Caltech researchers have developed an innovative new artificial skin for robots that gives them the ability to sense temperature, pressure, and even toxic chemicals. This will eventually be integrated into a platform with a robotic arm and sensors that attach to human skin, while a machine-learning system interfaces both to allow a user to control the robot with movements while receiving feedback through their own skin.
Most robotic hands are hard and metallic, whereas this printable skin, made from a gelatinous hydrogel, feels a lot more like human fingertips. That’s not all, embedded within the hydrogel are sensors that give the artificial skin its ability to detect the world around it. These are printed onto the skin in the same way that an inkjet printer applies text to a sheet of paper. When paired with this brain implant, it could give people who are paralyzed the sense of touch again.
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Modern robots are playing a more and more important role in security, farming, and manufacturing. Can we give these robots a sense of touch and a sense of temperature? Can we also make them sense chemicals like explosives and nerve agents or biohazards like infectious bacteria and viruses? We’re working on this,” said Wei Gao, Caltech’s assistant professor of medical engineering.