They create artificial skin so robots can feel ‘pain’

Fiction films in which robots they rebel against humans and usually come away with some benefit, as they usually don’t feel pain. This way the machines can focus on their goal of ending humanity. However, engineers from the University of Glasgow (Scotland) they try to incorporate the feeling of pain into themselves.

While the robots can’t feel pain like a person, the Scottish team wants their machines to interpret something similar. In their research, they tried imitate human nerves connect an electronic skin to small transmitters.

As they teach in a video posted on YouTube, a robotic hand that has been equipped with said technology is able to learn what will “hurt” it. First, a person applies pressure to the palm of the hand with a pointed metal instrument and, when he tries to repeat it, the machine goes away.

According to the project authors, this technology could be used to design a new generation of intelligent robots with skin sensitivity reminiscent of humans. The study, published in the journal Science Roboticsdefines this artificial skin as a treatment system based on “synaptic transistors” that copy the neural pathways the brain uses to learn.

Thanks to this, the robotic hand with the electronic skin created by the researchers does not want to receive another puncture. The video shows how the machine learned from the very beginning, and the artificial skin is sensitive to the touch.

The experts explained that they were inspired by human skin which sends a signal to the peripheral nervous system which begins to process it upon touch. In this way, it reduces the information only to the vital before sending it to the brain and, thus, reacts almost immediately. To do this, engineers have made it possible to analyze the data almost where it is collected rather than having to be sent to a large the computer.

How was the electronic skin created?

Researchers at the University of Glasgow have printed an array of 168 synaptic transistors made from zinc oxide nanowires onto flexible plastic. Then they connected the synaptic transistor to the skin sensor in the palm of the human robotic hand.

When said sensor is touched, it registers a change in its electrical resistance which can be described as a small contact or a stronger one. The team uses this differentiation to tell the machine whether something is hurting or not and whether it should move away.

‚ÄúDeveloping this new form of electronic skin doesn’t really involve inflicting pain as we know it; it is simply a shorthand way of explaining the process of learning from external stimuli”says Ravinder Dahiya, from the BEST (Foldable Electronics and Sensors Technologies) group at the University of Glasgow.

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