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Nissan's new leather seats feel like human skin

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October 28, 2012

Nissan's new upholstery aims to replicate the texture and softness of human skin (Photo: S...

Nissan's new upholstery aims to replicate the texture and softness of human skin (Photo: Shutterstock)

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Nissan is working on a material for its car seats that will replicate the texture and softness of human skin. The project called Premium-fEEL interior concept (PEEL) has seen engineers carry out detailed studies of what provides the sense of touch with a comfortable sensation. They discovered that nothing matches the comfort and tranquility associated with the feel of human fingers against the body. Being enveloped in the softness, the warmth, and the texture associated with a pattern of fingerprints is uniquely satisfying to people, who subconsciously interpret these sensations as a gentle caress.

The leather upholstery of the new Infinity QX56 (Photo: Nissan)
The leather upholstery of the new Infinity QX56 (Photo: Nissan)

Most surfaces of an automobile cabin are experienced through pressure, sliding contact, or both. Nissan's studied both of these interactions as a function of perceived comfort, and the results appear below:

Nissan's research findings on comfort. The upper half of the figure describes comfort in t...
Nissan's research findings on comfort. The upper half of the figure describes comfort in terms of the compressibility of a surface, while the bottom half does the same in terms of the roughness of a surface (Image: Nissan)

The graphs indicate that the situation of maximum comfort occurs when a leather surface is only slightly less compressible than a human finger pad, and when the roughness of the surface is about that of a human fingerprint. Their overall conclusion is that the texture and yielding nature of baby skin is very nearly ideal.

Nissan is aiming to achieve this using semi-aniline leather with a textured and lightly pigmented protective coating which contains the fingerprint patterns.

One could argue that the best way to replicate an original is to use the original itself, but – aside from the serious creepy factor – with the cost of lab-grown human skin currently around US$250,000 per square meter, it's not likely to end up in car upholstery any time soon.

Source: Nissan Motor Company

About the Author
Brian Dodson From an early age Brian wanted to become a scientist. He did, earning a Ph.D. in physics and embarking on an R&D career which has recently broken the 40th anniversary. What he didn't expect was that along the way he would become a patent agent, a rocket scientist, a gourmet cook, a biotech entrepreneur, an opera tenor and a science writer.   All articles by Brian Dodson
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10 Comments

On the front, this sounds like a disturbing experience; similar to being cradled by a gigantic disembodied hand. I bet this was a marketing and research driven effort of, what is scientifically more comfortable? But, as long as I still have the choice of a BMW, a "passionate" drivers machine, I won't have the giant baby hand experience (though I would like to try it).

Ali Kim
28th October, 2012 @ 06:12 am PDT

Oh God, that sounds so creepy >_

Joel Detrow
28th October, 2012 @ 01:39 pm PDT

I'd be willing to be that there is a lot more behind the comfort and tranquility of the human touch besides the texture and compressibility of baby skin or even adult skin for that matter.

Almost as disturbing as the proposed product itself is the fact that you would have to drive around naked to partake of the entire experience.

Hopefully this never see the light of day.

Rt1583
28th October, 2012 @ 08:18 pm PDT

yes because its so comfortable when you sweat and your skin touches and rubs together. dumb idea.

Denis Klanac
28th October, 2012 @ 11:30 pm PDT

How much time to you spend touching the seats and interior of your car with bare skin?

ihateorange
29th October, 2012 @ 04:48 am PDT

I guess the previous posters don't wear shorts and t-shirts or sometimes take off their shirts on a hot day. and never, ever lean their head back against the head rest! I will grant that if it's expensive, it would probably be better relegated to the steering wheel and those parts of the seat most likely to get skin contact, but if it costs the same...why not? Bring on the giant baby hand seat!

Bryan Paschke
29th October, 2012 @ 09:43 am PDT

There is a parabolic arc describing the relationship between driver-comfort and driver-alertness: at one extreme, the car is too uncomfortable, the driver gets edgy, and makes bad decisions (or road-rage!) and crashes. At the other extreme, the driver is so pampered and comfortable that they become distracted and lazy, and they crash (inattentiveness): Therefore if you want to make a more comfortable car, fine. But the onus is always on the driver to maintain focus and awareness of the present moment while driving.

Jeremy Nasmith
29th October, 2012 @ 10:59 am PDT

This seems kind of creepy. But it could get creepier: There is a Russian luxury car that uses the skin from the penis of a whale for the leather for its seats.

Nelson
29th October, 2012 @ 12:54 pm PDT

Nissan, has always been at the leading edge of automotive technology but this is rather disturbing. It recalls experiments by a certain FRAU ILSE. (google it) I won't go into details.

pickypilot
29th October, 2012 @ 04:09 pm PDT

Yuck. Couldn't they come up with a different texture to compare it to? I don't think I want car seats made to feel like human skin. Sounds like the Car & Driver verion of Silence of the Lambs.

Eric Shearin
30th October, 2012 @ 08:15 pm PDT
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