Robots could become a lot more 'sensitive' thanks to new artificial skins and sensor technologies. Leading to better robotic platforms that could one day be used in industry, hospitals and even at home.
The new capabilities, and a production system for building touch-sensitivity into different robots, will improve the way robots work in unconstrained settings, as well as their ability to communicate and cooperate with each other and with humans.
The EU-funded project 'Skin-based technologies and capabilities for safe, autonomous and interactive robots' (ROBOSKIN) developed new sensor technologies and management systems which give robots an artificial sense of touch -- until now an elusive quality in robotics.
According to the partners behind the research from Italy, Switzerland and the UK, it was important to create cognitive mechanisms that use tactile feedback (the sense of 'touch' or 'feel') and behaviour to make sure human-robot interaction is safe and effective for the envisaged future applications.
The artificial skin is modelled largely on real skin, which has a tiny network of nerves that sense or feel changes like hot/cold or rough/smooth. In this case, the electronic sensors collect this so-called 'tactile data' and process it using application software which has been front-loaded to include some basic robot behaviours which can be added to over time.