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Giving Robots a Sense of Touch

By MIT News

June 5, 2017

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Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have mounted GelSight sensors, technology that uses physical contact with an object to provide a detailed three-dimensional map of its surface, on the grippers of robotic arms to provide robotic systems with greater sensitivity and dexterity.

For example, the researchers used the data from the GelSight sensor to enable a robot to judge the hardness of surfaces it touches.

Separately, another MIT team used GelSight sensors to enable a robot to manipulate smaller objects than was previously possible.

In the first experiment, the researchers used molds to create 400 groups of identically-shaped silicone objects, with 16 objects in each group with differing degrees of hardness. The team then pressed the GelSight sensor against each object, recorded how the contact pattern changed over time, and fed the data to a neural network, which sought correlations between changes in contact patterns and hardness measurements.

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