A team of researchers in Japan (and where else?) Is working on one synthetic leather which could help robots empathize with humans.
A research team from Osaka University in Japan is working on an artificial skin that may one day help robots "feel" pain. Who knows if the invention does not contribute to give a little soul to objects like these.
Although at the moment the real "touch sensitive" robots are far away, this research marks an important step forward in making them come true. The technology works by incorporating sensors into soft, artificial skin that can detect touch, from gentle touch to more "painful" sensations, such as being hit.
Announced at the annual meeting ofAmerican Association for the Advancement of Science, robots with this skin could potentially signal emotions.
Artificial skin, real empathy
Minoru Asada, a member of the research team, says this small development could ultimately lead to robots feeling pain like real people. He calls it an artificial "painful nervous system".
If successful, it is hoped that this will help robots understand emotional and physical pain like humans.
The Japanese team has already developed a creepy-looking robotic head that can change facial expressions in response to tactile and painful cues from synthetic skin. It has an Italian name, “Affetto”, and can reliably capture a range of tactile sensations. Take a look.
A future of better robots
According to the neuroscientist Kingson Man University of South California, this development could enable richer interaction between machines and the world in the future. Soft, sensitive skin should allow for the “Ability to interact in more versatile and empathic ways”.
Asada hopes this development will open the door to learning in robots, to make them better recognize pain in humans. It would be a vital skill for robots designed to help others, such as the elderly.
Not just skin: the robot does not have enough sensations, it needs feelings
"There is an important distinction between a robot that responds in a predictable way to a painful stimulus and a robot that can approximate an internal feeling", says Antonio Damasio, a neuroscientist at the University of South California. In a recent article, he and Man argue that if robots were programmed to experience a mental state of pain, not just a physical one, then an “artificial feeling could indeed arise.
Robots with touch sensors that detect touch and pain are "like having a robot that smiles when you talk to it," he says Antonio Damasio. "They are devices for communication between a machine and a human being." Although this is an interesting development, "is not the same thing" of a robot designed to develop a kind of internal experience, he added.