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Robots Able to Reach Through Clutter With Whole-Arm Tactile Sensing

By Georgia Tech News

May 7, 2013

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Georgia Tech researchers have developed a robot control method that works in conjunction with compliant robotic joints and whole-arm tactile sensing. The technology keeps the robot's arm flexible and gives the robot a sense of touch across its entire arm.

The researchers say the control method enables robots to perform numerous tasks, such as reaching through dense artificial foliage and a cinder block representation of environments that search-and-rescue robots might encounter.

During testing, a quadriplegic patient was able to use the robot to perform several tasks, including pulling up a blanket and grabbing a cloth. "I think it’s a good safety feature because it hardly presses against me even when I tell it to," the patient says.

The researchers also released the designs and code for the sensors and controller as open source hardware and software so that other researchers can build on their work. This new approach "is going to allow robots to better operate in our homes, our workplaces, and other complex environments," says Georgia Tech professor Charlie Kemp.

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