What if devices are covered with artificial skin? Sounds creepy, isn’t it? Skin-On interfaces is a research project made by Marc Teyssier and his colleagues at Bristol Interaction Group, in Bristol UK.
The researchers have adopted a bio-driven approach to developing a multi-layer, silicone membrane that mimics the layers present in human skin.
What are Skin-On Interfaces?
These are sensitive skin-like input methods than can be added to existing devices to increase their capabilities. The artificial skin allows devices to feel the grasp, including its pressure and location, as well.
Marc Teyssier said:
Human skin is the best interface for interaction. I propose this new paradigm in which interactive devices have their artificial skin, thus enabling new forms of input gestures for end-users.
Able to detect a plethora of gestures!
The artificial skin is made up of a surface textured layer, an electrode layer of conductive threads, and a hypodermis layer. So far, the team has created a phone case, computer touchpad, and smartwatch to demonstrate how the artificial skin works. According to the team, the interface is more natural and can detect a plethora of gestures made by the end-users like tickling, caressing, even twisting and pinching.
Marc Teyssier added:
Artificial skin has been widely studied in the field of Robotics but with a focus on safety, sensing, or cosmetic aims. This is the first research we are aware of that looks at exploiting realistic artificial skin as a new input method for augmenting devices.
Making skin even more realistic!
According to the researchers, the next step will be making the skin even more realistic. It’s worth mentioning that they have already started looking at implanting hair and temperature features, which could be enough to give devices and those around them – goosebumps. Furthermore, the authors are inviting developers with interest in Skin-On interfaces to get in touch.
Dr. Anne Roudaut, Associate Professor in Human-Computer Interaction at the University of Bristol, who supervised the research, said:
This is the first time we have the opportunity to add skin to our interactive devices. The idea is perhaps a bit surprising, but the skin is an interface we are highly familiar with, so why not use it and its richness with the devices we use every day?
Marc Teyssier added:
One of the main use of smartphones is mediated communication, using text, voice, video, or a combination. We implemented a messaging application where users can express rich tactile emotions on the artiﬁcial skin. The intensity of the touch controls the size of the emojis. A strong grip conveys anger while tickling the skin displays a laughing emoji, and tapping creates a surprised emoji.
Main image credits: Marc Teyssier
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