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Researchers Teaching Robots to Feel and React to Pain


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A robot appearing to perceive pain.

Researchers at Leibniz University of Hannover, Germany, are developing an artificial robot nervous system to teach robots how to feel pain and quickly react in order to avoid potential damage to their motors, gears, and electronics.

Credit: Rock Em Sock Em Homees

Researchers from Germany's Leibniz University are developing an "artificial robot nervous system to teach robots how to feel pain" and quickly react in order to avoid potential damage.

According to Leibniz researcher Johannes Kuehn, shielding robots from damage will protect people as well, given the growing trend of robots being deployed to operate in close proximity to human workers.

In collaboration with Leibniz professor Sami Haddadin, Kuehn created a bio-inspired robot controller that mimics pain-reflex mechanisms to react and protect the robot from potential physical harm.

"We focus on the formalization of robot pain, based on insights from human pain research, as an interpretation of tactile sensation," Kuehn and Haddadin note.

The researchers say their prototype controller features a tactile system using a "nervous robot-tissue model that is inspired by the human skin structure" to decide how much pain the robot should sense for a given amount of force. The model transmits pain information in repetitive spikes if the force surpasses a specific threshold, and the controller reacts after classifying the information as light, moderate, or severe pain.

From IEEE Spectrum
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