Halloween is just around the corner and for all the talk of ghouls, witches and creepy crawlies, there still isn't anything as bone-chillingly terrifying as science.
Case in point: a new material designed to look and act like skin, which can make your phone "ticklish".
Scientists have invented what they call an "artificial skin", which can wrap around devices like smartphones and tablets. Called Skin-On interface, the material responds to different kinds of human contact, like tickling, pinching and caressing.
The technology was developed by researchers at the University of Bristol in partnership with Telecomm ParisTech and Sorbonne University in Paris, and led by Marc Teyssier, an interaction designer who works on creative hardware and software experiences that bring technology closer to human nature.
Dr. Anne Roudaut, associate professor at the University of Bristol, is quoted in the Irish Independent as saying that while the artificial skin may look: "unconventional", due to us being more used to senseless and rigid casings", "we feel there are strong advantages of using more malleable technologies".
"And the familiarity of the skin provides a more natural interface for end-users."
The material's design takes its cues from nature, too, as it is created using two layers of silicone - called the "dermis" and "hypodermis" layers - with one electrode layer in the middle made of ultra-thin wires, which act as sensors.
To create the appearance of skin, two different types of silicone were dipped in pigment and moulded to give the creation a skin-like texture. According to the researchers, the artificial skin allows devices to "feel the user's grasp", and is able to sense interactions like "tickling, caressing, even twisting and pinching".
The team says their creation opens the door for a possible future with "anthropomorphic devices" - where gizmos have human characteristics - and they hope it will lead to users having more emotional experiences with their smart devices.