13 January, 2015
Some recently developed mechanical hands can be controlled by thoughts. But people who wear them must use their sight to know what they are touching. So scientists in the United States and South Korea have developed an artificial skin that lets people know more about objects they touch.
A mechanical hand covered by the new skin could tell the user whether an object is wet or dry. It could also measure how firmly a person is holding the object.
Kim Dae-Hyeong is a professor at Seoul National University School of Chemical and Biological Engineering. He leads a team of researchers that developed the skin. He says it acts and feels like human skin.
"The skin can feel pressure, temperature, strain, and humidity. Also it is soft, just like human skin, and embedded with heating elements that can make itself warm."
Professor Kim says the skin cannot send signals to the brain. But he says scientists hope it will be able to someday.
"I hope a robotic limb with this synthetic skin can be used by disabled people. For industrial uses, it can be applied to various types of robots, like a humanoid robot."
The scientists say mechanical hands covered with the skin may someday be able to type on a computer and even change a baby's wet diaper.
I'm Jonathan Evans.
VOA Science Correspondent George Putic reported this story from Washington. Christopher Cruise wrote it for VOA Learning English. Ashley Thompson edited the story.
Words in This Story
mechanical – adj. having or using machinery
artificial – adj. not natural or real : made, produced, or done to seem like something natural
humidity – n. moisture in the air
embed – v. to place or set (something) firmly in something else
synthetic – adj. made by combining different substances : not natural
humanoid – adj. looking or acting like a human
diaper – n. a piece of cloth or other material that is placed between a baby's legs and fastened around the waist to hold body waste
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