New electronic skin gives prosthetics a sense of pain

A prosthetic hand with e-dermis picks up an object
A prosthetic hand with e-dermis picks up an object. Photo: Osborn et al, Sci. Robot. 3, eaat3818 (2018)

Today's prosthetic devices don't allow users to perceive touch but a group of scientists from Johns Hopkins University developed a skin for devices that captures a range of sensations we experience, including pain for the first time. Their research is published today in Science Robotics.

The big picture: Over the past decade researchers have gained a better understanding of our "highly complex sense" of touch and worked on ways to add it to prosthetics, says Paul Marasco, a neurophysiologist at the Cleveland Clinic who wasn't involved in the work. Now, he adds, they are starting to trickle out of the research environment and into the clinical realm.