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Enhanced Sensory Perception via Advanced Synthetic Skins


OUSD (R&E) MODERNIZATION PRIORITY: Artificial Intelligence (AI)/Machine Learning (ML);Autonomy;Microelectronics


TECHNOLOGY AREA(S): Electronics;Materials / Processes;Sensors


OBJECTIVE: Develop an innovative, wide-area synthetic skin that utilizes advances in machine perception to enhance the sensory capabilities of the device or system to which the skin is applied and for enhanced investigative capabilities in low-visibility, undersea environments.


DESCRIPTION: A key characteristic of a high-performing synthetic sensory skin is the ability to remain fully operational when stretched, deformed, or used in undersea operations conducted in harsh environments. There are technical risks associated with the implementation of synthetic skins with human-like sensory capability such as manufacturability, resiliency, sensors, and data processing. This STTR topic seeks to develop innovative, wide-area, synthetic sensory skin technologies that address these risks. Solutions should provide high-functioning synthetic sensory skin that augments operations in low-access, low-visibility environments as well as in missions requiring teleoperations of critical systems.


PHASE I: Conduct a proof-of-concept study, culminating in a design package and a demonstrable simulation and/or laboratory experiment, that proves the feasibility of achieving the desired synthetic sensory skin requirements. Produce a detailed report summarizing simulation and/or testing results, a presentation of the initial design, and plans for prototyping the synthetic skin in Phase II.


PHASE II: Finalize design details through Preliminary and Critical Design Reviews, provide a manufacturability analysis, and develop and demonstrate the prototype synthetic skin in a relevant environment.


PHASE III DUAL USE APPLICATIONS: Support the Navy in transitioning the technology to a program of record for operational use. Potential medical applications include telemedicine, where it could enable a medical clinician to replicate the physical contact they have when they evaluate a patient in person, and as a covering for prosthetic limbs. Another commercial application includes using it to enable robots to work more safely around humans.



  1. Majidi, C. “Soft Robotics: A Perspective—Current Trends and Prospects for the Future.” Soft Robotics, Vol. 1, Issue 1, 2013.
  2. Technical University of Munich (TUM). “Biologically-Inspired Skin Improves Robots' Sensory Abilities.” Science Daily, October 10, 2019.
  3. Dahiya, R.; Manjakkal, I.; Burdet, E. and Hayward, V. “Large-Area Soft e-Skin: The Challenges Beyond Sensor Designs.” Proceedings of the IEEE. Vol. 107, No. 10, October 2019.


KEYWORDS: artificial intelligence; perception; underwater; robotics; synthetic skin; bio-inspired; materials; microelectronics; sensors

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