A French-British research team has managed to use an artificial skin-like membrane for augmenting interactive devices such as phones, wearables or computers, which will allow machines to understand user's feelings.
The researchers from the British University of Bristol and the Telecomm ParisTech and Sorbonne University adopted a bio-driven approach to developing a multi-layer, silicone membrane that mimics the layers present in human skin. The pressure on this skin transmits the user's reactions like happiness, sadness and stress.
According to a report released by the University of Bristol on Sunday, the researchers used the new artificial skin with a smartphone, smart watch, and a laptop to show how expressive messages to communicate with humans or virtual characters can be conveyed by touch on artificial skin. For example, a strong grip on the skin can convey feelings of anger, while a more gentle touch conveys feelings of comfort, and a third touch can convey laughter.
Marc Teyssier, lead author, said: "One of the main uses of smartphones is mediated communication, using text, voice, or video. We implemented a messaging application where users can express rich tactile emotions on the artificial skin."
Dr. Anne Roudaut, associate professor in Human-Computer Interaction at the University of Bristol, said: "This is the first time we have the opportunity to add skin to our interactive devices. The idea is perhaps a bit surprising. 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."
Artificial skin has been widely studied in the field of robotics, but for different 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, she explained.
The paper offers all the steps needed to replicate this research, and it may not be long before these tactile devices become the norm.