Infrared LED and solar battery help, the robot can get the sense of touch without a sensor

- Dec 29, 2020-

According to foreign media reports, a research team at the University of Glasgow in the UK has developed the first prototype of an electronic skin that can generate energy, which can obtain tactile feedback without using a special touch sensor.

Earlier, a research team from the University of Glasgow published a research paper in the IEEE Transactions on Robotics, describing a flexible solar skin covering without using specially designed expensive touch sensors. How does your manipulator interact with other objects.

First, the miniaturized solar cell array is integrated on a flexible polymer surface to achieve dual purposes. The battery provides sufficient energy to drive the micro-actuator that controls the activities of the manipulator; at the same time, the battery provides unique tactile feedback for the manipulator by measuring changes in the output of the solar cell.

When an object approaches the surface of the battery, the light reaching the surface will decrease, and the energy produced by the battery decreases as the light becomes darker. Eventually, when the object touches and covers the manipulator, the battery energy drops to zero. Moreover, by intelligently explaining the energy level of each battery, the robot skin can detect the shape of an object close to it.

In addition to solar cells, infrared LEDs also play an important role. This solution integrates a group of simple LEDs between solar cells and emits infrared light to the object. By measuring the time it takes for light to reflect from an object, the skin can sense the distance between the object and the manipulator.

Combining the information collected by the solar cell and infrared LED, the skin processor can infer the distance, position and edge of the object, and copy many related parameters. In contrast, using traditional methods requires more traditional touch sensors to measure these parameters. All the above data helps the robot to grasp objects, such as rubber balls.

The head of the research team said that this is the world's first electronic skin that can generate energy and can provide tactile feedback without a special touch sensor. The skin itself is a source of energy, capable of driving the arm and the devices attached to its surface. Moreover, the energy generated by the battery can be stored in the device, such as a flexible supercapacitor developed by the research team for use with the skin, so the battery does not need to be exposed to the sun to work.

This research means one step closer to the realization of a fully autonomously driven prosthesis. The flexible skin of the fully autonomously driven prosthesis is made of relatively lower cost devices. With the built-in sensing capabilities of the skin, the skin can recognize it even before it touches an object.

According to reports, the research team also tried to apply this manipulator to a robot arm, similar to a robot in a car manufacturing plant. When an object that you don't want to touch is sensed, the sensor on the robot's skin will stop the arm movement. Based on this, the research team believes that the technology is expected to prevent industrial accidents in the future.