The prototype, which has been designed to look like and mimic human skin, responds to different forms of human contact such as tickling, caressing and pinching.
Called Skin-On interface, it can be attached to mobile phones, wearable devices and laptop touchpads.
One of the things the researchers said they were able to demonstrate was “tactile emotions” with use of emojis.
“A strong grip conveys anger while tickling the skin displays a laughing emoji and tapping creates a surprised emoji,” said the study’s lead author, Marc Teyssier, a PhD student at Telecomm ParisTech.
“This skin has a subtle surface texture – the sensing is performed in the dermis and the hypodermis layer (fat layer) and the elasticity is what allows us to perform expressive gestures such as pinching.”
The technology was developed by researchers at the University of Bristol in partnership with Telecomm ParisTech and Sorbonne University in Paris.
The team says their work opens the door for a possible future with “anthropomorphic devices” – where gadgets have human characteristics.
Dr Anne Roudaut, associate professor at the University of Bristol, said the artificial skin “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”.
She added: “The familiarity of the skin provides a more natural interface for end-users.”
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