Researchers and engineers at the National University of Singapore (NUS) developed an artificial nervous system, building on their earlier work with smart skin. The Asynchronous Coded Electronic Skin (ACES) has an exceptional sense of touch and can detect contact more than 1,000 times faster than human skin.

ACES sensors can differentiate contact between sensors in under 60 nanoseconds and accurately recognize object shape, texture, and hardness within 10 milliseconds. Electronic skin coatings must withstand frequent physical contact without damage. Therefore, all ACES sensors operate independently but connect to a common conductor. If there is damage such as a cut, redundant connections enable continued operation. When layered with NUS-developed self-healing and water-resistant sensor skin, the resultant robust electronic skin is appropriate for realistic-looking prosthetic limbs that could help disabled people regain their sense of touch.

Next steps at NUS include ACES applications on robotic and prosthetic devices to investigate using smart robots in tasks as diverse as disaster recovery and warehouse packing.