Scientists have developed an "artificial leather" that they say can be wrapped around devices such as smartphones and are therefore sensitive to touch.
The prototype, designed to mimic human skin, responds to many forms of human communication, such as tickling, light disk and caressing.
The skin, which they call "skin-on-the-front", can be connected to mobile phones, wearables and touchpads on laptops.
Among the things the scientists said they were able to show "touch emotions" using the terms "emoji".
"A strong fist translates into anger, skin flogging shows a laugh, and clicking it shows a surprising expression," said lead author Marc Tayseer, a PhD student at France's Telekom Paris Tech.
"This skin has a hidden superficial tissue, sensing the dermis (a layer just below the epidermis) and the subcutaneous tissue layer (the fat layer), and flexibility is what allows us to make expressive gestures like a disc."
This technique was developed by researchers at the University of Bristol in partnership with the Institute of Telecom Paris Tech and the Sorbonne in Paris.
The researchers say their work opens the door to a promising future of "stereotypes," where devices have human characteristics.