Oh I completely agree with you, Rob. In general I think robotic research is one of the most exciting areas right now in terms of innovation. There are some very clever people at work and it's constantly blowing my mind what they're coming up with!
No question that tactile sensing is very important robotics technology, and there seems to be many interesting developments in this area. It's harder to imagine what applications would enable the technology to be used in consumer applications because of costs.
I agree, Elizabeth. But it's also exciting to see robots extend into so many other areas, from replicating animal movement to activities that are very functional without mimicking the movements of humans or animals.
I designed the same thing while at Sarcos in 1993. It was a DARPA project putting tactile sensor on the robotic hand that we had developed previously. Each of the 3 finger segments had arrays of squishy silicone bumps with floating couplers that deflected when pressure was applied. That displacement was sensed by a capacitance sensor.
It's funny how technologies recirculate after 20 years.
It worked quite well (for the stardards of the day) but it didn't make it to any mass production.
I disagree with you, Elizabeth. A robot is a machine with a degree of autonomy, not a mechanized human substitute. Providing them with human-like qualities can be more of a hinderence than a help - it over-complicates them. It also helps us forget that they are nothing but machines, and the more predictable they are, the safer they are. You really don't want to see your Roomba going off at a tangent and chasing the dog out of the living room, do you?
Thanks for this post. I read about this technology before and found it quite interesting with lots of potential applications. Robots will never be just like humans, of course, but I think the closer we can get to giving them some key human-like qualities, the more useful they can be in certain applications. This is one example.
One of the inimitable features of the human arm is its capacity for simultaneously doing heavy work with a soft touch. If this technology can enable a robot to do both, then it would be capable of doing all kinds of things in the home, such as lifting small chldren or elderly adults who have fallen. Sound like a great step forward for the factory or the home.
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