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.
These weird virtual creatures evolve their bodies to solve problems
They show how intelligence and body plans are closely linked—and could unlock AI for robots.
A horrifying new AI app swaps women into porn videos with a click
Deepfake researchers have long feared the day this would arrive.
Chinese hackers disguised themselves as Iran to target Israel
But they left a few clues that gave them away.
DeepMind says it will release the structure of every protein known to science
The company has already used its protein-folding AI, AlphaFold, to generate structures for the human proteome, as well as yeast, fruit flies, mice, and more.
Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review
Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.