Last week, Mark Zuckerberg officially announced that his company’s name would be changed from Facebook to ‘Meta,’ with a new emphasis on developing VR/AR technology.
Researchers from Facebook and Carnegie Mellon University have collaborated to create a new electronic skin and fingertip that is inexpensive, versatile, and easy to replace for long-term robotic use. Meta AI, a division of Meta, uses an artificial skin called ‘ReSkin’ to teach machines how to touch and feel.
“We designed a high-res touch sensor and worked with Carnegie Mellon to create a thin robot skin,” Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg stated. “This brings us one step closer to realistic virtual objects and physical interactions in the metaverse.”
“ReSkin’ is a new open-source touch-sensing “skin” that can help researchers advance their AI’s tactile-sensing skills quickly and at scale,” he added.
The ReSkin material is a 2 to 3 mm thick stretchable elastomer membrane with embedded magnetic microparticles. It could be used in robotic hands, prosthetics, or “smart” wearables like gloves that detect what the other individual is touching.
When the skin comes into contact with a surface, the membrane deforms, altering the magnetic field created by the embedded particles. A nearby scientific steering instrument known as a magnetometer monitors these changes and feeds them to the AI, which converts them into force and thus a sense of touch. These changes are then examined to determine the precise location and magnitude of the force applied.
ReSkin can measure 0.1 newtons of force with a 1-millimeter accuracy. Previous tests could detect and measure the pressure of actions such as throwing, catching, slipping, and clapping. Moreover, it has proven to be solid and durable, with over 50,000 interactions retaining its functionality.
There are no electronic components in the ReSkin material, and it is not hard-wired in any way. As a result, it is simple and inexpensive to develop. In addition, without any rewiring, a damaged piece can be peeled off and replaced with a new one.
In addition to providing a real-time touch, it is hoped that as ReSkin evolves, it will collect tactile data that can be integrated into AI-based technologies.