from the Excellence Cluster CoTeSys at the Technische Universität München (TUM)
have created a sensitive skin for robots that allows them to feel temperature
and a light touch.
Philip Mittendorfer, study leader and a scientist at the Institute of Cognitive
Systems at TUM, and Gordon Cheng, professor at the Institute of Cognitive
Systems at TUM, have developed an ultra-sensitive robot skin that will enable robot self-perception,
allowing robots to maneuver their environment.
The new robotic skin contains a 5 square centimeter hexagonal circuit board or
plate, where each small circuit board holds four infrared sensors that identify
anything closer than 1 centimeter. This detects light touch, such as the fine
hairs on human skin being stroked. In addition, there are six temperature
sensors and one accelerometer, which allow the robot to register the movement
of individual limbs.
The boards are put together to form a planar structure that is worn by the
robot. The signals from the sensors are processed by a central computer, which
allows each sensory module to pass information along and act as a "data
hub" for separate sensory elements. This allows the robot to feel a light
touch, a breeze and warmth from the sun.
This robot skin, coupled with gripping hands, camera eyes and infrared
scanners, will allow robots to become more human-like. These sorts of machines could help
those who are required to travel through different environments.
"We try to pack many different sensory modalities into the smallest of
spaces," said Mittendorfer. "In addition, it is easy to expand the
circuit boards to later include other sensors, for example, pressure."
The skin is not yet complete, but 15 sensors on a small piece of complete skin have shown that the robot skin
does work. A light touch to the skin causes the robot arm to react.
"We will close the skin and generate a prototype which is completely
enclosed with these sensors and can interact anew with its environment,"