Will robots replace humans? In the previous article in which we seek answers to this question, we have provided information about how robots are now doing a lot of human work. Robots that look like humans in appearance like Robot Sophia are called humanoid robots. In the near future, humanoid robots are expected to perform functions similar to those performed by the human body. In order for humanoid robots to interact with their environment like humans, they must be able to feel their environment precisely. Here is the first step of this interaction. Robots now have artificial skins that can feel!
Robots with artificial skin can now feel
In the Technical University of Munich (TUM) Prof. Gordon Cheng and his colleagues developed artificial skin that could be used in robots for must be able to perceive their environment precisely.
The artificial skin consists of hexagonal shaped sensor units, about one inch in diameter. These sensors can detect temperature, pressure, distance, and acceleration.
The skin of a human contains 5 Million receptors. If there was artificial skin with a similar number of receptors, you would need a whole building full of computers to process the information from a humanoid robot.
Researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) developed a new approach that drastically reduces the computing power needed.
The Munich researchers invented robot skin cells and a sensing system inspired by human skin.
The new system works similarly to how our brain processes signal from our skin -this is how the researches were able to make less computing power for a whole robot. While old approaches constantly compute signals from all skin cells, the new one only uses computing power when the cells actually are activated.
Just like we get used to our clothes, the robot’s skin ignores constant signals after a while. Through this new concept, it finally became possible to apply Robot Skin to a humanoid robot from head to toe.
The researchers placed the artificial leather they developed into the humanoid robot named H-1. The robot H-1 has more than 13.000 sensors in its body, arms, legs and even under its feet.
So the robot can feel it with its whole body. For example, it can walk balanced on rough ground, hug a human or shake his hand.
Otherwise, this would be very dangerous. In combination, the skin and the sensing system could help robots interact safely with humans and their environment.