Chemists Islam Mosa and James Rusling, of the University of Connecticut, working with University of Toronto engineer Abdelsalam Ahmed, have created a mechanism that can generate a sensation similar to the way our skin feels pressure, heat, cold, vibration, and other physical changes.

Using silicone tubes filled with a fluid made of iron-oxide nanoparticles, or particles less than a billionth of a meter long, and wrapped in copper wire, the researchers were able to create a mechanism that replicates what its like to feel changes in the environment. Human skin has all sorts of mechanisms for detecting its environment, but there are things that human skin cannot necessarily feel. When crafting the new sensor, Mosa hoped it could do more than just mimic human skin. “It would be very cool if it had abilities human skin does not; for example, the ability to detect magnetic fields, sound waves, and abnormal behaviors,” said Mosa.