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Brief Published: 3 May 2013

Smart Skin: Sense of Touch


Scientists in the US and Japan have come a step closer to recreating the sense of touch felt by humans, developing a new “smart skin” that uses electronic transistors to sense pressure.

The touch-sensitive transistors – known as taxels – convert mechanical motion into electronic controlling signals, creating touch sensitivity comparable to that of a human fingertip. The experimental array could be used to create a “smart skin” to develop prosthetic limbs with a sense of touch.

"Any mechanical motion, such as the movement of arms or the fingers of a robot, could be translated to control signals," explained Zhong Lin Wang, a Regents' professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology and corresponding author of the study. "This could make artificial skin smarter and more like the human skin. It would allow the skin to feel activity on the surface."

The fast-developing prosthetics sector has been making headlines of late. The world’s first bionic eye was approved for use by the US Food and Drug Admininstration (FDA) in February 2013, while experimental work with 3D-printed prosthetics promise a new generation of affordable, custom-designed body parts. For more prosthetic advances, read Tech Body Modification.

Georgia Tech