Star Wars inspires scientists to create sense-capable artificial skin

WION Web Team New Delhi, Delhi, India Aug 03, 2020, 07.32 PM(IST)

Star Wars inspires scientists to create sense-capable artificial skin Photograph:( Reuters )

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Despite being in the experimental stage, the device has gathered "tremendous interest", especially from the medical community, Tee said. 

Researchers in Singapore have come up with an "electronic skin" that is capable of recreating a sense of touch. It is dubbed as an innovation that will allow people with prosthetic limbs to detect objects, as well as feel texture, or even temperature and pain.

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The device is called Asynchronous Coded Electronic Skin or ACES. It is made up of 100 small sensors and is about 1 sq cm (0.16 square inch) in size.

According to researchers from the National University of Singapore, it can process information faster than the human nervous system, can recognise 20 to 30 different textures and can read Braille letters with more than 90 per cent accuracy.

"So humans need to slide to feel texture, but in this case the skin, with just a single touch, is able to detect textures of different roughness," said research team leader Benjamin Tee, adding that AI algorithms let the device learn quickly.

During the demonstration, the device detected that a squishy stress ball was soft, whereas, the plastic ball was hard. 

"When you lose your sense of touch, you essentially become numb... and prosthetic users face that problem," said Tee.

"So by recreating an artificial version of the skin, for their prosthetic devices, they can hold a hand and feel the warmth and feel that it is soft, how hard are they holding the hand," said Tee.

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Tee revealed the inspiration behind this concept. The researcher was inspired by a scene by a scene from the "Star Wars" movie trilogy in which the character Luke Skywalker loses his right hand and it is replaced by a robotic one, seemingly able to experience touch sensations again.

Despite being in the experimental stage, the device has gathered "tremendous interest", especially from the medical community, Tee said. 

Similar patents developed by his team include a transparent skin that can repair itself when torn and a light-emitting material for wearable electronic devices, Tee said.

(Inputs from Reuters)