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OUR fingers are precision instruments, but there are plenty of things they are not sensitive enough to detect. Now we can augment their talents using wearable electronic fingertips that provide tingling feedback about whatever we touch.
John Rogers of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and colleagues have designed a flexible circuit that can be worn over the fingertips. It contains layers of gold electrodes just a few hundred nanometres thick, sandwiched between layers of polyimide plastic to form a "nanomembrane". This is mounted on a finger-shaped tube of silicone rubber, allowing one side of the circuit to be in direct contact with the fingertips. On the other side, sensors can be added to measure pressure, temperature or electrical properties such as resistance.
People wearing the device receive electrotactile stimulation a tingling sensation caused by a small voltage applied to the skin. The size of the voltage is controlled by the sensor and varies depending on the properties of the object being touched.
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