A new device that “takes touch technology to a higher level” was developed by a group of researchers from the University of Bristol. The interface, called Skin-On, imitates human skin in all senses in the sense that it can receive different types of touches and can “feel” the user’s grip. It can feel, for example, changes in the pressure of the touch, the position of the touch and can detect various interactions such as a caress, tickling or even a pinch or twist.
This is the first time that skin is actually added to a computer or interactive device, as explained by Anne Roudaut, professor of human-computer interaction at the University of Bristol who participated in the study who states the following: “The idea is perhaps a bit surprising, but the skin is an interface with which we are very familiar, so why not use it and not use its richness with the devices we use every day?”
It is one of the first studies, in fact, which tend to exploit artificial leather not as an output device, such as to receive signals from the outside (the typical artificial leather that is built for robots), but as an input device to increase the variability related to the interaction that we can have with a computer or any technological IT device. For example, this artificial skin could be grafted onto a smartphone and could allow much more natural tactile gestures to transmit an expressive message to another person, such as a caress.
In fact, the same researchers have also implemented a messaging application with which users can express a wider range of emotions than that expressed, for example, with text or images. As Marc Teyssier, another researcher involved in the project, explains in this system, “the intensity of the touch controls the size of the emojis. A strong grip conveys anger while tickling the skin shows a smiling emoji and touching creates a surprised emoji.”
The same press release that presents the project, created by scientists from the University of Bristol in collaboration with Telecomm ParisTech and the University of Sorbonne, suggests that this new system could soon be integrated and become a standard in all mobile devices.