Scientists Inspired by Star Wars Create Artificial Skin That Can “Feel”
There have been great improvements made to prosthetic limbs in recent years, with us posting a news story last month regarding how DARPA had created an artificial hand that allowed a man to accurately “feel” using it. Now scientists at the Agency for Science Technology and Research in Singapore have made their own advancements, designing artificial skin that is capable of mimicking the pressure sensing capabilities of skin.
This artificial skin, reported by ScienceMag (via ArsTechnica), is fitted with pressure sensors which produce pulsed signals when it touches an object, allowing amputees to effectively feel using the skin by relaying grasp pressure back to the user, activating neurons as they do so. Not only will this allow users to perform “delicate tasks” using their prosthetic limbs, but it will also alleviate phantom limb pain, something which is suffered among 80% of amputees.
Benjamin Tee, an electrical and biomedical engineer for the research agency, revealed how he had been inspired to create the artificial skin ever since he saw The Empire Strikes Back, the entry in the Star Wars saga in which Luke Skywalker loses his hand in a lightsaber battle against Darth Vader, only for it to be fitted with a cybernetic replacement and allowed him to regain sensation in his amputated limb.
Along with providing amputees with the ability to “feel” objects once again, Tee’s next plan is to allow the artificial limb to sense temperature by introducing additional sensors. The end goal is for the artificial skin to be blanketed around artificial limbs, allowing users to both experience the look and feel of real-life skin.