New Smart Skin Is Almost As Sensitive As Human Touch

By Brent McKnight | 8 years ago

TerminatorWell, look at what those crafty scientists have come up with now. Is there anything they can’t do? An enterprising team of researchers based at the Georgia Institute of Technology—known colloquially as Georgia Tech—have developed an artificial so-called “smart skin” that is almost as sensitive as actual human touch. More than two times better than earlier endeavors, the sensitivity is comparable to the feel of a real human fingertip.

There are a ton of potential applications for the smart skin. It could potentially be used in advanced prosthetics, robotics, and “human-computer interfaces.” As far as I can tell, this moves us one step closer to the synthetic skin that covers T-800 from Terminator, which means that we’re one step closer to our inevitable subjugation by mechanical overlords. We all knew that was coming, but we keep making them more and more advanced all the time. It’s our own hubris that will be our downfall. Which do you think will come first, a robot takeover or a new Terminator movie?

The smart skin uses a “nano-sized 3D array” made of 8,000 tiny transistors bound together by zinc oxide crystals, which serve as semi-conductors. These are called taxels, and can produce electrical signals on their own when subjected to mechanical force, like touching things. That’s apparently called being “piezoelectric.”

There are drawbacks to the smart skin, however. At the moment the technology only works with substances that are both piezoelectric and semiconducting in nature. That limits the present scope of the application, but when these hurdles are cleared, it should be all systems go for the smart skin to move forward.