‘Smart skin’ that gives robots a sense of touch
Scientists working on ‘smart skin’ for robots are also striving to achieve improved touch and grasping sensations. The electronics need to mimic human skin which already has lots of sensors. Understanding how many sensors are needed is a real challenge…it can be thousands for some applications. Robotics experts also have to work out the exact position, angle and level of external force that could be applied to a touch sensor on the robot and ways that the external force reacts to the object.
At QUT in Australia, researchers Ajay Pandey and Jonathan Roberts have developed robots that can walk, see, talk, hear, smell and manipulate objectives but getting a sense of touch is another story. The QUT researchers are now addressing some of the challenges associated with touch with a new form of tactile sensor that uses nanometre-thin films of organic LEDs (OLEDS) and organic photodiodes (OPD) to measure soft touch. OLED technology is normally found in television and smartphone screens.
This new approach to measuring the sense of touch based on optical force sensing has been described as a significant step forward in simplifying a ‘smart skin’ layout for large area applications. The QUT researchers now hope to progress their research to a point where robots have full body sensing in the air as well as when wet or even underwater.