In a move that could provide a crucial boost to our robotic friends struggling up the near side of the Uncanny Valley, major cosmetics manufacturer Kao Corporation and a Keio University research team led by robotics professor Takashi Maeno have developed an artificial skin that feels just like human skin.
Skin, the largest organ of the human body, consists of a soft layer of tissue (dermis) covered by a tougher protective layer (epidermis). The artificial skin developed by Kao and Keio mimics the feel of human skin with a 1-cm thick "dermis" of elastic silicone covered by a 0.2-mm thick "epidermis" of firm urethane. Countless tiny hexagonal indentations etched into the urethane epidermis provide it with a very realistic texture.
In a series of unscientific tests, 10 out of 12 people who touched the skin thought it felt like human skin, while equipment designed to measure the mechanical properties of skin confirmed the artificial skin had characteristics resembling human skin.
The skin was unveiled earlier this month at the 24th Annual Conference of the Robotics Society of Japan (RSJ) at Okayama University. While Kao plans to use the artificial skin in the development of new cosmetics, Professor Maeno sees potential applications in the field of household robotics, where there are many opportunities for human-robot interaction.
[Source: Yomiuri Shimbun]