Thursday, October 21

A new artificial skin allows robots to perceive human touch

A new artificial skin allows robots to perceive human touch

A new artificial skin allows robots to perceive human touch

Japanese researchers have created a 3-D vision-guided artificial skin that enables high-performance touch sensing and can solve one of the great problems of robotic systems: the inability to perceive human touch to interact more closely and efficiently. with the people. It also opens doors to countless applications in medicine, healthcare, and industry.

A group of specialists from the Advanced Institute of Science and Technology of Japan has developed an artificial detection system that manages to collect and process tactile information using a 3-D stereo camera. According to a release, the innovation is applied in an artificial skin device to be incorporated into robots.

Beyond the great advances in robotics, one of the pending subjects in this specialty is to ensure that robots can communicate in a more natural and efficient way with humans. For this, it is vital that they manage to perceive touch.

The new technology, called TacLINK, advances in this sense and does so through a more dynamic and functional proposal in relation to previous developments, which required excessively bulky and complex electronic accessories.

Instead, the new system uses a relatively simple and inexpensive structure, which obtains information from the environment from a 3D vision mechanism. In this way, it is able to determine the strength and geometric characteristics of the shapes it contacts.

Functional and simple

The innovation took shape from a study published in the journal IEEE Transactions on Robotics. Scientists describe the new system as a transparent acrylic tube, which functions as a rigid frame simulating bones, covered by a very soft artificial skin.

The artificial skin sector has a detection area, which is responsible for collecting environmental data by connecting to 3D cameras. Silicone rubber was used to manufacture the leather, taking into account its excellent elasticity and smoothness conditions.

According to the researchers, the material can inflate, change its shape and vary from a rigid state to a more flexible one. To obtain the ability to detect touch, the specialists printed a series of markers on the surface of the artificial skin.

This characteristic marks a great difference with respect to other previous developments, which included sensors or electronic devices inside the skin. Thanks to the new approach, it was possible to reduce the volume of the system, make it more economical and also safer.

Countless applications

Based on the results obtained, the researchers believe that artificial skin could lead to the emergence of a new generation of robotic devices with touch sensitivity.

They clarified that the new artificial skin can be incorporated into many parts of the robot’s body, such as fingers, legs, chest and head. In addition, it could be used in new intelligent prostheses for human beings, making it possible for a person with a disability or physical pathology to perceive sensations in almost the same way as someone healthy.

Another application of this new technology could be the design of sensory devices for use in medicine or in different branches of industry. The aforementioned prostheses, or accessories to perform tasks that require tactile sensitivity but at the same time are dangerous could be some of the specific applications.

Finally, specialists believe that the new artificial fur it can be ideal for creating new robotic systems to provide remote services using avatars. These technologies may be widely required at the end of the COVID-19 pandemic.


Large-Scale Vision-Based Tactile Sensing for Robot Links: Design, Modeling, and Evaluation. Lac Van Duong et al. IEEE Transactions on Robotics (2020).DOI:

Photo: Pete Linforth en Pixabay.

Video: HO lab.

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