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News Link • Science, Medicine and Technology

Electronic 'Smart Fingertips' Could Give Robots and Doctors Virtual Touch

•, By Rebecca Boyle

The same touchy engineers who gave us the first peelable epidermal electronics last year have a new virtual tactile system: Smart fingers, which could someday bring a real sense of touch to telepresence applications. Surgical robots or human doctors could virtually feel surfaces, temperatures and other characteristics, through special smart gloves designed to trick the brain into thinking it's feeling.

Materials scientist John Rogers and colleagues at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign designed flexible, skin-molded fingertip sensors made of super-thin silicon sheets. The gold conductive lines form a circuit, and the entire sensor is embedded in a flexible polymer material called polyimide. This is transferred to a thin silicone mould, which can be fitted to a fingertip shape. The sensor provides tactile feedback by forming electric currents when you press something. The currents are transmitted to your actual skin.

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