A New Way to Communicate with Robots

Much of the excitement in automation at this point has to do with sensors. A new collection of sensors is being developed to provide a new way to communicate with robots.

Researchers at the University of Houston gathered strain sensors, temperature sensors, and UV light sensors. Then they incorporated all these elements, along with things like heaters, into a flexible plastic patch, something like a Band-Aid. The patch is just 4 micrometers thick and can be worn on a human hand.

With the patch in place, the human can open and close his or her hand and the robot will do the same.

How cool is that?

The robot can’t just copy all the human’s movements. Rather, the robot can be programmed to respond to specific movements. That could still be very useful.

Beyond this simple action, however, the new device is versatile. It can be made to create and break conductive filaments that act as memory. The robot can use it to transmit temperature information to the humans. It’s easy to set up a “meaning” for the temperature changes, so human beings can “understand” the messages being sent by the robot with this activity.

Its unusual for a single material to be able to do all this. What’s more, since the patch is lightweight and comfortable to wear, the interface is a far cry from the exoskeleton approach that has been used up till now.

The device can even be rinsed underwater and washed with soap.

Robots can use the same technology in a membrane to serve as a skin.

What’s the use?

It’s a new, and possibly better way to communicate with robots, but like so many of the exciting new experiments going on with robots, the promise is fairly fluid. The sensors can keep track of UV light exposure and warn puny humans to put on sunscreen, but it’s hard to see any way for this skill to produce significant ROI.

On the flip side, humans can be alerted if robots get overheated, but it still seems like overkill.

Still, we don’t know where it will end up and we’ll be interested to see.

In the meantime, let us know when you need service or support for your Rexroth electric motion control systems. We provide phone support, field support, and factory reman and repair.

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