New framework for soft sensors presented for the first time
This was the starting point for the research of Sonja Groß and Diego Hidalgo, which they have now presented at the ICRA robotics conference in London. The difference: a soft, skin-like material that wraps around objects. The research group has also developed a framework that largely automates the production process for this skin. It works as follows: “We use software to build the structure for the sensory systems,” says Hidalgo. “We then send this information to a 3D printer where our soft sensors are made.” The printer injects a conductive black paste into liquid silicone. The silicone hardens, but the paste is enclosed by it and remains liquid. When the sensors are squeezed or stretched, their electrical resistance changes. “That tells us how much compression or stretching force is applied to a surface. We use this principle to gain a general understanding of interactions with objects and, specifically, to learn how to control an artificial hand interacting with these objects,” explains Hidalgo. What sets their work apart: the sensors embedded in silicon adjust to the surface in question (such as fingers or hands) but still provide precise data that can be used for the interaction with the environment.