Beacon Transcript – Future robot models may be coming with a gentler touch as researchers have developed what they call a soft robot hand.
A recent release, also nature-inspired, will be bringing the machines even closer to us.
A team of Cornell University robotics engineers has developed a new robotic hand. Research on the matter has been published in the Science Robotics journal.
The research article, led by Huichan Zhao, was released last week under the following name. “Optoelectronically innervated soft prosthetic hand via stretchable optical waveguides.”
Zhao, who is a Cornell doctoral candidate in mechanical engineering, went to explain. According to her, soft robotics could come to produce an item resembling a human hand.
As such, through this robotics branch, a gentler touch, that would resemble a human touch, could be achieved.
A first such robot could be the “Gentle Bot”, developed by the team. The Gentle Bot is able to touch fragile objects, which would have previously been unavailable.
It is also capable of sensing the texture and shape of the objects with which it interacts. This gentler touch could go a long way in robotics.
Zhao explained that a human hand is a soft structure with quite a number of sensors. As such, the hand does not function as a set of motors which drive each individual joint.
The soft robotics technology is already being used for industrial purposes. It is currently used in order to handle food or other such products in factories and warehouses.
However, the Gentle Bot could greatly expand the use of such a technology. It could, for example, allow robots to interact directly with humans. Or it could help them squeeze into tighter spaces.
Advances in soft robotics could also contribute to the development of better prosthetics.
Previous robotic hands were only able to interact with electricity conducting objects. This property helped them determine what they were touching.
However, the gentler touch Bot is able to interact with more items. In order to be able to detect it, the respective object must be a light-conductor.
Zhao explained that most of the current robots have outside sensors that help them detect surface objects.
In contrast, the Gentle Bot has sensors integrated within it. The details, published in a university press release, offered further data.
The sensors used by the team are capable of detecting the forces being transmitted throughout the robot’s thickness.
Zhao went to resemble the gentler touch mechanism to the human ability to feel pain. According to the research team, another advantage of the gentler touch robot is its cost.
As the robotic hand relies on light signals, it can be made from cheaper materials. The price was compared to that of electricity sensors-based robotics.
The Gentle Bot was put to a series of tests before its release. Researchers had it select the ripest tomato between three such fruits.
They also had the robotic hand pick up a ripe tomato without crushing it or shake a human hand. As most tests were successful, the robot does have some limitations.
For example, it cannot distinguish an unripe, real tomato from its acrylic-based counterpart.
However, in forever advancing domain, such a gentler touch robotic hand could mark an important step forward as a future helping hand.
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