Artificial "skin" materials can sense pressure

(Reuters) - New artificial "skin" fashioned out of flexible semiconductor materials can sense touch, making it possible to create robots with a grip delicate enough to hold an egg, yet strong enough to grasp the frying pan, U.S. researchers said on Sunday.

Scientists have long struggled with a way to make robotic devices capable of adjusting the amount of force needed to hold and use different objects. The pressure-sensitive materials are designed to overcome that challenge.

"Humans generally know how to hold a fragile egg without breaking it," said Ali Javey, an electrical engineer at the University of California Berkeley, who led one of two teams reporting on artificial skin discoveries in the journal Nature Materials.

"If we ever wanted a robot that could unload the dishes, for instance, we'd want to make sure it doesn't break the wine glasses in the process. But we'd also want the robot to be able to grip a stock pot without dropping it," Javey said in a statement.

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