Robots come closer to having the ability to ‘touch’

Scientists are working on giving robots the ability to touch and feel objects by providing them with artificial skin embedded with optical sensors.

The need for robots to acquire such skills is increasing in urgency, now that robots are working with humans in closer environments and in ever more delicate ways – for example in surgery.

“We’re desperate for new materials to let robots be able to feel the world,” says Chris Melhuish of the Bristol Robotics Laboratory in the UK. It’s equally important, he says, that artificial skin gives a pressure reading that allows a robot to distinguish between different types of objects and different patterns of forces.

Missinne is hopeful that his skin can do this but has yet to prove it. He presented his latest findings, demonstrating that pressure triggers light to escape from one set of polymer strips to another, at the IMEC Flexible and Stretchable Electronics workshop in Ghent last week.

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