Researchers at Cornell University have created a robot that has the gentle touch of a human. Their paper which was recently published in the journal Science Robotics, the researchers outlined their invention known as the "Gentle Bot," a soft robot hand that is capable of human touch.
"Our human hand is not functioning using motors to drive each of the joints; our human hand is soft with a lot of sensors ... on the surface and inside the hand," stated Huichan Zhao, a doctoral candidate in mechanical engineering at Cornell and also the lead author of the study published in the journal Science Robotics. "Soft robotics provides a chance to make a soft hand that is more close to a human hand."
While there may already be soft robotic technology used in warehouses to handle food products, the Gentle Bot proves to be different as it can handle more delicate items. It can also sense the texture and shape of the items it comes into contact with. If developed further, the Gentle Bot could directly interact with humans and may also be used for better versions of prosthetics.
Another astounding difference of the Gentle Bot was its ability to "sense." While other robotic hands sensed only items that could conduct electricity, the Gentle Bot could easily sense any material that could conduct light.
"Most robots today have sensors on the outside of the body that detect things from the surface," explained Zhao further. "Our sensors are integrated within the body, so they can actually detect forces being transmitted through the thickness of the robot, a lot like we and all organisms do when we feel pain, for example."
Even with its amazing "sense," the Gentle Bot hand created by Cornell still does not have a direct connection to the brain. Rather, a computer would sense how a person might feel. For now, the researchers are working on the soft robot hand and are actively looking for collaborators to improve the hand through human tests.
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