Optical sensors in robot skin

To improve the sensing ability of robot skin, a research team in Ghent University in Belgium have placed optical sensors in place of the traditional pressure sensors or motor resistance. The main problem with the traditional approach is the underlying electrical components and wires are too inflexible and also increase chances of electromagnetic interference.

To solve this problem, the research team made use of two layers polymer strips. When the pressure is applied on the surface, the change in geometry of the optical sensors produce feedback about the pressure applied and the measured sensitivity is very high. The optical sensors can be packed very closely to each other without creating the problem that the regular pressure sensors have.

To distinguish between differnet types of objects and different force patterns are important. The detailed testing and building a prototype will begin by the end of this year. This concept can find many applications with everyday robots. One immediate application may be for medical surgical robots, where the robot feeds the sensory information back to the doctor.

Reference: www.newscientist.com/article/mg20427366.700-optical-pressure-sensors-give-robots-the-human-touch.html