Researchers from the University of Bristol in partnership with Telecomm ParisTech and the Sorbonne University in France have developed a skin-on interface that mimics the appearance of human skin and its ability to sense.
This development could take touch technology to the next level for interactive devices such as phones, wearables and computers.
The interface is made up of layers of silicone membrane. It is, therefore, more natural than the hard casing of phones, and can detect gestures made by end-users. The artificial skin allows the device it is on to “feel” the user’s grasp, including its pressure and location. Therefore, it can detect interactions such as tickling, caressing, twisting and pinching.
Dr Anne Roudaut who supervised the research said, “This is the first time we have the opportunity to add skin to our interactive devices. The idea is perhaps a bit surprising, but skin is an interface we are highly familiar with so why not use it and its richness with the devices we use every day?”
While artificial skin has been studied in the field of robotics, the aim of those studies was either cosmetic or focussed on safety. This is the first time that the uses of “realistic” artificial skins are being considered for augmenting devices.