Everyone loves a robot. Especially a sensitive robot. Just look at WALL-E or Johnny-5. When it comes to a robot who has the capacity to feel, we all go a bit gooey inside. The cold, unfeeling, emotionless robot is a metaphor for that fear we have of losing what it is to be human.
Okay, so i’m playing loose with the double-meanings behind the word ‘feel’ and ‘sensitive’, because we’re not talking emotional robots, or robots with ‘feelings’ but rather robots which can feel. Like in objects, and surroundings. LIke we can, physically.
Yes, some rather smug looking Japanese researchers/scientists/tech-bods have stumbled upon the perfect answer to the problem of making Robots completely sensitive to their environment. Be it cold, hot, hard, or soft. The skin they’ve developed looks like tin foil, gold tin foil like the stuff they wrap around marathon runners at the end of the race. Space Blankets i think they’re called. Anyway, it looks like that, but it’s not. It’s a fine rubbery material that has hundreds and thousands of tiny carbon particles inside which allow conductivity of electricity. The skin can be stretched to 2.3 times it’s normal size, allowing it to bend around a robot’s metal frame and move with joints like a glove.
Walking, talking, making-you-breakfast-and-driving-you-to-work robots are still a long way off being part of everyday life (much to my chagrin), so the robot skin scientists have been looking for other ways to use the material in the interim. Ideas they’ve had include: Wrapping it around steering wheels to measure your heart-rate and sweat levels; placing a layer on top of a mattress for the elderly and the infirm which auto-adjusts the bed to better levels of comfort should it’s measurements indicate which parts of the body are under the most pressure; and somewhat spookily, as replacement skin for our own humanific bodies on the chance it gets burnt, sliced or diced.
But with some inevitability, you mention Robot-skin, and you’re going to provoke some of those out there to ask how it might be best applied to improving their sex-life, and the answer is ‘yes’, if that is your thing, it may well be possible that your robot ‘masseur’ of the future will indeed be able to react ‘realistically’ to your dirty little bed-time dance moves. Lovely.
Well done Japanese inventors! Omedetou gozaimasu![via Yahoo]