Robots Will Soon Get Touch-Sensitive Skin

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Using carbon nanotubes, Stanford researchers have been able to create touch-sensitive, gooey skin for AI sensing, prosthetics, and touch-sensitive sex androids. The skin could give robots touch-sensitivity and allow patients to regain feeling in their artificial limbs.

The tubes, when embedded into the plastic skin, act as tiny, compressible springs. These tubes can bend and squeeze as necessary, allowing you to measure the forces applied to almost any material, from “taffy”-like plastic to something like a rubber sponge.

“This sensor can register pressure ranging from a firm pinch between your thumb and forefinger to twice the pressure exerted by an elephant standing on one foot,” said Darren Lipomi, a postdoctoral researcher in Bao’s lab, who is part of the research team.

As you push and pull the skin, the sensors register an electrical charge and then the changes in charge can be used to sense where and how the skin is being touched. The system can now sense pressures “well below the pressure exerted by a 20 milligram bluebottle fly carcass.” You can learn more about the project here but I’d personally like to know if this skin is lickable.