A new skin for prosthetic hands can sense a lot about its environment. Sensors embedded through the material can detect temperature, pressure, moisture, and strain. The stretchable skin, which is made of gold and silicon, also includes stretchable multi-electrode arrays for nerve stimulation and electroresistive heaters to help the hand feel more realistic to other. The researchers say the skin is durable and flexible enough for everyday tasks, too.
“This collection of stretchable sensors and actuators facilitate highly localized mechanical and thermal skin-like perception in response to external stimuli, thus providing unique opportunities for emerging classes of prostheses and peripheral nervous system interface technologies,” reads the study published in Nature Communications.
While the stretchable material can gather a lot data on its environmental conditions, the researchers have not yet devised a system for conveying the associated feelings to the user. DARPA’s Reliable Neural-Interface Technology (RE-NET) Program, launched in 2010, also seeks to solve this particular problem. It will be interesting to see the if the technology if the first fully-functional devices come from the public or private sector.