Singapore scientists have created a new artificial skin. The "electronic skin" is capable of recreating a sense of touch, which was inspired by the Star Wars franchise. Researchers hope the innovation will allow people with prosthetic limbs to detect objects, along with feeling texture, or "even temperature and pain." The device is called Asynchronous Coded Electronic Skin, aka ACES, and it is made up of 100 small sensors that are about 0.16 square inch in size. Researchers are confident that this new technology will provide an accurate sense of touch.

The Empire Strikes Back finds Darth Vader cutting off Luke Skywalker's arm. He is later fitted with a prosthesis that allows him to continue wielding a lightsaber. The scene where the droid is outfitting Skywalker with his new arm was the inspiration behind ACES, as the fictional hero seemingly regains his sense of touch with his robotic limb. National University of Singapore says that ACES can "process information faster than the human nervous system, is able to recognize 20 to 30 different textures and can read Braille letters with more than 90% accuracy."

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Research team leader Benjamin Tee says, "So humans need to slide to feel texture, but in this case the skin, with just a single touch, is able to detect textures of different roughness." Tee went on to add that the AI algorithms "let the device learn quickly." He notes, "When you lose your sense of touch, you essentially become numb... and prosthetic users face that problem." So, ACES could be pretty big game changer in the world of prosthetics.

Benjamin Tee also states, "So by recreating an artificial version of the skin, for their prosthetic devices, they can hold a hand and feel the warmth and feel that it is soft, how hard are they holding the hand." Normal prosthetics have no way of doing this at the present time, so there will more than likely be some considerable interest in this new technology when it becomes available to the public. At this time, there is no timetable as to when ACES will be available to people. However, it could be a while with something as sophisticated as this new technology.

Benjamin Tee's research team has also developed artificial skin that can repair itself when torn, along with features for smart devices. The Star Wars franchise has gone on to influence a lot more than just the entertainment industry and ACES proves that. George Lucas is probably pretty proud that something he included in The Empire Strikes Back might be able to improve the quality of someone's life, while also providing some of the best entertainment the big screen has ever seen. While we're still pretty far from all owning our own floating speeders, artificial skin with a sense of touch has already been invented and is on the way. Reuters was the first to report on ACES and its Star Wars connection.

Kevin Burwick at Movieweb
Kevin Burwick