Register for an account


Enter your name and email address below.

Your email address is used to log in and will not be shared or sold. Read our privacy policy.


Website access code

Enter your access code into the form field below.

If you are a Zinio, Nook, Kindle, Apple, or Google Play subscriber, you can enter your website access code to gain subscriber access. Your website access code is located in the upper right corner of the Table of Contents page of your digital edition.


#85: Robot Skin Can Feel Your Touch

By Victoria TangDecember 16, 2010 6:00 AM
Courtesy John Weinstein/The Field Museum | NULL


Sign up for our email newsletter for the latest science news

Artificial organs keep us alive, artificial arms build our cars—and soon artificial skin may allow robots or prosthetics to respond to our every touch.

This past year, two independent groups made notable advances in that direction. At the University of California, Berkeley, electrical engineer Ali Javey and his team attached a grid of nanowire transistors to a polyimide film placed atop a layer of rubber. The resulting electronic skin recognizes pokes and prods as changes in electric resistance. Meanwhile, at Stanford University, materials scientist Zhenan Bao and collaborators cut pyramid-shaped holes in an elastic polymer to produce variations in capacitance, the ability to hold an electric charge. In tests, the material could “feel” objects as light as a butterfly.

Beyond robots and artificial limbs, synthetic skin might be used some­day in extremely responsive touch screens or in car devices that alert drivers if their hands slip off the wheel. “It would be nice if the machines we interact with could interact with human beings intelligently,” Bao says.

    3 Free Articles Left

    Want it all? Get unlimited access when you subscribe.


    Already a subscriber? Register or Log In

    Want unlimited access?

    Subscribe today and save 70%


    Already a subscriber? Register or Log In