Researchers develop an electronic skin that could benefit robots and amputees

News > World

   Cherish Kyeyune | Posted on May 11, 2020

A team of researchers at Stanford University developed a human-like electronic skin that could give robots and machines a sense of touch. The electronic skin could also support humans with prosthetics.   

Image by Pete Linforth from Pixabay

Last Friday, the authors published their findings in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. They noted that the solutions in the past developed to mimic the sense of touch in robots and prosthetics have been bulky.   

The team developed a compact human-like electronic skin by using a thin sensor, which comprised a strain sensor coupled to a pressure sensor. In the results published, it was noted that one of the challenges was combining the responses from the sensors. The final product could be connected to robotic limbs, prosthetics, and medical devices, to identify and electronically interpret the sense of touching an object.   

For the sensor to work, it required two parameters to be measured at the same time: applied pressure and deformation.    

The researchers tested the sensor on a single robotic finger to demonstrate how it could be used in robotics. The results of the study also showed that the sensor could identify different types of materials as the robot touched and gripped different objects.   

According to the researchers, the sensor cannot measure the thickness of objects on its own. However, if it’s integrated into robotic systems that can measure thickness, it can measure a property known as the Young’s modulus of objects. The Young’s modulus is a measure of the stiffness of a material.  

This latest technology could help robots, and those with prosthetic limbs engage more easily with their environments.   


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Cherish Kyeyune
Junior Writer

Cherish is a 19-year old writer based in Gros Islet, St. Lucia. In 2018 she graduated from Castries Comprehensive Secondary School, then took a break from school and rekindled her love for writing and art. During this time, she volunteered at a veterinary lab and interned at The Voice Publishing Co., where she wrote and proofread articles for the weekly newspaper and website. As a life-long resident of the Caribbean, she loves the beach and the ocean, and one day hopes to sail the world. She thinks STEM is intriguing because it teaches us how entities around the world work.

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