Creation of Robots is always a challenging task for scientists. With the aim of assisting humans in complex tasks, researchers invented many artificial robot machines since years. But the robots created so far doesn’t really possess the feelings n senses a human has. There are many on-going efforts by analysts all over the world to create robots with senses.
Recently, a robot arm has been given the ability to navigate by utilizing a keen sense of touch. A robot arm enclosed in sensor-laden skin is developed which make it work closely and comfortably just like humans. The new ability will give robotic hand a sense of touch with which it can perform various sensitive tasks.
Most of the robots are taught to avoid running into people or objects which may complicate the simple task of reaching an object in a crowdy environment like to get a salt shaker on a dinner table crowded with plates and glasses.
To deal with this kind of situations, Charlie Kemp of the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta and his fellow scientists invented a electronic skin augmented with about 384 sensors that find out even a very slight touch. With this invention, robotic arms can be more gentle and mild which would allow them to simple tasks in a much simpler manner.
The skin is wrapped around the entire robot’s arm and it has the ability to stretch and flex according to the movement of the robotic arm. This robotic arm is a lightweight seven degree-of-freedom force controlled arm developed by Meka Robotics of San Francisco. This arm has a springy joints that allow it to close around any object it seizes.
The research team developed an algorithm that empowers the robotic arm to take advantage of the sense of touch to navigate around. Moving gently and avoiding the objects out of the way, the arm often takes the shortest path to reach its goal. If its path is obstructed by a user-defined amount of resistance, it selects another route and reaches the goal as fast as possible.
The sensitivity levels of the robotic arm can be altered to match the task to be performed. The sensitivity can be adjusted for different actions like picking an egg without breaking it to searching a person buried in debris.
The team showed the arms advantages in a test in which a paralyzed man operated it just by using head motions. He was able to use the arm to perform small yet useful tasks for him like to pull a blanket over himself and to wipe his face with a cloth. Thus, making his daily routines much easier and comfortable.
Researchers claim that the skin could have a wide range of applications in many fields including the robotic field itself. For example, underwater robots can feel their way while moving under small or dark spaces.
The research work will be presented at the International Conference on Rehabilitation Robotics in Seattle, Washington.