Scientists at Korea’s Postech University have developed an electronic skin for robots that can react like its human counterpart. They rely on parallel rather than sequential signal processing. […]
Researchers at Pohang University of Science and Technology (Postech) have developed an electronic skin that allows robots to communicate with the environment entirely or in addition to other organs through buttons. It is not the first of its kind and yet a first, because the electronic skin from South Korea processes the received signals in real time, just as the human skin does.
Immediate response as a requirement
Electronic skins developed to date process tactile information by sequentially measuring the electrical signals that come from the often numerous measuring points in the sensors. This takes time and makes it almost impossible to create an electronic skin with high spatial resolution that reacts to stimuli immediately.
The sensory receptors of the human skin produce a spike signal spectrum in the form of an electrical potential in response to an external stimulus. This is analyzed in real time in the brain and thus recognized, for example as a hot surface or as piks when vaccinating against COVID-19. The researchers have oriented themselves to this. They created an artificial sensory receptor that itself generates spike signals and integrated it into an electronic skin. These signals are then analyzed and recognized in real time, for example as the handle of a cup that needs to be grasped.
E-skin can replace human
“Our body is constantly generating electrical signals. If we understand the biosensory mechanisms and develop a technique that does the same with artificial materials, we can use them not only in robots, but also as a substitute for damaged skin in humans,” says materials scientist Unyong Jeong. “Converting the external stimuli into spike signals and processing them is a groundbreaking idea that mimics how the human nervous system processes information,” adds colleague Sung-Phil Kim.
“If a new AI model is developed using this spike information processing method, the robot’s tactile intelligence can be further developed and effectively applied in next-generation semiconductor technologies, such as neuromorphic chips.”