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          Research & Ideas



          While still in its infancy, the new technology represents a first step in creating skin coverings to restore sensation to amputees.

          Illustration of two hands reaching toward each other

          The development has the potential to mimic how skin can stretch, repair itself and transmit sensations to the brain. | Illustration by Kevin Craft

          斯坦福 and Seoul National University researchers have developed an artificial sensory nerve system that can activate the twitch reflex in a cockroach and identify letters in the Braille alphabet.

          工作报告5月31日 科学, is a step toward creating artificial skin for prosthetic limbs, to restore sensation to amputees and, perhaps, one day give robots some type of reflex capability.

          “We take skin for granted but it’s a complex sensing, signaling and decision-making system,” said 希南·巴,化学工程教授,高级作者之一。

          “This artificial sensory nerve system is a step toward making skin-like sensory neural networks for all sorts of applications.”



          The first is a touch sensor that can detect even minuscule forces. This sensor sends signals through the second component — a flexible electronic neuron. The touch sensor and electronic neuron are improved versions of inventions previously reported by the Bao lab.

          Sensory signals from these components stimulate the third component, an 人类的神经突触后模仿人工突触晶体管. The synaptic transistor is the brainchild of Tae-Woo Lee of Seoul National University, who spent his sabbatical year in Bao’s 斯坦福 lab to initiate the collaborative work.

          “Biological synapses can relay signals, and also store information to make simple decisions,” said Lee, who was a second senior author on the paper. “The synaptic transistor performs these functions in the artificial nerve circuit.”

          Lee used a knee reflex as an example of how more-advanced artificial nerve circuits might one day be part of an artificial skin that would give prosthetic devices or robots both senses and reflexes.


          502 Bad Gateway

          The group members tested the ability of the system to both generate reflexes and sense touch.

          Bao’s graduate students Yeongin Kim and Alex Chortos, plus Wentao Xu, a researcher from Lee’s own lab, were also central to integrating the components into the functional artificial sensory nervous system.

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          The group also hopes to create low-power, artificial sensor nets to cover robots, the idea being to make them more agile by providing some of the same feedback that humans derive from their skin.

          A starling roost in the United Kingdom

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