August 15, 2005

Human-like skin gives robots sense of touch -study

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A flexible, electronic skin could
provide robots, car seats and even carpets the ability to sense
pressure and heat, Japanese researchers reported on Monday.

They described a new "skin" that not only senses both heat
and pressure, but that is flexible, cheap and easy to make.

Writing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of
Sciences, they said their artificial skin might even be tweaked
to outperform human skin.

"Stretchable artificial skins for humans are now
commercially available, but they lack electric functionality,"
Takao Someya of the University of Tokyo and colleagues wrote.

"Indeed, various stretchable materials, such as rubber, are
used in daily activities, but they have poor electrical

Their net-like design allowed them to embed various
transistor-based electronic circuits on a flexible plastic

Other types of sensors could easily be added, the
researchers said.

"Thus, it will be possible in the near future to make an
electronic skin that has functions that human skin lacks by
integrating various sensors not only for pressure and
temperature, but also for light, humidity, strain, or
ultrasonic," they wrote.