through the sheet to light up LED lights embedded in it.
It could have important applications outside of robotics. A similar material could someday be integrated into prosthetic limbs, providing amputees with crucial touch feedback.
A future version of e-skin may be able to sense pressure and temperature -- and possibly even heal itself.
And it could help produce things like wallpapers that double as touchscreen displays, or touch-sensitive car dashboards, according to a press release from UC Berkeley.
"We are not just making devices; we are building systems," e-skin creator Ali Javey, a professor of electrical engineering and computer sciences, said in a statement. "With the interactive e-skin, we have demonstrated an elegant system on plastic that can be wrapped around different objects to enable a new form of human-machine interfacing."
Watch the invention in action in a video below: