How real can artificial touch be? How closely does it need to resemble the biology to be useful or convey complex messages? The questions are at the heart of understanding how touch is encoded and applying it to aide dexterous manipulation. I will present insights into touch encoding in humans and how these can be measured. The technique of microneurography allows recordings from inside peripheral nerves in humans and we have learned a lot over the past 50 years about the human tactile system, especially about encoding in the glabrous skin of the hands. New developments in microneurography and the analysis of data mean that the insights from human afferent recordings can be better applied to tactile sensor design. For example, the specific roles of different afferents in the skin and what excites them most. As well as giving a neurophysiological overview, the talk will focus on different aspects of naturalistic touch, where often very subtle signals can produce clear sensations, which can be maximized for sensor design.