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Robot Arm Wrapped in Sensitive Skin Has Gentle Touch

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A robotic hand with sufficient sensitivity to pick up a light bulb.

A new robot arm is wrapped in sensor-laden skin that provides it with sufficient sensitivity to use its sense of touch to navigate.

Credit: Virginia Tech College of Engineering

Researchers have developed a robot arm that navigates by using the sense of touch rather than trying to avoid bumping into people and objects.

The Georgia Institute of Technology's Charlie Kemp and colleagues developed the algorithm that enables the arm to work closely and comfortably alongside humans.

The robot arm, for example, will feel its way through foliage or a table full of clutter, take the shortest route to its goal, and gently brush objects aside. However, when meeting a user-defined amount of resistance, the robot arm will recoil and choose a new route.

Users can change the sensitivity level to match the task, such as picking delicate fruit or searching for a person under buried rubble.

The arm is wrapped in a flexible, sensor-laden skin that was developed by Kemp's team. The skin covers the robot's entire arm, and stretches and flexes as the arm moves. The arm features springy joints that enable it to close gently around any object it grips.

From New Scientist
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