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Even though the sense of touch is crucial for humans, most humanoid robots lack tactile sensing. While a large number of sensing technologies exist, it is not trivial to incorporate them into a robot. We have developed a compliant “skin” for humanoids that integrates a distributed pressure sensor based on capacitive technology. The skin is modular and can be deployed on nonflat surfaces. Each module scans locally a limited number of tactile-sensing elements and sends the data through a serial bus. This is a critical advantage as it reduces the number of wires. The resulting system is compact and has been successfully integrated into three different humanoid robots. We have performed tests that show that the sensor has favorable characteristics and implemented algorithms to compensate the hysteresis and drift of the sensor. Experiments with the humanoid robot iCub prove that the sensors can be used to grasp unmodeled, fragile objects.
Date of Publication: June 2011