The sense of touch is often associated with emotions and its role in other functional areas is dismissed. However, experiments where tactile feedback is dulled or cancelled in manipulative tasks show how important this sense is in our daily life.

Con-tactoIn fact, humans are very clumsy under these conditions. Therefore, although research effort has focused mainly on other senses like vision, there has been also a great interest in the sense of touch and devices that could emulate the skin. These devices are called artificial skins or tactile sensors and they are arrays of force sensors in the simplest case.

These sensors have many applications, for instance as part of prosthetic devices that incorporate tactile sensing. Moreover, advanced robots and machines should also be equipped with tactile sensors if they work in poorly structured and unpredictable environments.

The more complex the surroundings the machine is in, the smarter it should be and the larger the required sensing capabilities. Human beings live in this kind of environment. Hence, any machine or robot designed to interact safely with humans should be touch sensitive. This is the case of assistive robots that are built to help elder or ill people to be independent.

These machines will be required in the near future since modern occidental societies have low birth rates and the population is getting older. As a consequence, there will not be enough young people to assist the others and this task will have to be done in part by machines able to interact with humans.

This interaction involves necessarily the sense of touch in many assistive tasks, so the development of artificial skins is a key issue.



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