Electronic skin that feels pain paves the way for robots with sensitive touch

Electronic skin that feels pain paves the way for robots with sensitive touch
© naftemporiki.gr Electronic skin that feels pain paves the way for robots with sensitive touch

Researchers in Scotland have created an innovative electronic skin (e-skin) that can learn to feel “pain”. The achievement will help to create in the future a new generation of intelligent robots —but also other objects— with human tactile sensitivity.

Engineers at the University of Glasgow, led by James Watt Ravinder Dahiya, a professor at the School of Engineering —who published the journal in the Robotics journal “Science Robotics”— have incorporated into the new artificial skin a computer-based processing system based on “Synaptic transistors”, which mimic the nerves of the brain. The transistors are made of zinc oxide nanowires, mounted on a flexible plastic surface and connected to touch sensors. The “skin” can then be printed by a 3D printer.

Scientists have been trying for decades —all over the world— to make artificial skin with human touch sensitivity. New skin is an important step in this direction. The robotic arm covered by the new skin shows remarkable ability to react to external stimuli, precisely because it feels “pain”.

As Dahiya stated,

“We all learn early in life to react appropriately to unexpected stimuli such as pain, so as not to hurt ourselves. Of course, the development of new electronic skin does not mean that it really feels pain as we know it, it is just a short way to explain the process of learning from external stimuli.”

Among other future practical applications, will be the use of sensitive “e-skin” in prosthetic limbs for the disabled, as well as its use in the “Internet of Things”, so that everyday objects gain not only intelligence but also sensitivity.

The University of Glasgow will patent the technology and plans to set up a tech-savvy company to commercialize the discovery.

Naftemporiki.gr with information from ΑNA-ΜNA.

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