Select your localized edition:

Close ×

More Ways to Connect

Discover one of our 28 local entrepreneurial communities »

Be the first to know as we launch in new countries and markets around the globe.

Interested in bringing MIT Technology Review to your local market?

MIT Technology ReviewMIT Technology Review - logo

 

Unsupported browser: Your browser does not meet modern web standards. See how it scores »

Robots are mainstays in factories and manufacturing plants, but in most parts of the world, they aren’t found in homes, interacting with people. Part of the problem, says Intel senior researcher Josh Smith, is that today’s robots don’t have the capability to perform spontaneous close-range interactions well. Grabbing a silicon wafer is one thing, but gently helping an elderly person out of a chair is something completely different.

So last September, Smith and his team developed a technology they call pre-touch, which can sense the location of an object about an inch away from the robot grabber. Pre-touch electrodes, positioned at the ends of robot fingers, emit a small electrical field. When a conducting object, such as metal or anything with water in it, comes within range, it changes the fingers’ electric field. Algorithms process this change in electric field and essentially create a visual map of an object’s position.

At a recent Intel Research event in Mountain View, CA, Smith showed off his latest version of the robot hand. In addition to the pre-touch sensors, he’s added a strain gauge that measures the amount of force exerted by each robotic finger. The force applied by each finger can indicate to the robot that an object is slipping or that it’s securely encircled by all fingers. Once the object is positioned well, the mechanical fingers close around it, squeezing only hard enough to keep the object from slipping. See a video of the action below.

Gain the insight you need on robotics at EmTech MIT.

Register today

0 comments about this story. Start the discussion »

Tagged: Computing, robotics, Intel

Reprints and Permissions | Send feedback to the editor

From the Archives

Close

Introducing MIT Technology Review Insider.

Already a Magazine subscriber?

You're automatically an Insider. It's easy to activate or upgrade your account.

Activate Your Account

Become an Insider

It's the new way to subscribe. Get even more of the tech news, research, and discoveries you crave.

Sign Up

Learn More

Find out why MIT Technology Review Insider is for you and explore your options.

Show Me