Revolutionary Robotic Sensory System Can Identify Textures

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Human beings can easily recognize an item simply by lightly swiping their fingers across its surface and getting input of static pressure and high-frequency vibrations. In the past, there have been attempts at developing artificial tactile sensors for perceiving physical inputs, but those had difficulty recognizing the real world just by touch.

A team of scientists at the Southern University of Science and Technology in China has recently developed an artificial sensory system that can detect tiny textures (such as twill, corduroy, and wool) with precision similar to a human finger. This discovery, published in ‘Nature Communications’, may pave the way to improve the fine tactile sense skills of robots and human limb prostheses.

According to Interesting Engineering, when it comes to flexible tactile sensors, scientists have been struggling with making them identify small surface properties (like an object’s texture or roughness). To deal with this, artificial sensory systems often use two sensors- one for the detection of static pressure, and the other specifically for the detection of vibration.

The team created a flexible slip sensor that replicates human fingerprint characteristics, allowing the system to detect microscopic details on surface textures while touching or sliding the sensor across the surface. The researchers fitted the sensor onto a prosthetic human hand using machine learning.

This study provides a real-time and visual artificial sensory system of prosthetics based on a single flexible sensor, which has an ultrahigh sensitivity and high spatial resolution, and the sensor’s excellent resolution lets it distinguish microscopic surface features with tight spacings.

The team explains that a real-time sensory system can be used to classify 20 different textiles with high accuracy. The system is expected to enhance robotics and prosthetic sensing technologies and might be valuable for the sensory recovery of patients wearing prostheses.