A team of researchers has built something that no one wanted. What they created was a prototype smartphone case that is made of artificial human skin called Skin-On. The case and its artificial skin can be used to control functions on an Android smartphone using pinching, squeezing, and prodding of the artificial skin.
Project lead Marc Teyssier said he understood that some would find the smartphone case made of artificial human skin creepy, saying, "I get it." Teyssier says that people aren't used to human touch on objects and that the project makes people reflect on tech and why this is creepy.
The team also created a mousepad for a laptop made of the artificial skin. The two objects allow bizarre gestures with the skin that translate to interactions with an emoji on screen. Tickling the skin on the back of the phone case, for instance, could cause laughing in an onscreen character. Pinching the case could result in an expression of anger.
The artificial skin is made from two different forms of silicone layers with electrodes attached to a hardware controller. Teyssier says that finding the right balance of materials to create artificial skin was difficult. He says the constraint was to develop something stretchable that could still detect touch.
There are no plans to build and market the case for people to use, however, the research team did publish how the case was made, and anyone can build one. The materials used to make the case are mass-produced, and Teyssier says if the case did go into production, each would cost under £5 to produce. The artificial skin was built to fit other portable electronics like a smartwatch and a robot. We hope the future doesn't involve artificial skin on our smartphones or super skinny designs like the Essential Project Gem.