Tactile sensors measure forces in response to physical changes and environmental interactions. One of the leading human aspects of detecting a change in the environment is by touch. The same principle is also applied in robots to detect changes in the environment and statistically analyze sensor data.
Tactile sensors are modeled to a biological sense of human touch, which is further provoked by the mechanical stimulation of the skin. This working principle helps robots, security systems, and computer hardware to measure data and analyze it to determine results in various fields. One of the typical applications of tactile sensing technology is in robotic arms, also called robotic tactile sensing.
The importance of tactile sensors in robotic applications
One of the significant challenges facing the robotic industry is that the dexterity of fingers makes it difficult for the robotic systems to do 95% of manual jobs like preparing a drink, folding clothes, cleaning a chandelier, and others. Replacing these kinds of manual labor with robots includes high precision, flexibility, and object detection, which can be achieved by enhancing the accuracy of measuring and controlling robotic fingers. This ensures that an object’s fragility is well-determined and not crushed by the gripper, which is generally a semiconductor wafer handler. Although the load cells provide reliable hope in robots for performing such actions, they have been limited in use due to their bulk structure. Hence, multiple load button cells are used as tactile sensors in industrial robots to measure the force they produce when they are in contact with an object.
Many research laboratories continue to explore the vastness of robotic tactile sensors, especially in developing high-precision robots to help test, measure, and produce quality data in the robotic tactile sensing space. The presence of miniature load buttons provides succession by one step in detecting the sensitivity and fragility of objects. Tiny load buttons on the robot’s fingertips are force sensors mounted on each robotic finger’s tip. The tactile sensors placed in the tips manage to calculate the force required to handle the objects with utmost precision. The entire tactile sensor system in a robot is connected to a USB solution, where the researchers can stem the force needed to be applied directly on a computer to which the USB is connected. Drawing a graph of the findings makes it easier for the researchers to calculate the force required to pick up an object.
One of the main applications of designing a robot with tactile touch capability is to develop prosthetics using artificial touch technologies. The functional requirements of developing such robots include the following:
- Contact detection of objects
- Lifting and replacement of an object
- Detection of size and shape for object recognition
- Detection of tangential forces to prevent object slip
- Estimation of grip forces
- Tracking all the contact points during manipulation
- Detection of all the dynamic and static forces around the object