Once a topic explored exclusively in science fiction, the notion of restoring sensory feelings to humans and to machines is now approaching reality. Scientists around the world are developing artificial organs such as bionic eyes that could potentially restore sensory feelings to the disabled or provide useful sensory capabilities to machines. Now electronic skin is being developed in an attempt to bring a sense of touch to robots and those who wear prosthetics. If the field advances even further, it could even be used in wearable technology.
As robots become part of our daily lives, electronic skin will be vital. If your robot is going to help you around the house or with medical care, tactile sensing will be a fundamental part of its safe operation. It needs to be able to detect when a surface is slippery as well as sense the shape, texture and temperature of the objects it grasps. If it can sense the properties of that object, the robot can also decide how much force it should apply when it holds it.
It is the use of distributed sensors to measure subtle pressure changes that has attracted the attention of wearable technology makers and enthusiasts. Artificial electronic skin, or E-skin has the potential to be used for on-body health monitoring and minimally invasive surgery as well as in robotics and prosthetics.