Smart skin: artificial skin that can…feel?

Artificial limbs have been hugely advanced over the past few centuries from wooden appendages to attachments that look almost exactly like the real thing. Though prosthetics are now flexible and some can even be controlled by the mind, they’ve always been lacking the same quality: the ability to capture the sensation of touch. That is, until now.

A group of researchers from South Korea and the United States have developed “smart skin,” made from elastomer which has sensors and electrodes that stimulate nerves to feel like actual human skin. It looks (in photos) like a transparent glove over a prosthetic hand. The "skin" allows its wearer to feel pressure, wetness, and temperature. It even radiates warmth to others who come in contact with it for a more natural feeling.

Kim Dae-Hyeong, co-author of a study on the smart skin, told CBS News: "Previously, these robots or prosthetic arms and legs did not have skins that enable high resolution sensing of pressure, strain, temperature, humidity. We focused on this point by developing high density sensor array that is similar to the real human skin."

Though it will take some time for the bionic limbs to reach the market, this is still a great development for amputees. Holding babies, shaking hands, and touching butts is about to get real.

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