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Researchers at Stanford university have developed a soft e-skin that communicates directly with the brain. This digital skin can convert sensations such as heat and pressure to electrical signals that can be read by electrodes implanted in the human brain.
Although this type of technology isn’t necessarily new or revolutionary, Stanford researchers have simplified the previous rigid machinery to soft components, creating the texture of real human skin.
The development holds promise for more natural interaction between AI-based prosthetic limbs and the brain. It also is a step forward in efforts to construct robots that can “feel” human sensations such as pain, pressure and temperature. This would allow robots working with accident victims, for instance, to better relate to signs of comfort or distress, as reported by techxplore.com.
“Our dream is to make a whole hand where we have multiple sensors that can sense pressure, strain, temperature and vibration,” said Zhenan Bao, a chemical engineering professor at Stanford University, who took part in the innovative study.
“Then we will be able to provide a true kind of sensation,” stated Bao.
The research study reported that the main reason people prefer to avoid using prosthetics is due to a lack in sensory feedback, which makes the prosthetics feel unnatural and uncomfortable to patients.
“Electronic skin would eliminate the boundary between the living body and machine components,” the researchers said.
“This new e-skin runs on just 5 volts and can detect stimuli similar to real skin,” said Weichen Wang, an author of the paper who has worked on the project for three years.
“It provides electrical performance—such as low voltage drive, low power consumption, and moderate circuit integration—comparable to that of poly-silicon transistors,” explained Wang regarding previous iterations of the electronic skin.