Engineering researchers at the University of Minnesota have developed a revolutionary process for 3D printing stretchable electronic sensory devices that could give robots the ability to feel their environment. The discovery is also a major step forward in printing electronics on real human skin.
"This stretchable electronic fabric we developed has many practical uses," said Michael McAlpine, a University of Minnesota mechanical engineering associate professor and lead researcher on the study. "Putting this type of 'bionic skin' on surgical robots would give surgeons the ability to actually feel during minimally invasive surgeries..."
... this new discovery could also be used to print electronics on real human skin.
Why waste all the cool stuff on robots? Humans could also make use of this stuff. Fans of John Varley may recall the input device that goes with readout skin from his 1992 novel Steel Beach:
Call me old-fashioned. I'm the only reporter I know who still uses his handwriter except to take notes…I snapped the fingers of my left hand… Three rows of four colored dots appeared on the heel of my left hand. By pressing the dots in different combinations with my fingertips I was able to write the story in shorthand