Nissan is working on a material for its car seats that will replicate the texture and softness of human skin. The project called Premium-fEEL interior concept (PEEL) has seen engineers carry out detailed studies of what provides the sense of touch with a comfortable sensation. They discovered that nothing matches the comfort and tranquility associated with the feel of human fingers against the body. Being enveloped in the softness, the warmth, and the texture associated with a pattern of fingerprints is uniquely satisfying to people, who subconsciously interpret these sensations as a gentle caress.
Most surfaces of an automobile cabin are experienced through pressure, sliding contact, or both. Nissan's studied both of these interactions as a function of perceived comfort, and the results appear below:
Nissan's research findings on comfort. The upper half of the figure describes comfort in terms of the compressibility of a surface, while the bottom half does the same in terms of the roughness of a surface (Image: Nissan)
The graphs indicate that the situation of maximum comfort occurs when a leather surface is only slightly less compressible than a human finger pad, and when the roughness of the surface is about that of a human fingerprint. Their overall conclusion is that the texture and yielding nature of baby skin is very nearly ideal.
Nissan is aiming to achieve this using semi-aniline leather with a textured and lightly pigmented protective coating which contains the fingerprint patterns.
One could argue that the best way to replicate an original is to use the original itself, but – aside from the serious creepy factor – with the cost of lab-grown human skin currently around US$250,000 per square meter, it's not likely to end up in car upholstery any time soon.
Source: Nissan Motor Company