Currently in functional prototype form, the e-skin is actually more similar to the Epidermal VR system that City University helped develop back in 2019. Like that haptic setup, it incorporates a grid of flexible actuators embedded in a skin-patch-type device.
In the case of the new e-skin there are 16 such actuators arranged in a 4 by 4 array, along with a Bluetooth module, analog-to-digital converter and other electronics mounted on a flexible circuit board. The rectangular silicone patch itself measures 7 by 10 cm (2.8 by 3.9 in), and is 4.2 mm thick.
Each actuator is made up of a flexible coil, a soft silicone support, a magnet and a thin polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) film. When the actuator is pressed and released by a finger – or anything else – it generates an electrical signal which is converted to a digital signal. The digital signal is then wirelessly transmitted via Bluetooth (and conceivably the internet) to another e-skin patch, on another person.
That patch responds by causing the corresponding actuator on itself to vibrate – the longer and harder the initial touch on the sending patch, the longer and stronger the vibrations on the receiving patch. And while each actuator can't simultaneously detect and reproduce touches, the e-skin as a whole can, with some actuators detecting touches at the same that others are reproducing them.
The scientists are also looking into adapting the technology for use by the blind, enabling them to feel Braille messages transmitted directly to their skin.
According to newatlas.com.