Biomimicry in robotics has led to robots that can climb, fly, and swim better. Now researchers have developed hair-like filaments for robots that allow them to have more fine-grained senses of touch, sensing even forces as delicate as coming in contact with a piece of tissue.
From the paper:
We present a multifunctional tactile sensor inspired by human hairy skin structure, in which the sensitive hair sensor and the robust skin sensor are integrated into a single device via a pair of Co-based ferromagnetic microwire arrays in a very simple manner. The sensor possesses a self-tunable effective compliance with respect to the magnitude of the stimulus, allowing a wide range of loading force to be measured. The sensor also exhibits some amazing functions, such as air-flow detection, material property characterization, and excellent damage resistance. The novel sensing mechanism and structure provide a new strategy for designing multifunctional tactile sensors and show great potential applications on intelligent robot and sensing in harsh environments.
As American Chemical Society notes:
The hairy skin could repeatedly detect a range of pressures, including the landing of a fly, a light wind, and a ten-pound weight… A robot holding something could feel it slipping from its grasp and grab on a little tighter.
In addition to robotics, the hairs may have applications for prosthetics.