The sense of touch is one of the most sensitive and critical systems for a human body. The same system that can detect a puff of air can also work under hundreds of pounds of pressure. And we can distinguish between points as close together as a single millimeter. If we could recreate such a system, it could have wide ranging applications from robotics to rehabilitation.
FeelIT is a company that is developing an artificial touch system based on printed electronics. Using gold nanoparticles, they are able to print a smart sensing patches that are highly sensitive yet can measure high levels of pressure. They can sense differences in pressure at spaces of less than a millimeter. Best of all, the device uses little power and can be fabricated at low cost. The patches even include wireless data transmission, so you don’t need to tether them with cables. And they can be designed to have custom shapes to specifically fit their target mission.
These patches could make many new applications possible. They can give the sense of touch to robotic devices and prosthetics. They can create smart devices that provide valuable feedback for fitness, athletics, and health monitoring systems. They can also provide sensors for use in physical therapy to diagnose deficiencies and to track recovery progress. This is yet another example of an enabling technology that could have broad impact in many fields.