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Scientists develop artificial skin for smartphones and computers

A group of scientists has developed a kind of artificial skin, with sensors that can detect touch and pressure. The artificial skin could, among other things, be used as a smartphone cover, which provides additional control options.

The researchers are affiliated with the University of Bristol and Sorbonne University in Paris. Together they have a flexible skin made up of several layers of silicone membrane. There is also a layer that conducts electrical charge. It can, therefore, be used, among other things, as housing, where the researchers used the artificial skin for a smartphone cover, like a touchpad and also as part of a smartwatch. The possibilities of the material are demonstrated in a demonstration video.

Among other things, it shows how the skin reacts to touch; the researchers claim that the material is sensitive to tickling. Pinching, pressing and swiping are also recognized. This makes various forms of user input possible, and the scientists demonstrated this by making artificial skin part of a smartphone. For example, a pinch in the smartphone can serve as a control element.

The researchers suspect that it will not be long before such artificial skin, which they call Skin-On, finds a way to commercial products. Whether companies have already shown interest is not clear; the researchers leave nothing behind. Developers who want to develop software for it can meet the principal investigators at the UIST conference for more information. The inventors also state that with the paper they have published, the development of artificial skin can be simulated by interested parties. This is not the first time that researchers have made artificial skin. Previously, Swiss researchers did that, but with a different objective. They think that their skin can help with medical rehabilitation and can also improve VR experiences.

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