A new, inexpensive sensor could help develop tablets which can be folded and put away in your pocket, or artificial skin that can sense your body’s movements and vital signs.
The sensor developed at the University of British Columbia (UBC) in Canada uses a highly conductive gel sandwiched between layers of silicone.
The sensor can detect different types of touch, including swiping and tapping, even when it is stretched, folded or bent.
This feature makes it suited for foldable devices of the future, researchers said.
“There are sensors that can detect pressure, such as the iPhone’s 3D Touch, and some that can detect a hovering finger, like Samsung’s AirView,” said researcher Mirza Saquib Sarwar, a PhD student in electrical and computer engineering at UBC.
The prototype measures 5 cm x 5 cm but could be easily scaled up as it uses inexpensive, widely available materials, including the gel and silicone.
“It’s entirely possible to make a room-sized version of this sensor for just dollars per square metre, and then put sensors on the wall, on the floor, or over the surface of the body – almost anything that requires a transparent, stretchable touch screen,” said Sarwar.
Currently, machines are kept separate from humans in the workplace because of the possibility that they could injure humans.
The research was published in the journal Science Advances.