[A] device, dubbed ACES, or Asynchronous Coded Electronic Skin, is made up of 100 small sensors and is about 1 sq cm (0.16 square inch) in size [and could give sensation back to people with prosthetic limbs.]
The researchers at the National University of Singapore say it can process information faster than the human nervous system, is able to recognise 20 to 30 different textures and can read Braille letters with more than 90% accuracy.
A demonstration showed the device could detect that a squishy stress ball was soft, and determine that a solid plastic ball was hard.
“When you lose your sense of touch, you essentially become numb… and prosthetic users face that problem,” said [researcher Benjamin] Tee.
“So by recreating an artificial version of the skin, for their prosthetic devices, they can hold a hand and feel the warmth and feel that it is soft, how hard are they holding the hand,” said Tee.
Tee said the concept was inspired by a scene from the “Star Wars” movie trilogy in which the character Luke Skywalker loses his right hand and it is replaced by a robotic one, seemingly able to experience touch sensations again.
The technology is still in the experimental stage, but there had been “tremendous interest”, especially from the medical community, Tee added.