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World’s First Soft, Flexible Touch Sensor For Robots from Touchence
Shokkaku Cube is the world’s first soft, flexible touch sensor. It has been designed to be used in robots and was developed by Touchence, a Tokyo University venture.
It has a soft foam covering and can detect changes in three dimensions. Because the sensor itself can change shape, it can recognize different types of touch interaction such as when it is pinched, pushed or rubbed.
“When a robot touches a human, most people aren’t going to enjoy a hard, metallic touch. So in the future, robots are likely to have soft coverings. But even with a soft exterior, if there’s something hard underneath it, that will feel strange. So it’s necessary to put soft sensors underneath soft coverings. One application for this is detecting touch with a soft covering, so that when a robot actually touches you, it doesn’t feel like there’s a sensor underneath.”
This demonstration simulates a robots foot. There are three sensors embedded in the sole of the foot and they can sense where as well as how much pressure is being exerted on the foot when the robot moves.
“The demo here happens to use a robot’s foot, but the covering can be used anywhere on a robot, including its arms or body.”
“The principle behind the sensors is optical. Light comes in from the bottom, and the light receivers on top detect its intensity. There are five light receivers, so five signals are produced. The amount of light reaching each receiver during contact is output as data. Finally, the data is used to calculate pressure, showing which part has been touched. That’s how these sensors work.”
This Shokkaku Cube is the second version they have made. They reviewed the basic design of a trial version released in December 2010, are were able to significantly improve it’s power efficiency and durability. This version will be available from September 2011.
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