Monday, September 13, 2010

Electronic Skin Gives Robots the Sense of Touch...

Consider this another extraordinary leap in robotic technology...
Up until now traditional robots can walk, run, compute, even show emotions.... but they didn't have the ability to sense touch - not until today with the Electronic Skin.
The electronic skin is made out of germanium and silicon wrapped around a sticky polyimide film. The prototype measures about 7.6 square inches and can detect different pressures between 0 and 15 kilopascals, which is the range of pressures one might encounter while typing on a keyboard or holding a small object. The skin does this thanks to its rubber skin, which changes its thickness in response to changes in pressure, which is then measured and controlled by built-in capacitors. Design team member Ali Javey explains why a robot with a well-developed sense of touch is so crucial to expanding robots' usefulness:
This is also a breakthrough with helping restore sensations to people who have lost feeling in parts of their body.
"Connecting the artificial skin with the human nerve system will be a very challenging task. Ultimately, in the very distant future, we would like to make a skin which performs really like human skin and to be able to connect it to nerve cells on the arm and thus restore sensation. Initially, the prototype that we envision would be more like a handheld device, or maybe a device that connects to other parts of the body that have skin sensation. The device would generate a pulse that would stimulate other parts of the skin, giving the kind of signal 'my (artificial) hand is touching something', for instance."
 via io9

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