This strange system replicates human skin to replace touch interfaces


Use human skin as an interactive touch interface. This is the worthy idea of ​​a David Cronenberg film by a team of French-English researchers. This process replaces or supplements the interfaces of a smartphone, a laptop or a connected watch. Somehow, some would say, but that's the goal of its creator.

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"This project is first done to question"Marc Teyssier, the creator of the system, tells Marc Teyssier at Student 27 years in last year of thesis at Telecom Paris, he is particularly pleased "Debates that took place in the comments" of his demonstration video. "People are wondering why it's weird, that's exactly what I was looking for. "

Simulate the consistency of human skin

In his scientific article (PDF), published in the company of Gilles Bailly, Catherine Pelachaud, Eric Lecolinet, Andrew Conn and Anne Roudaut, it details how it uses various materials and components to create this system. It reproduces the principle of the different layers of the human skin by also superimposing the layers.

"I was inspired by the different layers of the skin: the epidermis, the dermis where the nerves and the hypoderm where the fat and the muscle are. I reproduced them with several layers of silicone of different viscosity to simulate them at best »explains Marc Teyssier. The idea is then to sandwich between two layers of silicone a grid of electrodes able to recognize the gestures of the user.

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The latter can thus slide his fingers, turn them and even pinch the skin to interact with the device on which this surface is installed. Three examples expose fairly classic cases: on a shell on the back of a smartphone, instead of a computer trackpad and around the wrist on the wristband of a connected watch.

A breakthrough for robotics?

But the fourth example is surely the most disturbing: it shows this false human skin partially cover a Nao robot SoftBank Robotics. If, for now, it may seem like a gadget, we could imagine a humanoid robot completely covered by this system and sensitive to touch.

"I have been contacted since by robotics researchers who are interested in the system that can work very well for example to cover a limb prosthesisMarc Teyssier wonders. The first laboratories in robotics that I showed my project were not very enthusiastic ».

If you think of David Cronenberg's eXistenZ, released in 1999, you've seen it right: "I had seen it when I was a student in virtual reality and this film had returned to me by his questioning to the human relationshipenthuses the student. The human is the best machine to produce touch, we are used to the texture of his skin, it is the perfect organ for that ". From there to hug his computer, there is only one step.


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