BioTac multimodal tactile sensors now commercialized by Syntouch LLC

Gerald Loeb, M.D., Jeremy Fishel, Gary Lin

The performance of robotic and prosthetic hands in unstructured environments is severely limited by their having little or no tactile information compared to the rich tactile feedback of the human hand. We have developed a novel, robust tactile sensor array that mimics the mechanical properties and distributed touch receptors of the human fingertip. It consists of a rigid core surrounded by a weakly conductive fluid contained within an elastomeric skin. The sensor uses the deformable properties of the finger pad as part of the transduction process.

 

Multiple electrodes are mounted on the surface of the rigid core and connected to impedance-measuring circuitry safely embedded within the core.

 

External forces deform the fluid path around the electrodes, resulting in a distributed pattern of impedance changes containing information about those forces and the objects that applied them. Here we describe means to optimize the dynamic range of individual electrode sensors by texturing the inner surface of the silicone skin. Forces ranging from 0.1 to 30 N produced impedances ranging from 5 to 1000 kOhm. Spatial resolution (below 2 mm) and frequency response (above 50 Hz) appeared to be limited only by the viscoelastic properties of the silicone elastomeric skin.