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Science Technology

Electronic Sensor Rivals Sensitivity of Human Skin 39

Posted by samzenpus
from the super-touch dept.
ananyo writes "A flexible electronic sensor made from interlocking hairs can detect the gentle steps of a ladybird and distinguish between shear and twisting forces. The sensor consists of two interlocking sheets of nanofibres. When the sensor sheet is pressed, twisted or brushed, the squishy, metal-coated hairs change position, generating changes in the sensor's electrical resistance (abstract). Such subtle tactile input would be very useful for robots designed to interact with people, says Matei Ciocarlie, a scientist at robotics company Willow Garage. 'Skin has been an overlooked part of robotics,' says Ciocarlie, because it poses such a challenging problem: in addition to being robust, sensitive and flexible, it needs to be made in very large sheets."
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Electronic Sensor Rivals Sensitivity of Human Skin

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  • by i kan reed (749298) on Monday July 30, 2012 @02:04PM (#40820269) Homepage Journal

    Maybe now, at the airport, we can get a robot to feel my junk instead.

    • by Anonymous Coward
      Because no other women or man would touch it in the first place. :)
    • by Thundaaa Struk (1375331) on Monday July 30, 2012 @02:14PM (#40820337)
      Can American Airlines have a queue for it's Executive Platinum members where they can get felt up by a robot with Asian women sized hands? It's the little things that count....right?
  • Very nice (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Animats (122034) on Monday July 30, 2012 @02:19PM (#40820383) Homepage

    This is useful. There have been various other attempts at building a robot skin with sensors, but they haven't been very good. Arrays of pressure sensors, like a touch screen, have been built, but nothing has been good enough to be really useful.

    Being able to sense shear forces is very useful when picking up something. One of the low-level reflexes in the body is the one that maintains contact with things you're holding, applying enough pressure to keep the object from slipping, but not much more than that. Robots need that, too.

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      This is useful. There have been various other attempts at building a robot skin with sensors, but they haven't been very good. Arrays of pressure sensors, like a touch screen, have been built, but nothing has been good enough to be really useful.

      The big problem with most of the solutions I've seen is that they wear out pretty fast. Skin is self-renewing, rubber isn't. But I wonder if a replaceable rubber skin and capacitance sensing won't wind up being the big winner.

  • nanfibres

    Electronic sensor is PEOPLE!

    • I was wondering if the fibers flew through the air shitting out rainbows while a silly tune played in the background.

  • The sensor consists of two interlocking sheets of nanfibres.

    Hmmm nanfibres, can I have some chicken biryani with it?

  • Such subtle tactile input would be very useful for robots designed to interact with people

    In other words, this is for sexbots to react more effectively. Now more than ever we need to listen to the Space Pope: Don't Date Robots!

    • Dude, you're not using your Cherry 500 correctly. You're not supposed to care about how it feels. Maybe in a later version...

  • This is very cool. But is it as tough as human skin. Granted we can be cut, scraped etc, but real skin is quite durable and even when damaged can self repair almost always. But I guess you have to start somewhere and this sounds good. A real necessity.
    • They can just replace it later, like changing a tire. It only has to last until John Connor is killed anyway.
  • by uncanny (954868) on Monday July 30, 2012 @02:50PM (#40820695)
    Now they can feel simulated pain!
  • everyone has always known, garbage in garbage out.
    If we can get better quality inputs into robotics, it will make the processing steps much easier.

    The amount of information that comes from touch... being deaf or blind is a disadvantage, but having no sense of touch would be absolutely crippling for a human!

    I have great hope that this will be a huge leap forward when it goes into production.

    • This I can attest to. A while back I got a pretty deep large cut on one of my fingers enough so that it did a fair amount of nerve damage and now have no feeling on the top part of that finger. I don't feel when things touch it, hot, cold, etc. Because of this I have accidentally gotten some bad burns and not known about it. Granted this is nothing compared to those stories that come up every so often of the poor kid who doesn't feel any pain [google.com] that really would be hell.
  • It's "Matei Ciocârlie", not "Matei Ciocarlie"

    "â" is not "a". The same way as "w" is not replaceable with "vv" in english names.

    The letter "â" can be easily written in HTML as "â"

    • by serbanp (139486)

      I wonder how he's spelling his own name on the Driving License... Very likely with "a" and not with "â"

  • ...for such a beautiful gift.

  • The skin also needs to be stain-resistant and washable. Yes. I said it. You can't un-read it.

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