Robots Gain A Sense of Touch

Kaya Perry, Co-Editor

Although robots may be faster and more efficient than humans, they have no sense of touch. This is something that everyone knows, but scientists are in the works of changing that. How will this robotic advancement benefit the field of technology? 

Several different sets of scientists from around the globe have begun working on, or finished, a prototype of robotic skin that can give robots a human-like sense of touch. There are many different types of this skin for the different types of robots. Each of the robotic skins reacts much faster than the human nervous system. 

Asynchronous coded electronic skin (ACES) is a robotic skin with a structure based on the human nervous system. Researchers at the National University of Singapore have created this skin to react quicker than ever before. It takes ACES less than 60 nanoseconds to detect touch. Because ACES is connected to a single conductor, it’s also less vulnerable to damage than other robotic skins. 

Another skin, named Smart Skin, was created at the University of Texas at Arlington. Their team of scientists created this skin made from millions of tiny, flexible sensors. Each one of the sensors is self-powered, so there is no need for extra voltage. They’re highly sensitive and can even detect changes in temperature.

Scientists at Seoul National University created E-Skin. The two-part system is completely wireless. This robotic skin is lightweight, soft and thin, so it doesn’t affect the robot’s movements or skills. However, E-SKin is made for soft robots only. Soft robotics is the subset of robotics that focuses on technologies that closely resemble characteristics of living organisms.

“Current soft robotic designs still rely on rigid components… this E-Skin opens a new avenue for soft robotic assembly,” explained the researchers who created E-Skin.

There are many positive aspects to these robotic skins being made. They can use them on prosthetic limbs for amputees and they make working with robots safer because the robots will sense human movement. Robotic skin could be the next big technological advancement in the world.