Robotics
Artificial Skin For Robots Could Make Them More Sensitive

The concept of creating machines that can operate automatically lead to the evolution of Robots. In the modern world, these machines are used for various purposes which helped humans to do the complex tasks in a faster and efficient manner. Robots are considered to be the replacement of manpower and surpassed human strength.

Efforts are being carried out through out the world to improve the field of robotics by enhancing the capabilities of present day robots. Robots may not have a sense of emotional feelings but a research team may soon make robots that possess physical feelings with artificial skin making them more sensitive to touch.

The researchers at the University of Southern California’s Viterbi School of Engineering have developed artificial skins and sensor technologies that can amplify sensitivity in robots. This new techniques pave way for a better robotic platforms that could be used in various areas like industries, hospitals etc in near future.

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The project named ‘Skin-based technologies and capabilities for safe, autonomous and interactive robots’ (ROBOSKIN) is funded by EU’s Seventh Framework Programme created new management systems along with sensor technologies which give robots the sense of touch.

According to the scientists, it is very important to invent machines that use tactile feedback and behaviour to assure that the human-robot interaction is safe and effective for the future robotic applications.

The artificial skin is shaped like real skin, which has a tiny network of nerves that can sense or feel changes like hot/cold or rough/smooth. The “tactile data” is collected and processed by the electronic sensors and an application which has been front-loaded to include robotic behaviours which can be added to over time.

“Here, we opted for programming through demonstration and robot-assisted play so the robots learn as they go along by feeling, doing and interacting,” explains project coordinator Professor Giorgio Cannata of Genoa University, Italy.

Considering the fact that robot knowledge is extremely complex and by classifying the  types or degrees of touch, ROBOSKIN started experiments in labs. Using the constant contact between the test robot and the environment, a geometric mapping is created to develop a “body representation”.

On the other hand, ROBOSKIN patches were applied to common touch points to the KASPAR robot, a humanoid robot developed by the University of Hertfordshire which is aimed to assist autistic children to communicate better. With the sensors, the robot could detect contact and distinguished between wanted and unwanted touch.

Although, tactile sensing technology is not new to the world of robotics, the ROBOSKIN project has succeeded in adding more sensory perception to robots by developing a unique method of building tactile sensing into different robots.

According to the scientists, the prototype work is still in the pre-commercial demonstrator stage but it surely has a wider applications in various fields. Overall, the scientists claim that they have achieved technologies compatible across different robotic platforms that will make robots sensitive physically. Patents have been granted for the research teams work.

With this new technology, there could be a significant improvement in the way robots work in unconstrained settings along with their ability to interact and cooperate with each other and with humans.

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