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Robotic Whiskers Sense Shape and Texture 59

An AC writes,"NewScientistTech has a story about robotic whiskers capable of sensing shape and texture in a similar way to those belonging to rats and seals. The 'bending moment,' or torque, exerted at the base of each whisker is used to extract feature information. The artificial whiskers could be used on interplanetary rovers, or allow underwater vehicles to track moving objects by their wake. Check out the slightly creepy video of them stroking a sculpted face."
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Robotic Whiskers Sense Shape and Texture

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  • by Blakey Rat ( 99501 ) on Wednesday October 04, 2006 @11:51PM (#16316655)
    I have to tell you that my cat is sitting right here on my desk and she's PISSED!
  • NewScientistTech has a story about robotic whiskers ... Check out the slightly creepy video of them stroking a sculpted face.

    They seem to be making a noise.. it sounds like "Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn"
  • by Garrett Fox ( 970174 ) on Thursday October 05, 2006 @12:30AM (#16316951) Homepage
    These whiskers tie in with existing research into artificial skin that can "feel." This 2005 NASA article [] describes mecha-skin that uses IR sensors to detect touch. Japanese researchers [] (2005) reported having a type that senses temperature and pressure through actual touching.

    The skin research should be useful both for robotics and for replacement parts for humans, as an alternative to the clunky biological hand transplants that have been carried out. (I think I'd rather have a Luke Skywalker robot hand than a mismatched corpse's!) These artificial hand researchers [] will probably be interested as well, because having a prosthesis that can be sensed as well as controlled is necessary for it to be as good as the original. The big issue is how easy it will be to get these touch signals into the human nervous system in a useful way. For robots, the data can be built into existing software for making maps of a robot's surroundings. I picture a robot rat running a maze with a set of these whiskers. Won't whiskers serve as a low-energy-cost alternative to sonar and other sensing systems?

    The odd thing is that here, the research is not into copying human abilities, but those of (nonhuman) animals. I wrote a silly article [] arguing that future robots will be made to resemble animals, not humans, and Charles Van Doren (in A History of Knowledge) predicted "warm and fuzzy" robotics. Is that where we're headed?
  • I guess it was just me that read the article and thought, "Hmmm, high-tech curb feelers". Just what the moon rover was missing. Next they can create fuzzy dice that mimic a birds direction sense.
  • Conspiracy (Score:3, Funny)

    by suv4x4 ( 956391 ) on Thursday October 05, 2006 @01:06AM (#16317145)
    I believe this is some sort of real piece of conspiracy going on here.

    So QRIO and AIBO were discontinued, but almost every next day you can read about yet another freeky appendage or a robot designer to be inserted up your ass and crawl your intestines.

    What are these guys preparing for us !?

    Man, I'm so no taking the red pill.
  • ... welcome out new tentacled robotic overlords.
  • Man this is old stuff. I created wiskers for an Atari 400 computer way back in the early 80s. I was a Sr. In high school.
    The wiskers could detect a ball, box, wrench, dog bone, and pencil. Basiclly the wiskers were conductive and protruded through
    a conductive metal plate with circular holes for the "wiskers to poke through" Normaly the circuit was open.
    When an object brushed against the sensors it will close the circuit and I would detect a pattern. I had many different patterns
    stored for each object. T
    • The system described isn't quite the same... the innovation is that they are using 2-D torque sensors on the whiskers, and apparently are able to reconstruct the 3-D surface of the object whiskered using the data... that's a rather major improvement over just detecting a profile with on/off switches! ;-)
      • They should have improved on it, man I did this 27 years ago! I wasn't going agter 3D surface reconstruction, I was going after
        object recognition, and a self learning applicaiton. This is much more than just detecting a profile.
  • by epp_b ( 944299 )
    Wow! That video downloaded at 800KB/s...I must be early.

Don't get suckered in by the comments -- they can be terribly misleading. Debug only code. -- Dave Storer