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Robotics Technology

Sensors Designed For Prosthetic Hands Could Lead To New Textile Standards (smithsonianmag.com) 21

schwit1 writes: "When you touch something, you are doing more than sensing the surface of that object. You're also changing it, however subtly. Your finger emits heat, and no matter how gentle you are, you exert an almost imperceptible amount of pressure. In other words, you aren't just feeling the material, you're feeling its reaction to your touch."

With this in mind, SynTouch has built its BioTac sensor to emulate this reaction by producing heat and pressure on its own, just like a real finger would. But in order to teach the sensor how to process this information, its engineers have developed the "SynTouch Standard" — a comprehensive collection of 500 different materials classified based on 15 different factors, which includes friction and smoothness, Sarah Fecht writes for Popular Science.

By categorizing these materials to teach the robots differences in texture, SynTouch has almost accidentally created a texture standard for manufacturers. Companies could use these standards to more easily judge fabrics that are used for everything from the newest runway styles to car seat covers.

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Sensors Designed For Prosthetic Hands Could Lead To New Textile Standards

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  • Changing Standards (Score:3, Insightful)

    by SMPMike ( 4395179 ) on Sunday January 03, 2016 @07:58AM (#51229883)
    I think saying that this could change industry standards is putting the cart before the horse. What the author is suggesting is that an entire industry should change its standards so that another companies robot can "feel" its fabric correctly? That would be like Apple or Microsoft or Samsung designing phones so that they will fit a specific manufacturers cases. Probably not going to happen.
    • by Rei ( 128717 ) on Sunday January 03, 2016 @09:23AM (#51230013) Homepage

      The whole point of the article is not that they're changing industry standards. The whole point is that they're making a new standard on properties that either have no standard or poor, little used standards at present.

      As it stands, while most industries feel comfortable for example simply specifying a color of a product based on a pantone, they insist on samples or travel to ensure that textures come out right. if you wanted to specify how an object should feel, there was no reliable standard way to do that. You could use descriptive words or analogies, make up your own set of measurement standards that you want it to meet, etc... but there was no easy standard way to describe in absolute, measurable terms how things feel. This team's research basically makes a pantone system for texture. The sensors sense each property to higher resolution than a human can, and thus one can be confident that one surface created to specific syntouch specification will feel exactly the same another, one can interpolate properties between different syntouch specifications ("I want a sheet with a texture halfway between these two"), and so forth, just like one can with pantones.

  • By categorizing these materials to teach the robots differences in texture, SynTouch has almost accidentally created a texture standard for manufacturers. Companies could use these standards to more easily judge fabrics that are used for everything from the newest runway styles to car seat covers.

    It seems likely this technology will fall short of a human's refined ability to feel, much the same as present attempts to discern subtle color variations. [cri-paris.org]

    It is, however, a neat step forward for robotics.

    • by Rei ( 128717 )

      According to TFI, their sensors outperform human touch. Also, as per your link, a cheap uncooled PCB "RGB sensor" is not exactly state of the art in spectral analysis, to put it mildly. In the extreme case we can count individual photons at each of highly specified, narrow frequencies with virtually no error. The eye is quite good, but it's not that good.

  • There are some very cool ideas here, particularly the use of hydraulic coupling to measure pressure and vibration, as well as the measurement of thermal properties. It's a very nice sensor for robot fingers.

    However, it seems to targeted solely toward bulk perception, since the fingertip looks smooth and uniform. This is quite different from human fingertips, where the fingerprint ridges provide a significant component of tactile perception, particularly in motion. It's also not obvious why the thermal me
  • At special request, texture class "American Pie" has recently been added to the standard.

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