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Giving Robots the Sense of Touch

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A robot shaking hands with a human.

A researcher at Glasgow University is working to develop ultra-flexible tactile skin, for robots and prosthetics.


Glasgow University researcher Ravinder Dahiya will spend the next four years developing ultra-flexible tactile skin for robotics and prosthetics. Dahiya, who received an Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council grant for the research, believes he has found a way to incorporate electronics and sensors on bendable silicon surfaces that will be 50 micrometers thick.

"So far, robotics research has focused on using dexterous hands, but if the whole body of a robot is covered with skin, it will be able to carry out tasks like lifting an elderly person," he says.

Dahiya will work with other specialists at the university to create silicon-based nanowires that are printed on bendable substrates in a way that eventually will lead to flexible electronics or tactile skin with distributed sensors and electronics. The printing technique will produce high-performance electronics at a low cost base.

Tactile skin would enable robots to interact the way humans do as they lift and gauge the right amount of pressure while performing various tasks. "In such a scenario, robots should have skin so that they can feel like we do--whether the surface is hard or soft, or rough or smooth," Dahiya says. "They should be able to feel weight."

From The Engineer (United Kingdom)
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