Dr. John Madden’s research team develops innovative flexible sensor screen

An NSERC-funded UBC Electrical & Computer Engineering research team led by Dr. John Madden has developed a novel sensor that could facilitate the design of advanced devices like foldable tablets.

The sensor is comprised of a conductive gel enveloped in layers of silicone that are able to detect swiping, tapping, and many other kinds of touch even when it is folded. This is a huge breakthrough, as most other devices are only able to detect one kind of touch (such as pressure). It is small (5 cm x 5 cm) and inexpensive to construct.

Graduate student Mirza Saquib Sarwar says that a room-sized version of this sensor could be easily and cheaply constructed, and the sensor could be used in health monitor devices.

It could also be incorporated into robots’ “skins” to increase the safety of humans’ interactions with robots.

“Currently, machines are kept separate from humans in the workplace because of the possibility that they could injure humans,” says Madden. “If a robot could detect our presence and be ‘soft’ enough that they don’t damage us during an interaction, we can safely exchange tools with them, they can pick up objects without damaging them, and they can safely probe their environment.”

An article about the sensor was recently published in Science Advances, and Madden and Sarwar have also enjoyed publicity from a variety of other media outlets such as Global News, CTV Vancouver, City TV, Radio Canada, and Telegraph.

See here for the Global News video segment.