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Sunday, October 1, 2023

Government-backed research team develops world’s first ‘electronic skin’

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A screen capture of a demonstration video in which a person types without a keyboard using electronic skin [MINISTRY OF SCIENCE AND ICT]
A screen capture of a demonstration video in which a person types without a keyboard using electronic skin [MINISTRY OF SCIENCE AND ICT]

A government-backed research team developed the world’s first “electronic skin,” the science ministry said Thursday.

The research, supported by the Ministry of Science and ICT, was published in Nature Electronics journal, Wednesday. It is titled “a substrate-less nanomesh receptor with meta-learning for rapid hand task recognition.”

The authors of the research include Jo Sung-ho, a computer science professor at KAIST, Ko Seung-hwan, Seoul National University mechanical engineering professor, and Zhenan Bao, a chemical engineering professor at Stanford University.

Electronic skin is a flexible and stretchable electronic that can be attached to human skin and track a user’s movements. The technology can be used for wearable devices for metaverse, telemedicine, and more.

Previous electronic skin devices were large in size and lacked flexibility, which made them difficult to adapt to the human body’s complex joint structures.

In order to improve flexibility and versatility, the research team developed a new method of spraying conductive liquid directly onto the skin and printing nanomesh — a net-like substance consisting of nanometer-thin conductive threads — on it.

The conductive nanomesh attached to the skin generates electric signals when stretched, and the signals are transmitted through a Bluetooth connection.

Using the machine learning process, the computer discerns and recognizes the wearer’s movements based on received signals.

While previous methods required a large set of data for the computer to recognize each movement, the latest technology makes it possible to recognize movements through an automated learning process, according to the science ministry.

For example, the electronic skin will allow a person to type on a floor without a keyboard, or help decipher an object’s shape based.

“This is the first case of combining electronic skin and the latest artificial intelligence technology,” said Jo and Ko in a release Thursday.

“By improving user-friendliness in terms of both hardware and software, it will lead to technological innovation in not only metaverse but also in augmented reality, telemedicine and the robotics sectors.”

BY SHIN HA-NEE [shin.hanee@joongang.co.kr]