Robots may soon get Touch Sensitive Skin

New technology invented at Stanford University may allow Robots to gain touch sensitive skin in the future. Remember Data from Star Trek? Data had always pushed towards becoming more human and one part of it was to feel emotion and sensations. There were some episodes where Data had the chance to receive skin grafts that allowed him to feel the same skin sensations that humans could.

The technology incorporates a transparent film of single-walled carbon nanotubes that simply act like tiny springs that react to pressure applied to them. The skin can also be stretched in any direction and will always snap back into place wrinkle free.

“This sensor can register pressure ranging from a firm pinch between your thumb and forefinger to twice the pressure exerted by an elephant standing on one foot,” said Darren Lipomi, a postdoctoral researcher in Bao’s lab, who is part of the research team.

The key part in this technology is the carbon fiber nano-springs which were created by spraying nanotubes with an airbrush onto the surface of the silicone. The random dispersion of the nanotubes allows the silicone to be stretched in any direction over and over they always return to their original state.

“After we have done this kind of pre-stretching to the nanotubes, they behave like springs and can be stretched again and again, without any permanent change in shape,” Bao said. The change sensed by the nanotube films is what enables the sensor to transmit what it is “feeling.”

Soon we might start to see Androids that can feel our touch and the temperature of the room. Other applications are to give feeling back to skin that was lost in an accident on a human being. Watch the video above for a demonstration of the new technology.

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