Sensitive synthetic skin allows robots to feel their own body and environment, a crucial ability to be in close contact with people. Inspired by human skin, a team from the Technical University of Munich has developed a system that combines artificial skin with control algorithms and is used to create the first autonomous humanoid robot with full body artificial skin.
Each cell is equipped with a microprocessor and sensors to detect contact, acceleration, proximity and temperature. With such an artificial skin, robots can perceive their environment in much more detail and with more sensitivity. This does not help them to move more safely and work near people.
The biggest obstacle to the development of a robot skin was the calculating capacity. Human skin has about 5 million receptors. If we wanted to imitate this, we would soon run into limits. Previous systems were quickly overloaded with data from just a few hundred sensors.
Not continuously and by all cells
In the application of the Technical University of Munich, only data from individual sensors with modified values is transmitted. This includes Proximity, pressure, temperature and acceleration. The robot only reacts to changes. Through AI, the robot learns to ignore signals that are constant.
Apply to a robot as a whole
Due to the limitation of the number of signals and the necessary computing capacity, it is possible to apply these sensors over the entire robot. For example, under the sole of the foot, which makes it easier for the robot to stand on one leg.