When it comes to the hands and fingers of a robot, we might take for granted that it knows just the right amount of force to exert to hold a particular item, which is a no brainer of sorts for us humans, but how can a robot tell whether it should handle an egg gently, while carrying a brick requires it exert the adequate amount of pressure and force to prevent said brick from slipping away? After all, robots lack nerves that us humans do, but the researchers over at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) have come up with an affordable tactile sensor meant for robotic hands, enabling said bionic hands to be sensitive enough to function as a dextrous manipulator.


The sensor is known as TakkTile, and according to co-creator Leif Jentoft, a graduate student at SEAS, “Despite decades of research, tactile sensing hasn’t moved into general use because it’s been expensive and fragile. It normally costs about $16,000, give or take, to put tactile sensing on a research robot hand. That’s really limited where people can use it. The traditional technology also uses very specialized construction techniques, which can slow down your work. Now, Takktile changes that because it’s based on much simpler and cheaper fabrication methods.”

It relies on a small barometer that senses air pressure to get the job done, and the chip itself is hardy enough to handle a strike from a hammer or a baseball bat, despite being sensitive enough to detect even the slightest of touches. Now this is definitely progress, no?

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