Chinese scientists have developed a robot "skin" with tactile sensors that detects pressure and pulse in a similar way to humans, according to a study published today by the journal Science Robotics.
This technology is an important step in the development of smart prostheses that can replace the sensation capacity of natural limbs.
The human skin perceives the pressure as part of the contact, which is later transformed into signals to the nerves, which in turn transfer them to the brain and thus create the sensation of a pulse.
Restoring this sense of pressurised touch remains an important feature needed to make artificial limbs more life-like and thus more acceptable for their users, said the study by Yuanzhao Wu, a researcher at the Ningbo Academy of Sciences in China.
The expert and his colleagues developed an "e-skin" system that can convert pressure from touch to internal electric signals.
This skin encases a magnetic sensor and an electrical circuit that transmits the signals converted into pulses with several frequencies depending on the received pressure.
The researchers mount this device on an artificial finger, which was able to perceive the subtlest touches, such as the wind blowing.
Later, this e-skin was also able to detect and pulse in response to drops of water and the moving of ants.
In some cases, in fact, the pulses responded to pressures exceeding the sensing threshold value of humans.