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Artificial Intelligence: Star Wars-inspired 'smart skin' developed by Singapore scientists

Singapore: Researchers at the National University of Singapore have developed an AI device with a sense of touch that can identify objects and textures.

The device, officially dubbed ACES (Asynchronous Coded Electronic Skin), is composed of 100 different small sensors and is about 1 square centimetre in size. According to its developers, it can process information faster than the human nervous system, and has been trained to recognise 20-30 different types of textures and read braille letters, all with over 90% accuracy.

"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, and so in some sense, it's quite difficult to cheat this skin, especially when it's combined with AI algorithms that can learn very quickly," said research team leader Dr. Benjamin Tee.

According to Tee, the device is part of a series of other innovations that he and his team are developing to help make prosthetic limbs that can feel and sense-not just for detecting objects or textures, but also being able to feel temperatures and even pain.

"When you lose your sense of touch, you essentially become numb every single moment, and prosthetic users face that problem. They are unable to feel the world, just like us. 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. You know, they are able to do that, and they can regain some semblance of normal life," said Tee, demonstrating that the device could detect a squishy stress ball is "soft" while a solid plastic ball is classified as "hard".

Tee said that the concept was originally inspired by a scene from the original "Star Wars" trilogy when protagonist Luke Skywalker loses his right hand and had it replaced with a robotic one, and was seemingly able experience sensations of pain and touch again.
The recent projects has been in development for the past two years, although Tee previously spent over a decade working on this field.

Among the other patents they have developed is a water-resistant, self-healing transparent skin that that can repair itself when ruptured. Made from a fluorocarbon-based polymer with a fluorine-rich ionic liquid, the material can repair itself after being ruptured, and takes around a full day to completely "heal" from a large cut. His team has also developed a self-healing, light-emitting material that Tee said can be used for wearable electronic devices or even clothing.
Tee said that the technology is still in the experimental stage and has yet to hit the private market, but there has been "tremendous interest," especially from the medical community.

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