Elastic sensor will give robots tactile sensations like human skin

Stretchable sensors can change the way soft robots work and feel. Researchers at Cornell University have created a fiber optic sensor that could enable soft robotic systems to experience the same rich tactile sensations that mammals depend on when navigating the natural world.

The new fiber optic sensor combines inexpensive LEDs and dyes to create a flexible “skin” that recognizes deformation, pressure, bending, and more.

Researchers led by Rob Shepard, assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, are working to commercialize the technology for physical therapy and sports medicine. Their article “Stretchable Distributed Fiber Optic Sensors” is published in Science. The article was co-authored by PhD student Hedan Bai and Shuo Li.

Bai took inspiration from silica-based distributed fiber optic sensors and developed a stretchable fiber for multimodal sensing (SLIMS).

Researchers have developed a 3D printed glove with a SLIMS sensor on each finger. The glove is powered by a lithium battery and is equipped with Bluetooth. This allows her to transfer data to the underlying software.

Bye and Shepherd are working with the Cornell Technology Licensing Center to patent development for physical therapy and sports medicine. Both areas used motion-tracking technology, but until now, the technology has not been able to capture force interactions.

Researchers are also exploring how SLIMS sensors can improve the VR and AR experience.

In addition, development can fundamentally change the design of soft robots. Sensory skin, which allows you to feel a touch like a person, can change robotics and propel it forward, scientists believe.

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