19 October 2019
By Donna Lu
Forget protective covers – there are now skin-like phone cases that respond to being pinched and tickled.
Marc Teyssier at Telecom Paris in France and his colleagues have devised an artificial skin for interactive devices that responds to touch. The skin is able to detect a variety of gestures, including sliding, stretching and rotation.
“I wanted to pinch my phone,” says Teyssier as the reason for designing the skin. The skin also responds to different gestures that mimic human emotional communication.
The artificial skin is programmed to associate different gestures with certain emotions. Sudden hard pressure on the skin is associated with anger and tapping is a means of seeking attention, while sustained contact and stroking are associated with providing comfort.
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The team developed two prototypes: one with a creepily realistic textured layer that resembles human skin and another with a more uniform surface.
The artificial skin is made of three layers, consisting of a layer of stretchable copper wire sandwiched between two layers of silicone. Pressure on the skin changes the electric charge of the system.
Developing the sensor was a challenge, says Teyssier. “The constraint was to develop something that was stretchable and that can also detect touch,” he says.
The team created a phone case, computer touch pad and smart watch to demonstrate how the artificial skin works. The work is being presented this week at the ACM Symposium on User Interface Software and Technology in New Orleans, US.
The next step is to make the skin more realistic, including with embedded hair and temperature features. Previously, Teyssier designed a robotic finger which enables smartphones to crawl across a table.
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