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Robots With Warm Skin Know What They're Touching

By IEEE Spectrum

November 7, 2016

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Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech) researchers have developed a new kind of robotic skin that incorporates active heating.

The system, when combined with traditional force sensing, results in a multimodal touch sensor that helps to identify the composition of objects.

The researchers found the combination of force and active thermal sensing works significantly better than force sensing alone.

The robotic skin is made of an array of "taxels," each of which consists of resistive fabric sandwiched between two layers of conductive fabric, two passive thermistors, and two active thermistors placed on top of a carbon fiber resistive heating strip. The researchers used all three of these sensing modalities to validate each other, and were able to identify wood and aluminum by touch up to 96% of the time while pressing on it, or 84% of the time with a sliding touch.

"Knowing the haptic properties of the objects that a robot touches could help in devising intelligent manipulation strategies, [for example] a robot could push a soft object more than say a hard object," says Georgia Tech researcher Tapomayukh Bhattacharjee.

From IEEE Spectrum
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