The main applications mentioned by the researchers are giving industrial robots a finer sense of touch for distinguishing more easily and quickly among objects they handle, as well as prosthetic hands for people.
Beth, I can think of one right off the bat from some groups I have been talking to. The application is automated product inspection. This is done now with vision systems. Adding a tactile sensor to the inspection system would be useful in a lot of situations. Presently, we use vision systems to evaluate texture of surfaces. This could be tuned to be more accurate.
One more example of how technology is making robots much more human-like. But what's the business benefit of having a robot develop a sense of touch? Are there specific applications where this kind of added capability would be useful?