Science

Creepily-realistic skin used to control devices

Creepily-realistic skin used t...
A Skin-On-equipped touchpad tracks the pressure and location of a user's fingertips
A Skin-On-equipped touchpad tracks the pressure and location of a user's fingertips
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A Skin-On-equipped touchpad tracks the pressure and location of a user's fingertips
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A Skin-On-equipped touchpad tracks the pressure and location of a user's fingertips

It's not uncommon for us humans to communicate with one another via pokes, pinches, and other skin-on-skin gestures. Could the same thing work for communicating with devices? It turns out that if you give those gadgets a coating of "Skin-On" artificial skin, the answer is Yes.

The experimental material was developed by scientists at Britain's University of Bristol, working with colleagues at France's Telecomm ParisTech and Sorbonne University. It consists of three layers.

On top is a layer of colored, textured silicone, mimicking the skin's epidermis. Another layer of silicone is on the bottom, standing in for the bottom layer of the skin, the hypodermis. Sandwiched between the two is a grid of interwoven conductive threads, which are connected to the device in question.

When a user strokes, presses, pinches, twists or otherwise manipulates the Skin-On with their fingers, the gesture is detected by the threads, and translated into input via software running on the device. So far, the technology has been applied to a smartphone case, a laptop touchpad, and a smartwatch wristband.

Among other things, these applications have allowed users to manipulate objects displayed on the computer screen, use touch-pressure-sensitive onscreen joystick controls, and utilize the back of the phone as an additional touch-sensitive interface. Other examples of possible uses are shown in the video below.

"This is the first time we have the opportunity to add skin to our interactive devices," says Bristol's Dr. Anne Roudaut, supervisor of the study. "The idea is perhaps a bit surprising, but skin is an interface we are highly familiar with so why not use it and its richness with the devices we use every day?".

A paper on the research was recently presented at the ACM Symposium on User Interface Software and Technology, in New Orleans.

A mobile device covered with human skin? Skin-On Interfaces

Source: University of Bristol

2 comments
Username
Robotics and prosthesis would make more sense than mice and wristbands.
Riaanh
Clever idea, but a different colour could perhaps help for market acceptance.