Robots that feel?! Ok, no. We don’t mean robots that have feelings. We mean robots that have a “sense” of touch. Or at the very least robots programmed not to crush things they pick up. That’s still progress!
The modern robotics field is continuously pushing the boundaries of technology and automation. As a part of this ongoing exploration, scientists from the Queen Mary University of London, alongside their international colleagues from China and USA, have developed an innovative, affordable sensor called the L3 F-TOUCH. This unique invention enhances a robot’s tactile abilities, granting it a human-like sense of touch.
Robots That Feel Thanks to the L3 F-TOUCH Sensor
A principal objective in robotics has been achieving human-level dexterity, specifically during manipulation and grasping tasks. The human hand’s ability to sense factors such as pressure, temperature, texture, and pain, in addition to distinguishing objects based on properties like shape, size, and weight, has set the standard.
Until now, many robot hands or graspers have fallen short, lacking these vital haptic capabilities. As you might imagine, this makes handling objects a complicated task. Robots’ fingers lack the “feel of touch,” resulting in objects slipping away or being unintentionally crushed if fragile. And that’s not something we want if we’re ever going to let them work with people, like the elderly.
Mechanics and Functionality
Leading the groundbreaking study, Professor Kaspar Althoefer of Queen Mary University of London and his team, introduces the L3 F-TOUCH. The name stands for Lightweight, Low-cost, and wireless communication. It’s a high-resolution fingertip sensor that directly measures an object’s geometry and the forces necessary to interact with it.
This sensor sets itself apart from others in its league that estimate interaction forces via camera-acquired tactile information. The L3 F-TOUCH takes a direct approach, achieving a higher measurement accuracy.
Professor Althoefer and his team plan to further enhance the sensor’s capabilities. They aim to add rotational forces such as twists, vital in tasks like screw fastening.
These advancements could extend the sense of touch to more dynamic and agile robots, improving their functionality in manipulation tasks and even in human-robot interaction settings, such as patient rehabilitation or physical support for the elderly.