Robots show a lot of promise as first responders, but they can't effectively dismantle bombs or perform delicate first aid procedures if they can't feel what they're touching. To remedy that problem, a team of engineers from the University of Washington and UCLA have developed stretchable skin that can cover any part of a robot. The skin can give a machine the power to sense vibrations and shear force, or the unaligned forces that push one part of the body in one direction and another part in the opposite.
Researchers at the University of Southern California's Viterbi School of Engineering published a study June 18 in Frontiers in Neurorobotics showing that a specially designed robot can outperform humans in identifying a wide range of natural materials according to their textures, paving the way for advancements in prostheses, personal assistive robots and consumer product testing. The robot was equipped with a new type of tactile sensor built to mimic the human fingertip. It also used a newly designed algorithm to make decisions about how to explore the outside world by imitating human strategies. Capable of other human sensations, the sensor can also tell where and in which direction forces are applied to the fingertip and even the thermal properties of an object being touched. Like the human finger, the group's BioTac sensor has a soft, flexible skin over a liquid filling.
Stanford engineers have developed an electronic glove containing sensors that could one day give robotic hands the sort of dexterity that humans take for granted. Go to the web site to view the video. Stanford researchers developed the skin-like touch sensors that enable this robotic hand to deliver just the right amount of pressure to lift and move a pingpong ball without crushing it.
MIT researchers built a soft robotic gripper that uses embedded cameras and deep learning to enable high-resolution tactile sensing and "proprioception" (awareness of positions and movements of the body). One of the hottest topics in robotics is the field of soft robots, which utilizes squishy and flexible materials rather than traditional rigid materials. But soft robots have been limited due to their lack of good sensing. A good robotic gripper needs to feel what it is touching (tactile sensing), and it needs to sense the positions of its fingers (proprioception). Such sensing has been missing from most soft robots.
Robots of the future could learn to grasp and pick up delicate objects thanks to a new material inspired by human skin. Experts have built a tactile sensor that detects pressure and sends out an electric pulse in response to touch. As well as its applications for intelligent machines, the breakthrough could lead to prosthetic limbs that let people with disabilities feel again. Robots of the future could learn to grasp and pick up delicate objects thanks to a new material inspired by human skin. Experts have built a tactile sensor that detects pressure.