If you’ve ever thought something along the lines of, “Phone cases would be so much better if they were made out of human skin”—and let’s face it, who hasn’t—then you’re in luck. Ph.D. candidate Marc Teyssier and his colleagues at Telecom Paris have created artificial skin designed to make smartphones and smartwatches feel a little more, well, human.
“When we interact with others, we use skin as interfaces,” Teyssier writes on his website. But, he says, objects of “mediated communication”—like smartphones and computers—still have a cold interface that “doesn’t allow natural interaction and input.”
Teyssier’s skin-on interfaces are intended to solve that problem. The prototype is responsive to a variety of gestures, including pinching, tickling, and poking. The artificial skin even responds to different emotions: Sudden, hard pressure is associated with anger, while gentle and sustained stroking is associated with providing comfort, New Scientist reports.
Why smartphones, though? “I wanted to pinch my phone,” Teyssier told New Scientist.
The new technology is currently limited to smartphones, smartwatches, and touchpads, but Teyssier and his team imagine a bounty of other practical uses [PDF]. Similar technology could be used to advance prosthetics or to initiate tactile communication with robots, they propose.
Teyssier has previously made headlines for one of his other projects—a robotic finger that could plug into a smartphone and let it crawl across the room (à la The Addams Family). Maybe in the future, Teyssier will consider combining the two. Then you could have the mobile, faux skin-covered smartphone of your dreams (or nightmares).
[h/t New Scientist]