Designed for smartphones and humanoid robots, skin responds to touch

Remember the movie with Robin Williams “Bicentennialperson"? In it, a robot named Andrew over time became more and more like a person. And not only in its internal qualities. The skin that covered his body was sensitive to touch. And if in reality such a robot never existed, then artificial leather, just like a movie, was developed by scientists today. According to the study, the results of which will be announced during the 32nd UIST conference later this week, scientists from the University of Bristol created synthetic skin that not only looks human, but also responds to touch. Yes, now, if you want to stroke your smartphone, this can be done for real.

An example of using the developed artificial skin on the body of a robot

Faux leather can be plucked, clapped and ironed

In the course of the work, scientists wanted to understand whichCharacteristics will be most attractive in synthetic leather. Note that for many years now, the goal of many researchers has been to simplify the interactions between man and technology. It turned out that tactile is one of the most suitable methods. It is possible that in the future synthetic skin will be able to cover the body of robots such as Sofia. After all, technology is increasingly capturing our lives, and the appearance of humanoid robots in every home is only a matter of time.

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In the meantime, robots, like “bicentennialperson ”, do not sell in stores, the skin can be experienced by purchasing a“ leather ”case for a smartphone. The study describes a process in which an “electrode layer of conductive filaments” is sandwiched between two realistic pieces of silicon designed to simulate the thickness, texture and pigment of human skin. The Skin-On interface was developed by specialists for touch panels, mobile phones and robots. He is able to recognize and respond to eight unique gestures. According to Dr. Ann Roudo, associate professor of human-computer interaction at the University of Bristol, for the first time, we have the opportunity to add skin to interactive devices. The idea is perhaps a bit surprising, but Skin-On is an interface that everyone is familiar with and can use it every day.

Take a closer look at this cover - it has wrinkles and pores

So, Skin-On can be used as a touchpadfor a computer, a controller for video games, as well as for better interaction with robots - instead of voice commands. Synthetic skin can be plucked, stroked and patted, however, all these manipulations will look a little ... unusual, if not unpleasant. The fact is that the thickness of the artificial skin is not much different from the real one, and the pores and wrinkles on it, of course, border on the “sinister valley”. See for yourself:

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Sinister valley

The effect of the "sinister valley" is calledemotional reaction to a robot or other object, which in its actions and appearance resembles a person, which causes strong hostility and even disgust among representatives of Homo-Sapiens. In other words, the more a robot resembles a person, the more discomfort and fear it causes. The reason for this reaction is still unknown. Nevertheless, Skin-On developers hope that using their interface people will not experience nausea and discomfort. And what feelings did you have when watching a video? You can discuss the purchase of such a cover for a smartphone in the comments and with the participants of our Telegram chat.

According to scientists, in the future it is tactileinteraction with machines will allow us to understand how machines can be complemented by something human, and not vice versa. Designed leather, as mentioned above, recognizes plucking, slapping, tickling, stroking, or tapping. These gestures are human-specific and allow users to more intuitively express emotions through devices. So, the skin will be able to recognize the user's anger by receiving a slap, and also be able to use emojis, placing them in a screen avatar. As research on synthetic leather continues, scientists believe that interpreting different gestures (patting and slapping) will be important for further communication between cars and people.

Now you can tell Siri that you are angry just by pinching your smartphone

Which is not unimportant, since today existrobots designed to interact with humans - for example, to care for older people or children who are autistic. Agree, tactile communication with the machine can be incredibly useful in many situations. And if humanoid robots that feel touch are a matter of the future, today scientists give us the opportunity to spank our own smartphone, as shown in the video. Provided that you are not sick of the mere look of this leather case, of course.