Image Credit: RMIT University

Electronic skins already have the ability to react to touch, but they can’t so very well react to things like burns. This is because computers have a very limited understanding of pain. This is, of course, an issue for prosthetics and robots that need to have human-like responses. Thanks to RMIT, however, these devices will be more sensitive in the future. University researchers developed an artificial skin that can react to pain in the same way that humans do. The system provides ‘near-instant’ when it detects that pressure and temperatures hit critical levels.

The prototype is composed of very thin, stretchable, extremely thin electronics that employ a bio-compatible form of silicon. The device includes the ability to sense pressure and has several temperature-reactive coatings and brain-inspired memory cells. Ataur Rahman, a researcher, said that its accurate enough to be able to distinguish the difference between a gentle poke a painful stab. The design is modeled after neural pathways, receptors, and neurons themselves, that are responsible for enabling human senses.

Don’t get excited too soon yet, though. This research has a long way to go before it gets out of the lab and into the wild. The potential uses are obvious and vast, though. The technology will enable a prosthetic arm to better understand things while keeping its users out of danger. Industrial robots could be more attractive to the public by exhibiting a more human-like, gentle approach.

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