In order to interact physically with humans and the unstructured environments in which they live, robots will need an accurate and sophisticated sense of touch.
The sense of touch
We use our sense of touch to interact with each other and with our environment. It has been said that of all the senses, if lost, touch has the most detrimental effect on a person’s quality of life. With the absence of a tactile sense, humans are no longer able to control objects, or even their own limbs, without significant visual feedback and effort, as well as losing the ability to meaningfully interact and communicate with each other physically. The sense of touch is an essential part of autonomous independent existence and has a significant role in emotional interaction between humans.
The mechanics of the fingertip skin, on both the macro and micro scale, have vital and often overlooked roles to play in our sense of touch. By exploiting some key features of the skin we aim to gain new tactile sensor designs that have the same high compliance needed to be highly sensitive and detailed tactile sensors and strength to be capable and versatile gripping and manipulating tools.
The micro structure of the fingertip skin has specific functional features that have yet to be exploited in tactile sensor design. This research has developed a hypothesis of the functional morphology of the Dermal Papillae and the Meissner's Corpuscles in creating an edge encoding of tactile information. This hypothesis determines that these skin features actually act as an edge filter to the tactile information we receive, before any neurophysiological processing. This 'computational morphology' is heavily dependent on the high compliance and strength of the fingertip skin macro structure.
This research is partnership with Elumotion Ltd. This project is funded through the Great Western Research partnership with the University of Bristol, University of the West of England and Elumotion Ltd.
- Prof. Sanja
Tel: +44 (0) 117 32 81301
Principle project investigators
- Craig Chorley
- Prof. Tony Pipe
- Prof. Chris Melhuish
- Dr Jonathan Rossiter
- Dr Graham Whiteley - Elumotion Ltd
- Development of a tactile sensor based on biologically inspired edge encoding. Chorley C., Melhuish C., Pipe T. and Rossiter J. (2009)