Revolutionary Soft Sensors for Robotics and Prosthetics: A Breakthrough in Object Interaction

Researchers from the Munich Institute of Robotics and Machine Intelligence (MIRMI) at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have developed a new process for creating soft sensors. These sensors can be attached to various objects, making them ideal for applications in robotics and prosthetics.

According to Sonja Groß, a researcher from MIRMI at TUM, understanding how to effectively interact with our environment requires the ability to detect and sense it. The shape and physical properties of objects play a significant role in determining how we can perform tasks and manipulate them.

One specific application for soft sensors is in the development of artificial hands that can interact with robotic systems. Force and torque sensors are already integrated into many robotic devices, providing valuable feedback on interactions with the environment. However, traditional sensors have limited customization options and cannot be attached to objects of arbitrary shapes and sizes.

To address this limitation, Sonja Groß and Diego Hidalgo have presented a new framework for creating soft sensors at the ICRA robotics conference in London. The researchers use a soft, skin-like material that wraps around objects and a 3D printer to produce the sensors. The printer injects a conductive black paste into liquid silicone, which hardens while enclosing the paste. When the sensors are compressed or stretched, their electrical resistance changes, providing information about the applied force. This data helps researchers gain a better understanding of object interactions and control artificial hands.

The unique aspect of their work is that the sensors adjust to the surface they are attached to, such as fingers or hands, while still providing precise data for interaction with the environment.

MIRMI Executive Director Prof. Sami Haddadin believes that integrating these soft sensors into 3D objects opens up new possibilities for advanced haptic sensing in artificial intelligence. The sensors provide real-time data on compressive forces and deformations, expanding the perception range and enhancing interaction. This innovation has the potential to revolutionize industries like robotics, prosthetics, and human-machine interaction by enabling the creation of wireless and customizable sensor technology for a wide range of objects and machines.

You can watch a video of the entire process here: [link to video]

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