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Human-like skin gives robots sense of touch

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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 conductivity."

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

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.


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