In the future, the e-skin could be the basis for a more advanced electronic skin which enables robots capable of exploring and interacting with the world in multiple new ways. This might soon be possible as researchers create e-skin capable of feeling pain.
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Touch-sensitive robotics with artificial skin have been a goal of researchers for decades. In order to decrease latency and power consumption, the Glasgow University team’s new type of electronic skin (e-skin) is inspired by how the human peripheral nervous system processes impulses from skin.
A team of scientists headed by an Indian-origin engineer in the UK has built an electronic skin (e-skin) capable of experiencing “pain” in the hopes of producing a new breed of smart robots with human-like sensitivity.
Professor Ravinder Dahiya of the James Watt School of Engineering at the University of Glasgow informed media agency PTI that the breakthrough is a significant step forward in the development of large-scale neuromorphic printed e-skin that can react correctly to inputs.
His university team created a computational e-skin prototype with a novel form of processing system based on synaptic transistors that replicates the brain’s neural pathways for learning.
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On Wednesday, the scientists released a new publication in the journal ‘Science Robotics’ titled ‘Printed Synaptic Transistors based Electronic Skin for Robots to Feel and Learn,’ which describes a robot hand with a smart e-skin that has a surprising capacity to learn to respond to external stimuli.
Watch the video below:
The video on the Bendable Electronics and Sensing Technologies (BEST) YouTube page demonstrates that as soon as human skin gets an input, the peripheral nervous system starts processing it at the site of contact, narrowing it to only the most important data before sending it to the brain.
The scientists printed a grid of 168 synaptic transistors built from zinc-oxide nanowires directly onto the surface of a flexible plastic surface to create an e-skin capable of a computationally efficient, synapse-like reaction.
“In the future, this research could be the basis for a more advanced electronic skin which enables robots capable of exploring and interacting with the world in new ways, or building prosthetic limbs which are capable of near-human levels of touch sensitivity,” said Fengyuan Liu, a representative of the BEST group and a co-author of the paper.