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Communications of the ACM


Softening Up Robots

soft sensors

MIT CSAIL's flexible sensors can be applied as skin to the bodies of soft robots.


When you picture a robot, you likely envision one large and rigid, with limited movement and an outer shell that is hard to the touch. Several projects currently underway seek to change that, with the use of soft, more human-like artificial skin.

Artificial skins include any surface-based device or distributed network of sensors that enable an agent to perceive mechanical deformations, touch, temperature, vibration, and/or pain, according to Ryan Truby, a post-doctoral fellow in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Computer Science & Artificial Intelligence Lab (CSAIL). Engineers are working to create skins that include as many of these sensations as possible, while also possessing high sensitivity and spatial resolution in sensing, he adds.


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