New Artificial Skin Gives Robots the Sense of Touch

The aim is to make robots more appealing to humans.
Loukia Papadopoulos

Those fearing a robot apocalypse may want to look away now. Researchers around the world are looking to give robots the sense of touch through artificial skin, reports CNBC.


A sense of touch

This sense of touch could be used to allow robots to do everything from feel temperature rises to actually feel other humans. For researchers, developing this sense is key to making robots more appealing to humans.

John Yiannis Aloimonos, a professor with the University of Maryland’s Department of Computer Science, told CNBC that artificial skin “enables robots to perceive their surroundings in much greater detail and with more sensitivity. This not only helps them to move safely. It also makes them safer when operating near people and gives them the ability to anticipate and actively avoid accidents.”

Combined with other senses

It can also open the doors to have robots grasp non-verbal cues and can be combined with other senses such as sight and hearing. 

“We use tactile feedback to get more information about our surroundings, and to adjust our actions by receiving continuous input about what we’re touching and interacting with,” Daniela Rus, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who serves as director of the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, told CNBC.

She added that her goal is to “take a first step towards being able to enable robots to have some of the same capabilities.“

Currently, however, putting skin on all of a robot's surface is seeing some cost issues as such hardware is very expensive. As such, robot creators are likely to put skin on only the required areas.

However, as far as scientists have come with robotic skin, getting it to mimic real skin is something that still eludes us, told CNBC professor Jong-Oh Park, vice-chair of the research committee of the International Federation of Robotics.

“As well known, living tissue is basically programmed or designed in DNA in every living cell in nanometer scale,” he said.

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