Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Robot hands gain a gentler touch: Tactile sensing technology builds on tiny barometer chips

Date:
April 18, 2013
Source:
Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences
Summary:
What use is a hand without nerves, that can't tell what it's holding? A hand that lifts a can of soda to your lips, but inadvertently tips or crushes it in the process? Scientists have now developed a very inexpensive tactile sensor for robotic hands that is sensitive enough to turn a brute machine into a dextrous manipulator.

An 8x5 tactile array provides gram-level sensitivity in hardware created from MEMS barometers and standard manufacturing processes.
Credit: Photo courtesy of Leif Jentoft

What use is a hand without nerves, that can't tell what it's holding? A hand that lifts a can of soda to your lips, but inadvertently tips or crushes it in the process?

Researchers at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) have developed a very inexpensive tactile sensor for robotic hands that is sensitive enough to turn a brute machine into a dextrous manipulator.

Designed by researchers in the Harvard Biorobotics Laboratory at SEAS, the sensor, called TakkTile, is intended to put what would normally be a high-end technology within the grasp of commercial inventors, teachers, and robotics enthusiasts.

"Despite decades of research, tactile sensing hasn't moved into general use because it's been expensive and fragile," explains co-creator Leif Jentoft, a graduate student at SEAS. "It normally costs about $16,000, give or take, to put tactile sensing on a research robot hand. That's really limited where people can use it. The traditional technology also uses very specialized construction techniques, which can slow down your work. Now, Takktile changes that because it's based on much simpler and cheaper fabrication methods."

TakkTile takes an existing device -- a tiny barometer, which senses air pressure -- and adds a layer of vacuum-sealed rubber to it, protecting it from as much as 25 pounds of direct pressure. Jentoft and co-creator Yaroslav Tenzer, a postdoctoral fellow, say that the chips can even survive a strike from a hammer or a baseball bat. At the same time, Takktile is sensitive enough to detect a very slight touch.

The result, when added to a mechanical hand, is a robot that knows what it's touching. It can pick up a balloon without popping it. It can pick up a key and use it to unlock a door.

Beyond robotics, Jentoft and Tenzer suggest that the TakkTile sensor could be used in a range of electronic devices. A toy manufacturer could make a stuffed puppy that responds to petting; a medical device designer could create a laparoscopic gripper that's gentle enough to tease apart tissue during surgery.

"Not everyone has the bandwidth to do the research themselves, but there are plenty of people who could find new applications and ways of using this," says Tenzer.

The sensors can be built using relatively simple equipment; the patented process relies on standard methods used in printed circuit board fabrication, along with access to a vacuum chamber. The tiny barometers are available cheaply because they have been widely used in cell phones and GPS units that can sense altitude.

Along with their adviser, Robert D. Howe, Abbott and James Lawrence Professor of Engineering at SEAS, Jentoft and Tenzer are pursuing commercial opportunities with help from Harvard's Office of Technology Development. Harvard plans to license the technology to companies interested in offering prefabricated sensors or in integrating TakkTile sensing into products such as robots, consumer devices, and industrial products.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. "Robot hands gain a gentler touch: Tactile sensing technology builds on tiny barometer chips." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 18 April 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130418104231.htm>.
Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. (2013, April 18). Robot hands gain a gentler touch: Tactile sensing technology builds on tiny barometer chips. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 24, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130418104231.htm
Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. "Robot hands gain a gentler touch: Tactile sensing technology builds on tiny barometer chips." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130418104231.htm (accessed July 24, 2014).

Share This




More Matter & Energy News

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Creative Makeovers for Ugly Cellphone Towers

Creative Makeovers for Ugly Cellphone Towers

AP (July 24, 2014) Mobile phone companies and communities across the country are going to new lengths to disguise those unsightly cellphone towers. From a church bell tower to a flagpole, even a pencil, some towers are trying to make a point. (July 24) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Algonquin Power Goes Activist on Its Target Gas Natural

Algonquin Power Goes Activist on Its Target Gas Natural

TheStreet (July 23, 2014) When The Deal's Amanda Levin exclusively reported that Gas Natural had been talking to potential suitors, the Ohio company responded with a flat denial, claiming its board had not talked to anyone about a possible sale. Lo and behold, Canadian utility Algonquin Power and Utilities not only had approached the company, but it did it three times. Its last offer was for $13 per share as Gas Natural's was trading at a 60-day moving average of about $12.50 per share. Now Algonquin, which has a 4.9% stake in Gas Natural, has taken its case to shareholders, calling on them to back its proposals or, possibly, a change in the target's board. Video provided by TheStreet
Powered by NewsLook.com
Robot Parking Valet Creates Stress-Free Travel

Robot Parking Valet Creates Stress-Free Travel

AP (July 23, 2014) 'Ray' the robotic parking valet at Dusseldorf Airport in Germany lets travelers to avoid the hassle of finding a parking spot before heading to the check-in desk. (July 23) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Boeing Ups Outlook on 52% Profit Jump

Boeing Ups Outlook on 52% Profit Jump

Reuters - Business Video Online (July 23, 2014) Commercial aircraft deliveries rose seven percent at Boeing, prompting the aerospace company to boost full-year profit guidance- though quarterly revenues missed analyst estimates. Bobbi Rebell reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins