Human-like skin can make phone ‘feel’ tickling, twisting

Joanna Estrada
October 21, 2019

The study scheduled to be presented at the 32nd ACM User Interface Software and Technology Symposium to be held in New Orleans in the USA from October 20-23 takes touch technology to the next level.

The prototype, which has been created to look like and mimic human skin, responds to different forms of human contact such as tickling, caressing and pinching. This newly developed phone case breaks down even more barriers between you and your phone with a life-like "skin" which alleged responds to human contact such as pinching and tickling.

In the study, the researchers created a phone case, computer touch pad and smart watch to demonstrate how touch gestures on the Skin-On interface can convey expressive messages for computer mediated communication with humans or virtual characters.

"When we interact with others, we use skin as interfaces", explains designer Marc Teyssier.

The team developed two prototypes: one with a creepily realistic textured layer that resembles human skin and another with a more uniform surface. If a user tickles the accessory, it releases a laughing emoji onto the phone.

Dr Anne Roudaut, associate professor at the University of Bristol, said: "It 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".

Available in two styles, "simple" and "ultrarealistic", Skin-On interprets user tickling, poking, stretching, grabbing, and [shudder] pinching - as well as the emotions implied by those gestures - in a variety of applications. The intensity of the touch controls the size of the emojis.

In a paper released Saturday, researchers build on a long history of artificial skin in the field of robotics to harvest "interactive properties of the skin that are specifically useful for human computer interaction".

Dr Roudaut added: "We have seen many works trying to augment human with parts of machines". The paper offers all the steps needed to replicate this research, and the authors are inviting developers with an interest in Skin-On interfaces to get in touch. They have already started looking at embedding hair and temperature features which could be enough to give devices - and those around them - goose-bumps.

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