A lot of time and energy is currently going into developing technologies that give robots a sense of touch
. In particular, scientists are developing things like artificial skin
that lets robots know how much pressure they’re exerting on an object – this allows them to firmly grip rugged objects, while being more delicate with fragile items. Although most such technologies are fairly complex and expensive, researchers have now developed a cheap tactile sensor that could bring touch sensitivity to consumer and hobbyist applications.
A trip on public transport or to the local coffee shop might give the impression that touchscreens are everywhere, but scientists at Autodesk Research of the University of Alberta and the University of Toronto are looking to take the ubiquity of touch interfaces to the next level. They are developing a “Magic Finger” that allows any surface to detect touch input by shifting the touch technology from the surface to the wearer’s finger.
Having long been successful with "talkies," Disney has developed technology that could allow the creation of "feelies." While designed more for touchscreens than the silver screen, the REVEL system developed at Disney Research uses reverse electrovibration to bring computerized control over the sense of touch, thereby allowing programmers to change the feel of real-world surfaces and objects without requiring users to wear special gloves or use force-feedback devices.
We’ve seen the development of a number of technologies that could be used to provide robots with a sense of touch, such as proximity and temperature sensing hexagonal plates
and artificial skin
constructed from semiconductor nanowires. However, perhaps none are as impressive as a tactile sensor developed by researchers at the University of California’s Viterbi School of Engineering. The group’s BioTac sensor was built to mimic a human fingertip and can outperform humans in identifying a wide range of materials, offering potential use for the technology in robotics and prostheses.
What if you could feel what's on your television screen? Tech company Senseg is working on a way for you to someday be able to do just that, and recently demonstrated a prototype tablet that is already able to make that magic happen.
Studies have shown that with the right amount of white noise in the background, peoples’ sight, hearing, balance control and sense of touch improve. Utilizing stochastic resonance, which is the principle at work in white noise, researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology have discovered that the sense of touch can also
be improved by applying vibrations to a person’s finger. They have been testing a glove that incorporates a prototype fingertip-buzzing device, that could ultimately lead to products worn by people with nerve damage, or whose jobs require exceptional manual dexterity.
Providing robots with sensory inputs is one of the keys to the development of more capable and useful machines. Sight and hearing are the most common senses bestowed upon our mechanical friends (perhaps soon to be foes?), but even taste
and smell have got a look in. With the sense of touch so important to human beings, there have also been a number of efforts to give robots the sense of touch so they can better navigate and interact with their environments. The latest attempt to create a touchy feely robot comes from the Technical University Munich (TUM) where researchers have produced small hexagonal plates, which when joined together, form a sensitive skin.
Of all the things we expected to see on display at CES
in Las Vegas, a garbage can was not one of them. Nonetheless, amongst the tablet computers, 3D camcorders and iPhone apps, there sat the simplehuman sensor can. Like some other “touchless” garbage cans, its built-in sensor detects when someone is nearby, causing the can to obligingly open its lid. What makes it special – perhaps – is the company’s claim that the can’s “multi-sense” technology can adapt to what the user is doing.
In-car navigation systems
that literally tell drivers where to go are much more convenient and safer than resting a street directory on one’s lap and quickly trying to devise a route on a map at a set of traffic lights. But audio instructions may not always be the best way to impart directional information to hard of hearing drivers or those yakking on a mobile phone – with a hands-free kit I should hope. A new study suggests that devices mounted to a steering wheel that pull the driver’s index fingertips left or right could help motorists drive more safely. The same technology could also be attached to a cane to provide directional cues to blind pedestrians.
It’s not uncommon to see children attempt to reach out and touch objects the first time they don 3D glasses and sit down in front of a 3D TV
. Researchers at the University of California, San Diego, have created a new virtual reality device that enables users to do just that. The relatively low-cost device called the Heads-Up Virtual Reality device (HUVR) combines a consumer 3D HDTV panel and a touch-feedback (haptic
) device to enable users not only to see a 3D image, but “feel” it too.