Cheap Electronic Skin For Robots!

Inexpensive robots need inexpensive skin!


(KAUST paper electronic skin)

The artificial skin may represent the first single sensing platform capable of simultaneously measuring pressure, touch, proximity, temperature, humidity, flow, and pH levels. Previously, researchers have tried using exotic materials such as carbon nanotubes or silver nanoparticles to create sensors capable of measuring just a few of those things. By comparison, the team at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) in Saudi Arabia used common off-the-shelf materials such as paper sticky notes, sponges, napkins and aluminum foil. Total material cost for a paper skin patch 6.5 centimeters on each side came to just $1.67.

”Its impact is beyond low cost: simplicity,” says Muhammad Mustafa Hussain, an electrical engineer at KAUST. “My vision is to make electronics simple to understand and easy to assemble so that ordinary people can participate in innovation.”

The paper skin’s low cost and wide array of capabilities could have a huge impact on many technologies. Flexible and wearable electronics for monitoring human health and fitness could become both cheaper and more widely available. New human-computer interfaces—similar to today’s motion-sensing or touchpad devices—could emerge based on the paper skin’s ability to sense pressure, touch, heat, and motion. The paper skin could also become a cheap sensor for monitoring food quality or outdoor environments.

The earliest reference to the idea of pressure-sensitive artificial skin in science fiction, as far as I know, is the Chemelectric Afferent Nerve-Analogues from This Immortal, a terrific 1966 novel by Roger Zelazny:

A worthy opponent was the golem. Hasan had it programmed at twice the statistically-averaged strength of a man and had its reflex-time upped by fifty percent. Its memory contained hundreds of wrestling holds and its governor theoretically prevented it from killing or maiming its opponent - all through a series of chemelectric afferent nerve-analogues, which permitted it to gauge to an ounce the amount of pressure necessary to snap a bone or tear a tendon. Rolem was about five feet, six inches in height and weighed around two hundred fifty pounds...

Via IEEE Spectrum.

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