Engineering Innovation Podcast and Radio Series

Robot Fingertips

PostedNovember 3, 2013

Download File (mp3)

Anchor Lead: Engineers say a new artificial fingertip allows robots to sense textures even better than you can.

Randy Atkins: The robotic finger, called BioTac, mimics a human’s…with a bone-like core that’s bathed in blood-like salt water encased in a silicone skin that even has fingerprints. It turns out…

Gerald Loeb: …They’re not just there for the FBI.

Randy Atkins: Gerald Loeb, a bioengineering professor at the University of Southern California, says, when rubbed on a surface, the robotic fingerprints create vibrations which can be detected in the core along with things like temperature. Unlike human fingers, though, the robotic skin itself has no sensors.

Gerald Loeb: We have to put all of our sensors in the core to get them out of harm’s way and make the skin replaceable when it wears out.

Randy Atkins: Loeb says the key to its enhanced sensing is a computer that interprets those signals and directs any needed follow-up touching.