Synthetic Skin Could Add a Sense of Touch to Prosthetics

Your arm and hand work together as an output system that gives you the ability to manipulate objects in the world around. But, it’s also a vital input system via your sense of touch. Your motor functions and sensory input work together in harmony, which is very important for “normal” human abilities. Unfortunately, prosthetics tend to only focus on a limb as output, which ignores half of its function. Now, a new synthetic electronic skin could make it possible to integrate a sense of touch into prosthetics.

It wasn’t long ago that prosthetics — particularly for arms and hands — were simple rigid devices that were designed almost entirely for cosmetic purposes. But, these days we all understand the importance of functionality for restoring a prosthetic user’s quality of life. Impressive advancements have been made in that area, but most still neglect anything close to the sense of touch that human skin provides. This new synthetic skin, developed by researchers at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, could perform as well as human skin, and maybe even better.

The synthetic skin was created with robots in mind, but it could also be beneficial for prosthetics. It’s a flexible material designed to detect minute changes in pressure by monitoring magnetic beads with a sensor. The beads are embedded in the skin, and pressure pushes them closer to the sensor and generates a detectable change in electrical resistance. That’s all a robot needs to gain a sense of touch, but it will take a lot more work before it can be used on a prosthetic. The sense of touch would be there, but there would still need to be some way for the wearer’s brain to recognize it.

Synthetic Skin Could Add a Sense of Touch to Prosthetics was originally published in Hackster Blog on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Original article: Synthetic Skin Could Add a Sense of Touch to Prosthetics
Author: Cameron Coward