Straight out of Stanford University is a new material that is not only touch sensitive, but also self-healing. Being a bit of a human augmentation geek, my mind immediately went to smarter prosthetic limbs that can relay sensation back to their users. Using nickel micro-particles embedded in a special polymer, the skin is able to detect touch and pressure via changes in the conductivity of the material. Such signals could be relayed to the brain to be interpreted as actual sensation. Pretty cool.
The self-healing aspect is also handy and has applications in smartphone screens that heal their scratches. According to the article, after being cut, the material regains conductivity in as little as 15 seconds, with full mechanical strength returning over a 10-minute time period.
Time will tell whether robots will be keen on feeling things or not.