Touch pad demonstrates how touch gestures can convey expressive messages. (Credit: University of Bristol)

A new interface takes touch technology to the next level by providing an artificial skin-like membrane for augmenting interactive devices such as phones, wearables, or computers.

The researchers adopted a biodriven approach to developing a multi-layer, silicone membrane that mimics the layers present in human skin. This is made up of a surface textured layer, an electrode layer of conductive threads and a hypodermis layer. Not only is the interface more natural than a rigid casing, it can also detect a plethora of gestures made by the end users. As a result, the artificial skin allows devices to “feel” the user’s grasp — its pressure and location — and can detect interactions such as tickling, caressing, or even twisting and pinching.

Researchers say the next step will be making the skin even more realistic. They have already started looking at embedding hair and temperature features, which could be enough to give devices — and those around them — goosebumps.

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