Robotics
Robot Hands Get Gentler With Tactile Sensing Technology

Robots are supposed to make our lives easier,helping us in our daily activities.In order to lend us a hand in doing various works,robots will need some pretty good hands  themselves.Creation of robot hands is always a challenge for the scientists and over the past few years they have developed robotic hands with high strength and sensitivity.

Like humans,robot hands lack nerves and it just knew the right amount of force to employ for holding a particular item.But a hand without nerves that cannot sense what it is holding doesn’t prove to be beneficial.It will be a hand with no senses that lifts a can of soda to your lips, but inadvertently tips or crushes it in the process.

To enable the sensitivity and make robot hands more gentler,Researchers at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) have developed a mild and a very inexpensive tactile sensor for robotic hands that is capable of turning a rough machine into a skillful operator.

The sensor, called TakkTile is designed by researchers in the Harvard Biorobotics Laboratory at SEAS.

1-robothandsgaTactile sensing normally costs about $16,000, give or take,to put the technology on a research robot hand and it also uses very specialized construction techniques, which can slow down the work.Due to these drawbacks,the use of tactile sensing was limited.

It has not been utilized since decades because of its expensive and fragile nature.Now, Takktile changes that because it’s based on much simpler and cheaper fabrication methods.

To get the work done,TakkTile relies completely on a small barometer that senses air pressure.The chip itself is hard enough to handle a stroke from a hammer or a baseball bat and at the same time it is equally sensitive to detect even the slightest of touches.

The result, when added to a mechanical hand, is a robot that knows what it is touching. It can pick up a balloon without popping it. It can pick up a key and use it to unlock a door.It can hold an egg gently and can carry a brick with required energy.

The sensors can be built using simple equipment and the process completely depends on standard methods used in printed circuit board fabrication,along with access to a vacuum chamber.The tiny barometers are available cheaply because they have been widely used in cell phones and GPS units that can sense altitude.

Apart from robotics,TakkTile sensor can also be used in a wide range of electronic devices and in many other fields. For example,a toy manufacturer could make a stuffed puppy that responds to petting; a medical device designer could create a laparoscopic gripper that’s gentle enough to tease apart tissue during surgery.

“Not everyone has the bandwidth to do the research themselves, but there are plenty of people who could find new applications and ways of using this,” says Prof Tenzer,one of the scientists.

Harvard plans to license this patented technology to companies which are interested in offering prefabricated sensors or which can integrate TakkTile sensing into products such as robots, consumer devices, and other industrial products.

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