“Artificial nerve” system for sensory prosthetics, robots

Stanford’s  Zhenan Bao has developed an artificial sensory nerve system that can activate the twitch reflex in a cockroach and identify letters in the Braille alphabet. Bao describes it as “a step toward making skin-like sensory neural networks for all sorts of applications”  which would include artificial skin that creates a sense of touch in prosthetics.

The artificial nerve circuit integrates three components:

  • A touch sensor that can detect minuscule forces.
  • A flexible electronic neuron which receives signals from the touch sensor.
  • An artificial synaptic transistor modeled after human synapses which is stimulated by theses sensory signals.

The system was successfully tested to generate both reflexes and a sense touch. The team  also hopes to create low-power, artificial sensor nets to cover robots, to provide feedback that makes them more agile.

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