Robots will be able to feel, too.
(Mirror Daily, United States) – According to a new scientific paper published in the journal of Science, prosthetic limbs could soon be covered with sensitive skin. Scientists at the Stanford University have managed to create the first plastic material that can replicate the sensitive mechanisms of the hand.
As advanced as science might be, prosthetic limbs cannot fully replace human hands and legs simply because they cannot sense. For this reason, scientists from the aforementioned university conducted a research to determine how human skin, or at least some of its functions, can be replicated.
Zhenan Bao, the lead author of the current study, has spent more than a decade trying to understand the mechanisms of human sensations. The efforts have paid off as the researcher was the first to create a plastic material that can distinguish between various sensations.
According to the explanation in the scientific paper, there are approximately six sensing mechanisms, which are activated when a person tries to sense something with his/her hand. The current experiment has managed to replicate only one mechanism, namely, the one that distinguishes between different degrees of strength.
Repeated tests have shown that the plastic material can make the difference between a gentle touch and a strong grip or handshake. However, there are other aspects that scientists need to replicate, such as the sensors for temperature and material recognition. When these criteria will be added on the artificial skin, the material will allow the distinction between different fabrics, including silk and corduroy.
Scientists have further revealed the mechanisms behind the plastic skin. According to their explanation, the top layer of the skin has been provided with sensors for the current interpretation of the input. The bottom layer contains numerous circuits that interpret the received information and send signals to the brain.
There could be many future applications to the newly invented material. Scientists hope they can use the humanlike skin to cover prosthetic limbs and make them as natural as possible.
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