Robotic skin gets a better sense of touch

Robotic skin on finger
Bio-inspired sensor skin developed by University of Washington and UCLA engineers can be wrapped around a finger or any other part of a robot or prosthetic device to help convey a sense of touch. (UCLA Engineering Photo)

The androids in “Blade Runner” sometimes seem more human than humans, but to feel tears in the rain, you need a sense of touch. Now researchers are closing in on just that: robotic skin that feels.

Engineers at the University of Washington and UCLA have developed stretchable, sensor-equipped skin that can be wrapped over robotic fingers, or prosthetic limbs, and provide electrical impulses for tactile feedback.

The aim of the project isn’t to let androids wax poetic, but to help humans handle robotic tools more precisely.

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributing editor at GeekWire, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. Check out "About Alan Boyle" for more fun facts.

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