Now the days are gone when people used to think that robots can’t feel any kind of sensation. Scientists at the Institute of Cognitive System at Technical University of Munich (Technische Universitaet Muenchen, TUM) are developing an artificial skin for robots which is analogous to human skin that can sense a multitude of sensation from the finest breath to touch or pain.
The synthetic skin will provide important tactile information to the robot and thus supplement its perception formed by camera eyes, infrared scanners and gripping hands. The artificial skin when touched could, for example, lead to a spontaneous retreat (when the robot hits an object) or cause the machine to use its eye for the first time to search for the source of contact.
There are six temperature sensors and an accelerometer. This allows the machine to accurately register the movement of individual limbs, for example, of its arms, and thus to learn what body parts it has just moved. Plate for plate, the boards are placed together forming a honeycomb-like planar structure to be worn by the robot. For the machine to have detection ability, the signals from the sensors must be processed by a central computer. This enables each sensory module to not only pass its own information but to also serve as a data hub for different sensory elements. This happens automatically, ensuring that signals can go in alternative ways if a connection fails.
The centre piece of the new robotic shell is a five square cm hexagonal plate or circuit board. Each small circuit board contains four infrared sensors that detect anything closer than one cm.
Philip Mittendorfer, a scientist who is developing the artificial skin said :
We thus simulate light touch. This corresponds to our sense of the fine hairs on our skin being gently stroked.