French scientists have developed an artificial skin that can enhance virtual reality. In addition, the skin may have a medical use, helping with patient rehabilitation after a person has suffered from serious burning.
Artificial Skin
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Genoskin’s human skin models provide an excellent alternative to animal testing, as they contain no animal components.
Researchers based at Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne are constructing a soft artificial skin, designed to give haptic (any form of interaction involving touch) feedback. Special sensors, made up of soft electrodes and fashioned of a liquid-solid gallium mixture, enable haptic feedback to be adjusted in real time, providing a near-continuous representation of 'touch'.

Furthermore, through a type of self-sensing mechanism the skin has the potential to instantaneously adapt to a wearer's movements. This is possible via soft sensors and actuators which permit the artificial skin to conform to the precise shape of a wearer's wrist.

The following video shows how the skin can be used in practice:


The skin technology can be applied to medical rehabilitation to virtual reality. With virtual reality, the key potential attraction will be the the vibratory stimulation which can be felt by the user.According to lead researcher Dr. Harshal Sonar: "This gives us closed-loop control, which means we can accurately and reliably modulate the vibratory stimulation felt by the user", adding that "this is ideal for wearable applications."

The research is reported to the publication Soft Robotics, with the research paper headed "Closed-Loop Haptic Feedback Control Using a Self-Sensing Soft Pneumatic Actuator Skin."

In related research, scientists from the University of Iowa are working on constructing a smart skin that can be used in 3D displays, as well as having a medical application as interfaces for the visually impaired. Furthermore, the skin could play a role in reducing the drag on marine vehicles. The artificial skin has been inspired by the cephalopod.

The research paper has been published in the journal Advanced Materials Technologies, titled "Digital Texture Voxels for Stretchable Morphing Skin Applications."