By their very nature, robots do not have the ability alone to comprehend the complexity of human touch or grasping objects.
Researchers at the University of Helsinki are working on a way to give robots the ability to grasp something as a human would through the use of thermal and depth cameras that measure the heat signature left on the surface of objects touched by humans.
The data collected then is used in robotics in order to help the device maintain its hold on an object and/or avoid crushing it. From the perspective of care robots of the future for health care or in logistics, this aspect is becoming increasingly important.
"Robots need to know exactly the object's three-dimensional structure, material and weight distribution, whereas humans have the ability of intuitive grasp,” said Jussi Hakala, a post-doctoral researcher and developer of Grasp Sense, the method proposed by the researchers. “Our goal is to transfer human skills to robots.”
Grasp Sense was born out of the researchers’ previous focus on eye movements during grasping tasks, examining the orientation of eye movements in connection with the time required to get the information from the eyes to the hands.
The researchers believe the Grasp Sense method could be applied to markets beyond robotics such as using touch data in designing objects that must be pleasant, ergonomic and precise to use. The technology could also be used to create models for hospital hygiene by installing cameras on hospital ceilings. Using thermal cameras, models could reveal the most touch-intensive surfaces that can be created making it easier and increasingly effective to keep them clean.
To learn more about the Grasp Sense technology, click here.