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Researchers from the National University of Singapore developed artificial skin that gives robots and prostheses a sense of touch.
The device, called Asynchronous Coded Electronic Skin (ACES), is about one square centimeter in size and consists of 100 small sensors. The researchers said that ACES can identify different textures of roughness, as it detects sensations over 1,000 times faster than the human sensory nervous system.
According to the researchers, they got the idea for the technology from the movie Star Wars, in which the main protagonist Luke Skywalker loses his right hand and replaces it with an artificial one. In the film, Skywalker’s sense of touch in his right hand seems to have been restored through the artificial hand.
In July, the scientists demonstrated how ACES works and how it can improve the ability of robots to detect information through touch. During the demonstration, ACES successfully identified that a stress ball was soft and a solid plastic ball was hard. It was also able to read braille—the system of writing with raised dots used by visually impaired people—with 90% accuracy.
According to the scientists, the artificial skin they developed can have vast benefits, especially in the field of medical technology. One such benefit is improving how surgical robots handle operations by enhancing their ability to feel human body parts. The team added that the device could also be used for diagnostics, like giving robots the ability to determine whether or not a person is healthy through a handshake.