Research ArticleSOFT ROBOTS

Optical lace for synthetic afferent neural networks

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Science Robotics  11 Sep 2019:
Vol. 4, Issue 34, eaaw6304
DOI: 10.1126/scirobotics.aaw6304


Whereas vision dominates sensing in robots, animals with limited vision deftly navigate their environment using other forms of perception, such as touch. Efforts have been made to apply artificial skins with tactile sensing to robots for similarly sophisticated mobile and manipulative skills. The ability to functionally mimic the afferent sensory neural network, required for distributed sensing and communication networks throughout the body, is still missing. This limitation is partially due to the lack of cointegration of the mechanosensors in the body of the robot. Here, lacings of stretchable optical fibers distributed throughout 3D-printed elastomer frameworks created a cointegrated body, sensing, and communication network. This soft, functional structure could localize deformation with submillimeter positional accuracy (error of 0.71 millimeter) and sub-Newton force resolution (~0.3 newton).

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