A robot hand with artificial skin reaches for a glass of ice water. Researchers at the University of Houston have created an artificial skin that allows a robotic hand to sense the difference between heat and cold. The discovery of stretchable electronics could have a significant impact in the wearables market, with devices such as health monitors or biomedical devices, says Cunjiang Yu, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Houston and the lead author for the paper. When the stretchable electronic skin was applied to a robotic hand, it could tell the difference between hot and cold water.
Cunjiang Yu, an assistant professor at the university and three other researchers created "a semiconductor in a rubber composite format" that can stretch and still retain functionality, allowing a robotic hand to feel temperature differences and distinguish between hot and cold. Other than demonstrating the temperature sensitivity of the material using a robotic hand and hot and cold water, the researchers also showed the artificial skin could interpret computer signals and reproduce them in sign language. Researchers from the University of Houston have reported a breakthrough in stretchable electronics that can serve as an artificial skin, allowing a robotic hand to sense the difference between hot and cold. In the open-access paper titled "Rubbery electronics and sensors from intrinsically stretchable elastomeric composites of semiconductors and conductors," the researchers wrote: "Rubbery sensors, which include strain, pressure, and temperature sensors, show reliable sensing capabilities and are exploited as smart skins that enable gesture translation for sign language alphabet and haptic sensing for robotics to illustrate one of the applications of the sensors."
But before any such solutions are possible, we must learn more about biological tissue mechanics, says Professor Michel Destrade, host scientist of the EU-backed SOFT-TISSUES project, funded by the EU's Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions. Prof. Destrade, an applied mathematician at the National University of Ireland Galway, is supporting Marie Skłodowska-Curie fellow Dr Valentina Balbi in developing mathematical models that explain how soft tissue like eyes, brains and skin behave. And in SOFT-TISSUES' skin research, the team hopes to use sound waves and modelling as a cheap and immediate means of finding the tension of skin at any given part of the body for any given person. Dr Balbi reports that the biomedical industry has a real hunger for knowledge provided by mathematical modelling of soft tissues -- and especially for use in bioengineering.
And this month, a team of Oxford professors proposed a provocative idea -- grow human tissue on humanoid robots. In a review published this month in the journal Science Robotics, Mouthuy and Carr explore a the concept of growing human transplant tissue on "humanoid bioreactors." "We have always been well aware of the technological developments that are being made in robotics, and in particular in musculoskeletal humanoid research," Mouthuy said. "Musculoskeletal humanoids, which mimic the human body's skeletal structure, are rapidly becoming better at mimicking natural body movements.