The robots of the future will have soft skin with as refined and sensitive a sense of touch as ours. Smell and taste are now the biggest hurtles in terms of replicating the human senses electronically — as of now, androids will be able to see, hear, and touch, and yet be unable to savor a juicy hamburger. Via Google, AFP reports:
Biotech wizards have engineered electronic skin that can sense touch, in a major step towards next-generation robotics and prosthetic limbs.
The lab-tested material responds to almost the same pressures as human skin and with the same speed, they reported in the British journal Nature Materials.
The “e-skin” made by Javey’s team comprises a matrix of nanowires made of germanium and silicon rolled onto a sticky polyimide film.
The team then laid nano-scale transistors on top, followed by a flexible, pressure-sensitive rubber. The prototype, measuring 49 square centimetres (7.6 square inches), can detect pressure ranging from 0 to 15 kilopascals, comparable to the force used for such daily activities as typing on a keyboard or holding an object.
In the search to substitute the human senses with electronics, good substitutes now exist for sight and sound, but lag for smell and taste. Touch, though, is widely acknowledged to be the biggest obstacle.