American technology firm BeBop Sensors has developed a device that allows military robots to have a human-like “sense of touch” capability.
Called the RoboSkin, the tech is a flexible fabric equipped with up to 80 sensors to mimic human touch when mounted on a robotic fingertip.
The sensors are reportedly capable of measuring and analyzing up to 50 kilograms (110 pounds) of pressure.
BeBop said that the cutting-edge device also has a “nervous system” that enables unmanned systems to perform missions with greater dexterity and autonomy.
“We have sensor density on fingertips that has better spatial resolution than human fingertips, and also has a greater range of response in terms of force,” company president Keith McMillen said, as quoted by National Defense.
The RoboSkin is composed of a polyester or nylon non-woven fabric with changing electrical characteristics as it is affected by pressure, shear, or bending.
It is only one millimeter thick and produces signals for operators to analyze and deliver accurate data.
Information from the device is transmitted to a human through haptic gloves used by the US Air Force for remote training.
“So, it allows a person working in robotics … to feel objects, sense their shape, heft their weight, [and] know if they’re connecting,” McMillen explained.
The RoboSkin can support dangerous military missions, including explosive ordnance disposal.
RoboSkin-Haptic Gloves Tandem
McMillen stressed that most robotic tools on the market do not have a mechanism that provides feedback to operators.
With the tandem of RoboSkin and haptic gloves, military personnel can remotely sense what the robot is touching.
“So, they didn’t have to bring the whole planes or jets into a classroom-like situation where they would be grounded while someone sat there and learned it,” the BeBop official stated. “They were learning it virtually using our data gloves.”
McMillen further said that he envisions developing millions of RoboSkins to support military missions around the world.