Researchers from the University of California-Berkeley have created a flexible 16×16 pixel screen, dubbed "e-skin," that lights up where it is touched. If more pressure is applied, it glows brighter.

The team behind the "e-skin" believe future iterations of the interface could be used for car dashboards, mobile displays, or even "interactive wallpaper." These wallpapers could that double as touchscreen displays and dashboard laminates that allow drivers to adjust electronic controls with the wave of a hand.The team also believes it could give robots a more precise sense of touch. The findings were described in a paper published online Sundayin the journal Nature Materials which builds on Javey's earlier work using semiconductor nanowire transistors layered on top of thin rubber sheets.

"We are not just making devices; we are building systems," said Ali Javey, UC Berkeley associate professor of electrical engineering and computer sciences in a statement. "With the interactive e-skin, we have demonstrated an elegant system on plastic that can be wrapped around different objects to enable a new form of human-machine interfacing."

Javey and his team of researchers have developed processes that draw heavily on traditional silicon manufacturing techniques to unvaryingly and reliably integrate various organic and inorganic components on top of plastic.

The team previously demonstrated a network of high-resolution pressure sensors made of nanowires arrayed on a relatively large area of plastic, which produced an electronic readout of pressure applied to the surface. The aim of the new work was to make a pressure sensor array that could directly interact with humans.

Javey's lab is now in the process of engineering the e-skin sensors to respond to temperature and light as well as pressure.