Saturday, May 14, 2005

High-Tech Robot Skin

by Lori Keesey

Goddard Technologist Proposes Sensitive Skin Covering for Robots

Lumelsky, until recently a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, has begun setting up a laboratory at Goddard to develop a high-tech covering that would enable robots to sense their environment and react to it, much like humans respond when something or someone touches their skin. Such a technology, which he refers to as a "High-Tech Skin," is essential for carrying out the Vision for Space Exploration because the Vision depends heavily on humans and robots working together under a variety of working conditions, many of them highly unstructured, Lumelsky said.

Although great headway is being made in the area of computer vision, vision isn’t enough, he said. "Humans can survive without sight, but they can’t survive without tactile sensing. The skin is the biggest organ in our body. It's nothing more than a huge sensor."

The idea is to develop a "sensitive skin" that technicians could use to cover a robot. This skin will include more than 1,000 infrared sensors that would detect an object, and send the information to the robot's "brain."
Future skin prototypes likely will have a higher density of sensors on the skin, which will provide the robots with even greater dexterity.

PhysOrg: High-Tech Robot Skin


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