This electronic glove can give robots a sense of human touch



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BOSTON: Stanford scientists have developed an electronic glove containing sensors that could one day give robotic hands a sense of human touch and dexterity.

In a study published in the journal Science Robotics, researchers have shown that the sensors work well enough to allow a robotic hand to touch a delicate berry and manipulate a ping-pong ball without crushing it.

"This technology puts us on a path to one day giving robots the kind of detection capability found in human skin," said Zhenan Bao of Stanford University in the United States.

The sensors at the fingertips of the glove simultaneously measure the intensity and direction of pressure, two qualities essential for achieving manual dexterity, the researchers said.

They still need to perfect the technology to automatically control these sensors, but when they do, a robot using the glove may have the ability to hold an egg between the thumb and forefinger without crushing it or letting it slip.

The electronic glove mimics the way the layers of human skin work together to give the hands an extraordinary sensitivity.

human touch

Our outer layer of skin is imbued with sensors to detect pressure, heat and other stimuli, the researchers said. Our fingers and palms are particularly rich in touch sensors.

Post-doctoral student Clementine Boutry and master student Marc Negre led the development of electronic sensors that mimic this human mechanism.

Each sensor at the fingertip of the robotic glove is made up of three flexible layers that work together.

The upper and lower layers are electrically active. The researchers placed a grid of electrical lines on each of the two opposing surfaces, like lines in a field, and turned these lines perpendicular to each other to create a dense series of small sensor pixels.

They also made the lower layer rugged like the spinosum.

To test their technology, the researchers placed their three-layer sensors on the fingers of a rubber glove and placed the glove in a robotic hand.

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Eventually, the goal is to insert sensors directly into a skin-like cover for robotic hands.

In one experiment, they programmed a robotic hand that uses gloves to gently touch a berry without damaging it. They also programmed the gloved hand to lift and move a ping-pong ball without crushing it, using the sensor to detect the proper shear force to grab the ball without knocking it over.

With proper programming, a robotic hand using the current touch-sensitive glove could perform a repetitive task, such as removing the eggs from a mat and placing them in cardboard boxes.

The technology may also have applications in robot-assisted surgery, where precise touch control is essential.

However, the ultimate goal is to develop an advanced version of the glove that automatically applies the right amount of force to safely manipulate an object without prior programming.

"We can program a robotic hand to touch a raspberry without crushing it, but we are a long way from being able to detect and detect raspberry and allow the robot to pick it," Bao said.

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