Ultrathin human-machine interface device could let robots touch, feel

Scientists at the University of Houston have developed a wearable device that can gather and transmit enough biometric information to go unnoticed by human wearers and could give robots a virtual sense of touch.

The innovation’s key advance is in its leveraging of lightness: The device is as thin and flexible as wet tissue paper.

Placing the achievement in context, mechanical engineer Cunjiang Yu, PhD, and colleagues note that recent advances in electronics, material and mechanical designs have brought wearable human-machine interface (HMI) devices closer to practical use.

“However, existing wearable HMI devices are uncomfortable to use and restrict the human body’s motion, show slow response times or are challenging to realize with multiple functions,” they write in their study, which is running in Science Advances.

“The [new] HMI devices can be not only seamlessly worn by humans but also implemented as prosthetic skin for robotics, which offer intelligent feedback, resulting in a closed-loop HMI system.”

In a news item published by the university, Yu asks, “What if when you shook hands with a robotic hand, it was able to instantly deduce physical condition?”

To read the item and view a video demonstration, click here.