New Artificial Electric Skin Will Let Robots Feel for Real

There are plenty of robot arms out there, but what about robot skin to cover them in? A new kind of piezotronic transistor mesh could make for robotic skin that's as soft supple sensitive as your own is, covered in thousands of tiny mechanical hairs.

Developed by Georgia Tech, this special kind of robotic skin relies on a special kind of piezoelectric nanowire transistors. Thousands of these tiny components are spread across the "skin's" surface, and generate electricity whenever they are brushed or exposed to pressure. The piezoelectric nature of these artificial hairs mean the skin has a more direct, one-to-one sort of response to touch than any before. Where previous tech has told robots how something feel, this lets them feel it.

Eventually, the material could be put to use on robots, giving them a sense of touch that is at least somewhat analogous to what we have or, of course, it could be used to cover prosthetics and try to return sensation to those who've lost limbs. The next step is just building skin with better and faster responses. It won't be long until robots can feel better than you can, in one way at least. [Technology Review via Discovery News]