New Smart Skin Can Sense Touch, Temperature And More

Prosthetic devices are far more advanced than they were even a decade ago, and thanks to technologies like 3D printing we've seen some unusual (and awesome) contenders surface. Of course, movement is only half the battle with prostheses, with touch being the other half of the equation. Different researchers have been working on that issue extensively, and the result has been creations like the touch-sensitive "skin" for robots we saw back in 2013.

A team of researchers from Seoul National University in Korea have created their own so-called smart skin, which can stretch over a prosthetic device and, though a multitude of sensors, provide a touch perception for various conditions including temperature and moisture.

The synthetic skin features an embedded crystalline silicone nanoribbon that works with pressure arrays and other sensors (strain, temperature, humidity, and more) to determine different conditions. In addition to featuring sensors for detecting stimuli, the skin also work with electroresistive heaters for producing a life-like temperature.

The end result is a prosthetic — a hand, in this case — able to perform actions the same as a human hand, such as catching a ball, as well as being able to sense conditions like how hot an item is to the touch and how wet a surface is. In addition to prostheses, the smart skin can also find applications with "peripheral nervous system interface technologies", according to the study.