Scientists create ticklish phone case that reacts like human skin when touched

22 October 2019, 17:18

A phone case that replicates human skin is in development
A phone case that replicates human skin is in development. Picture: PA

The artificial skin prototype can be wrapped around smartphones to make them react when pinched or caressed

Smartphones could soon be wrapped in artificial skin that reacts to human contact, scientists have claimed.

Researchers at the University of Bristol, in partnership with Telecomm ParisTech and Sorbonne University in Paris, have developed an artificial human skin prototype that moves when pinched or caressed - which they claim can be wrapped around mobile devices.

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Skin-On interface can be wrapped around laptops, tablets and phones to give them a human feel - and developers say their work opens the door for 'anthropomorphic devices' in future.

The material reacts when prodded or pinched
The material reacts when prodded or pinched. Picture: PA

Dr Anne Roudaut, associate professor at the University of Bristol, told the PA: "It [the artificial skin] may look unconventional probably because we are used to our senseless and rigid casings, but we feel there are strong advantages of using more malleable technologies.

"And the familiarity of the skin provides a more natural interface for end-users.

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"The artificial skin was created using two layers of silicone – dubbed 'dermis' and 'hypodermis' layers – with an electrode layer in the middle made up of ultra-thin wires that act as sensors."

And Marc Teyssier, a PhD student at Telecomm ParisTech and lead study author, added: "A strong grip conveys anger while tickling the skin displays a laughing emoji and tapping creates a surprised emoji.

The material was developed at the University of Bristol
The material was developed at the University of Bristol. Picture: PA

"This skin has a subtle surface texture – the sensing is performed in the dermis and the hypodermis layer (fat layer) and the elasticity is what allows us to perform expressive gestures such as pinching."

He continued: "When we are talking to someone face-to-face, we sometimes use touch to convey emotions and more generally enrich the discourse.

"Now that mediated communication is performed through the devices, we lost this communication modality.'With this project, we tried to combine the best of the two."


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