Robotics and Biomedicine Update: Revolutionary Tactile Sensor Gives Robots a Human Sense of Touch and More

If you thought I was finished talking about robots with my last two blog postings – think again.

A new breakthrough in tactile sensor technology is now commercially available. It has implications for robotic touch and for human prosthetics.

The device is called Bio Tac(R) and it is a product of SynTouch LLC. The company has integrated the device into a variety of robotic hands. One is shown in the image seen below.

This 3-fingered robotic hand features a Bio Tac sensor on each fingertip. The Bio Tac can be encased in a skin-like covering when used in a prosthetic device or in an android robot like Data in Star Trek.                                                               Source: Syntouch

The Bio Tac sensor can detect sensations the same way human fingers do. It can feel pressure, vibration, textures, heat and cold. A soft, flexible fluid-filled cover can be worn over a Bio Tac to simulate skin.

For prosthetic hands outfitted with Bio Tacs this means dramatic improvements in functional capability.

In addition to the BarrettHand shown in the picture above, SynTouch also produces Bio Tac for a manufacturer of prosthetics, the Shadow Robot Company. With Bio Tacs in place the 5-fingered Shadow Motor Hand delivers a bionic device more sensitive than the human hand.

The Shadow Motor Hand is a pneumatic hand featuring 34 tactile sensors. Outfitted with Bio Tac devices this robotic hand can be made even more touch sensitive than a human hand.                                    Source: Shadow Robot Company

Bio Tac technology can be deployed for use in creating robotic hands that simulate human-felt sensation as well as prosthetic hands that give wearers the ability to feel what comes naturally.

Len Rosen lives in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. He is a researcher and writer who has a fascination with science and technology. He is married with a daughter who works in radio, and a miniature red poodle who is his daily companion on walks of discovery. More...