Robots Have Feelings, Too, With New ‘E-Skin’

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A robot with a sensitive touch may sound more like a bizarre encounter on second life than the future of biotech. But it turns out that robots may one day have feelings, after engineers at the University of California, Berkeley invented a new artificial “e-skin”.

The “e-skin” comprises of a matrix of nanowires made from germanium and silicon rolled onto a sticky polyimide film. The team of researchers then laid nano-scale transistors on top, followed by a flexible, pressure-sensitive rubber. Operating under low voltages, the prototype can detect pressure ranging from 0 to 15 kilopascals, comparable to the force used to do daily tasks like washing the dishes or even making a sandwich.

“If we ever wanted a robot that could unload the dishes, for instance, we’d want to make sure it doesn’t break the wine glasses in the process. But we’d also want the robot to grip the stock pot without dropping it,” said Ali Javey, an associate professor of computer sciences at the University of California at Berkeley, who led the research teams.

For the long term, scientists foresee that this new invention could even one day help patients with false limbs to feel again by gaining the sense of touch back. (via PC World)

-Tara Kelly