When it comes to the sense of touch, you might think we have the advantage over our robot friends. Sure, they have mega-sight and uber-strength, but thousands of years of evolution have given us the ability to determine all kinds of surfaces just by touching them. But now it looks like the robots are going to beat us at this as well.
Scientists at USC’s Viterbi School of Engineering have created BioTac®, a robotic sensor that mimics the human finger to identify textures. This tactile addition to the robotic armory is composed of a soft, flexible skin over a liquid filling which can feel textures using a hydrophone (an underwater microphone), which detects vibrations as the robo-finger runs along a surface.
And not only that. As another poke in the eye to humanity’s abilities, their tests showed that the BioTac® sensor has even more sensitivity than the human hand. That’s right. Your crappy hand has lost out to a robot. But it’s not only good news for the robots, as this technology has implications for people with prosthetic limbs too, potentially allowing them to feel again as protheses become more sophisticated.