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Robotic Fingertip More Sensitive than Human Touch

A new tactile sensor developed at the University of Southern California is more sensitive to the touch than an actual human fingertip. The technology will help advance prostheses and AI.

What’s the Latest Development?

Researchers at USC’s Viterbi School of Engineering have created a robotic fingertip that is more sensitive to the touch than an actual human fingertip, an achievement which could greatly aid prostheses and advance artificial intelligence. Called BioTac, the tiny machine is a “new type of tactile sensor built to mimic the human fingertip, using a newly designed algorithm to make decisions about how to explore the outside world by imitating human strategies.” The sensor was only rarely confused by pairs of similar textures, between which humans could not differentiate at all. 

What’s the Big Idea?

USC Professor of Biomedical Engineering Gerald Loeb, who is half of the start up SynTouch now developing and manufacturing tactile sensors for mechatronic systems that mimic the human hand, points out that our tactile sensations are more important to our daily lives than we realize. If your hands have ever been too cold to feel, they are practically useless, even though all your muscles may be working perfectly. “The researchers say this robot touch technology could be used in human prostheses or to assist companies who employ experts to assess the feel of consumer products and even human skin.” 

Photo credit: University of Southern California


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