Do our chances of giving robots a true sense of touch improve?
Scientists are working on developing electronic skin in the hopes that it could facilitate surgical procedures and potentially be useful for those with mobility disorders.
Due to flexible e-skin, “soft robots” now possess a degree of physical self-awareness that is equivalent to that of humans and other animals.
Researchers at the University of Edinburgh believe that the technique could lead to further improvements in soft robotics by enabling things to precisely detect their movements in the most sensitive surroundings.
A participant in the study, which appeared in the journal Nature Machine Intelligence, was the University of Hong Kong.
Soft robots with e-skin, which scientists develop using flexible materials rather than metal or hard plastics, could be utilized for a range of activities, including surgical instruments, prosthetic limbs, and devices that explore dangerous regions while remaining highly flexible.
Without e-skin, soft robots find it difficult to understand their own motion, shape, and interactions with their surroundings.
The development of the sensory systems needed for robots to carry out precise tasks and safely interact with people is severely hampered as a result.
According to Study Finds, the research team is the first to develop a method that enables soft robots incredibly accurate, real-time sensing capabilities.
Researchers have created a flexible e-skin that is just one millimeter thick, comprised of a thin layer of silicone, and embedded with wires and sensitive detectors.
Using the e-skin and artificial intelligence, scientists were able to give soft robots the ability to instantly sense their motions and deformations with millimeter accuracy in three dimensions, in real-time. By mounting this e-skin to a flexible robot arm, the researchers put it to the test and found that the technology was capable of sensing a wide range of complex bending, stretching, and twisting movements throughout the entire device.
“This new technology gives robotic machines perceptual senses that are comparable to those of humans and other animals.
The sensing skills of soft robots have advanced significantly as a result of this new level of physical self-awareness, according to Dr. Yunjie Yang from the School of Engineering at the University of Edinburgh.
Dr. Francesco Giorgio-Serchi, the co-author of the study and an engineering professor at the School of Engineering, noted that this technology can make robots aware of their own existence by allowing them to see their own form and motion.