Thursday, May 9, 2013
Engineering Human Touch
We humans interact with our physical environment through our senses of touch, sight, smell, taste, and hearing. One of the great challenges in developing artificial intelligence and natural interfaces between humans and machines is finding ways to emulate those senses through electrical circuits. Great advances have been made in creating sensors that recognize sight and sound, but the sense of touch remains difficult to mimic. A realistic electronic skin must detect stimuli ranging from the gentlest touch to a firm grip, and do this with fine spatial resolution. After introducing the challenges of the field and reviewing current approaches, SLAC physicist Stefan Mannsfeld describes a novel approach for making thin, flexible plastic pressure sensors with unprecedented sensitivity and responsiveness. He shows how the sensors are fabricated and how they work, and the prospect they give for creating an artificial sense of touch.