Human skin not only protects us from environmental factors but also helps us perceive our surroundings better. It has around 5 million receptors that receive sensory stimuli which, in other words, also means a huge amount of data to be processed. Creating something with similar characteristics and functionalities, without making it overloaded with data is an obvious challenge. Researchers have been tackling this challenge for years now and came up with some genius innovative solutions.
Synthetic skin has a wide range of use. Robots, prosthetics, gaming, and long-distance communication are just some of the areas that will highly benefit from this innovation. And that is just the beginning since we will surely see this technology evolve over the next few years and witness it being used more and more in our everyday lives.
When it comes to robots, apart from making them look more realistic, synthetic skin could also make them safer. A team from the Technical University of Munich created the first humanoid robot with full-body artificial skin providing a robotic sense of touch. As we already mentioned, it is quite difficult to recreate human skin with all its receptors and avoid overloading and over-processing of data. The team overcame this challenge by creating artificial skin with 13000 sensors that enable tactile sensation and send signals only when individual cells are activated. Creating robots that have a better perception of their bodies and surrounding will make it easier for them to participate in everyday activities and complete tasks more efficiently. They will be more aware of their surroundings and would be safer for human interaction. This will create a more secure work environment and will help avoid potential accidents. It will also help robots complete their tasks better since they will have a better tactile sense while executing some delicate actions. This technological innovation will certainly open doors to numerous other innovative solutions and further bring robots closer to us.
Another team of researchers from the Northwestern University of Illinois created synthetic skin which will improve prosthetics by adding tactile sensation and give the user a chance to feel again. Its simple design and a battery-free patch allow the user to apply it on any part of the body. So, for instance, a person with a prosthetic hand wearing this patch on his or her arm will get the sensation transmitted from the prosthetic hand to the synthetic skin patch and make the user feel the object.
This cool innovation not only holds the potential to bring back a sensory touch to people using prosthetics but could also be used in gaming. The user would have a more realistic experience while playing games, as the patch would transmit different sensations in a similar manner and, furthermore, it could also be used to improve theatre experience. Long-distance communication is also looking forward to this innovation since it will bring people closer together and enable tactile sensation to be transferred over vast distances.
It is most certainly quite an interesting time for innovations of all kinds, and we can’t wait to see how these will evolve over time. Who knows, maybe in the not so distant future you will be able to have tactile sensation while reading an article such as this one.
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