Friday, June 22, 2012

Robot Touching Now Excellent

 Achieving touch sensitivity was a critical question in terms of advancing robotic technology. That appears to now be done and vastly more useful devices will now emerge. We tend to underestimate just how dependent we are on touch generally, but we use it constantly to work with tools and would lose a large part of our own capacity without is.

Tool use relies on sight and touch working in combination and it is fair to give each equal weight.

In short, the brave new world of robotics is really upon us and it will not prove too hard to even establish bio feedback for prosthetics as this has already begun.

Astonishingly we are solving all the problems related to a true robot as imagined in the past and even solving the problem of establishing a real reason for their existence. None of that was terribly obvious when the research began but progress has begun to steadily pay dividends.

Robot 'Skin' Built With Touch Superior to Humans

    By Stephanie Mlot
    June 19, 2012 05:47pm EST

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.

What's next —robot tear ducts? Or bionic ear drums?

In 2010, a team of researchers from Cornell University, the University of Chicago, and iRobot discovered a "universal gripper," built out of a balloon and coffee grinds. The basic-science concept enhanced the area of robotics, a University of Chicago physicist said at the time.

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