New robot skin to revolutionise carer industry

New robot skills developed by the University of Texas - Newsreel
Researchers in the United States have developed a robot skin that replicates human touch. | Photo: Tolokonov (iStock)

Robots with flexible human-like skin are a step closer following a breakthrough by researchers at the University of Texas.

The research team developed a “first-ever” stretchy electronic skin with the same “softness and touch sensitivity” as human skin.

They say this opens the possibility of robots performing tasks that require high levels of precision and control, including as human carers.

Study leader Nanshu Lu, a professor in the Cockrell School of Engineering’s Department of Aerospace Engineering and Engineering Mechanics, said previous robot skins lost sensing accuracy as the material stretched.

“Much like human skin has to stretch and bend to accommodate our movements, so too does e-skin,” Professor Lu said. “No matter how much our e-skin stretches, the pressure response doesn’t change, and that is a significant achievement.”

The research report, published in the journal Matter, said the new e-skin could be applied to medical care, where robots could check a patient’s pulse, wipe the body or massage a body part.

“In the future, if we have more elderly than available caregivers, it’s going to be a crisis worldwide,” Professor Lu said. “We need to find new ways to take care of people efficiently and also gently, and robots are an important piece of that puzzle.”

Professor Lu said human-caring robots could also be deployed in disasters to search for injured and trapped people and apply on-the-spot care.

More information can be found at the University of Texas website.