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Robot finger can surpass humans at feeling textures

Posted: 20 Jun 2012     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:sensor  robot finger  hydrophone  researchers  prostheses 

Researchers the University of Southern California have created a robot finger that can even outperform humans in identifying materials just by touching them.

The BioTac sensor, like the human finger, has a soft and flexible skin over a liquid filling. The skin even has fingerprints on its surface.

As the finger slides over a textured surface, the skin vibrates in characteristic ways. These vibrations are detected by a hydrophone inside the bone-like core of the finger. The human finger uses similar vibrations to identify textures, but the robot finger is even more sensitive, claimed the researchers.

The specialised robot was trained on 117 common materials gathered from fabric, stationery and hardware stores.

Robot Finger

When confronted with one material at random, the robot could correctly identify the material 95 per cent of the time, after intelligently selecting and making an average of five exploratory movements.

Capable of other human sensations, the sensor can also tell where and in which direction forces are applied to the fingertip and even the thermal properties of an object being touched.

According to the researchers, this robot touch technology could be used in human prostheses or to assist companies who employ experts to assess the feel of consumer products and even human skin.

"BioTac could pave the way for advancements in prostheses, personal assistive robots and consumer product testing."

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