Robots may not have a sense of emotional feeling, but thanks to researchers at the University of Southern California’s Viterbi School of Engineering, they may soon have the gift of physical feeling.
With the right sensors, actuators, and software, robots can be given the ability to feel, or at least identify materials by touch, the school said.
Researchers today published a study in Frontiers in Neurorobotics said said a specially designed robot built to mimic the human fingertip can actually outperform a living person in identifying a wide range of materials, based on textures.
Biomedical Engineering Professor Gerald Loeb and recently graduated doctoral student Jeremy Fishel created the BioTac, a biologically inspired tactile sensor. With their new technology, the researchers explored the robot hand’s ability to distinguish 117 common materials gathered from fabric, stationary, and hardware stores. The robot’s 99.6 percent performance rate in correctly discriminating pairs of similar textures was better than most humans would test, according to researchers.
While the machine is good at identifying which textures are similar to each other, Loeb and Fishel said it still can’t tell what textures people will prefer. Instead, success in the realm of touch-sensitive robotics could pave the way for advancements in prostheses, personal assistive robots, and consumer product testing, the university’s press release said.
More than a one-trick robot, the machine is capable of other human sensations, like discerning where and in which direction forces are applied to the fingertip, and even the thermal properties of an object. Fingerprints on the surface of the BioTac sensor’s soft, flexible “skin” enhance its sensitivity to vibration. …
Jeremy Fishel, a recent doctoral student at University of Southern California’s Viterbi School of Engineering, along with biomedical engineering Professor Gerald Loeb, have built the specialized robot that is capable of identifying 117 different materials through advanced touch technology.
The robot -use-s BioTac sensors, which imitate the human fingertip -and- -use- an algorithm that allow them to -use- human methods for deciding which material is which. In addition, the sensors can tell which direction forces are applied as well as the temperature of the objects they’re touching.
The robot has what looks like a human finger, where the BioTac sensors are protected by a liquid filling -and- skin-like covering. It has a fingertip that looks just like a human fingertip, complete with a fingerprint that helps the robot to feel vibrations. These vibrations are felt thanks to a hydrophone inside the finger. …