Connecting robotic touch and vision

katherine kuchenbeckerSome months ago I wrote about soft robots that could delicately pick up fragile objects [see my post entitled ‘Robots with a delicate touch’ on June 3rd, 2015]. These robots, developed by George Whiteside’s research group, went some way towards mimicking the function of our hands.  However, these robots are numb because they have no sense of touch.  Think about how hard it would be to strike a match or pick up an egg without your sense of touch. Katherine Kuchenbecker from the University of Pennsylvania is working on robots with tactile sensors that detect pressure and vibrations.  This sensitivity transforms their ability to perform delicate tasks such as picking up an egg, or perhaps more significantly perform surgery.  I listened to Professor Kuchenberger speak at a meeting at the Royal Society on ‘Robotics and Autonomous Systems’ where she put us off our lunch with some gory videos on robot-assisted surgery. You can watch them at her website. Her vision is of robots that connect vision and touch, which is of course what we do effortlessly most of the time.

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