Research ArticleSENSORS

Soft magnetic skin for super-resolution tactile sensing with force self-decoupling

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Science Robotics  24 Feb 2021:
Vol. 6, Issue 51, eabc8801
DOI: 10.1126/scirobotics.abc8801

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Abstract

Human skin can sense subtle changes of both normal and shear forces (i.e., self-decoupled) and perceive stimuli with finer resolution than the average spacing between mechanoreceptors (i.e., super-resolved). By contrast, existing tactile sensors for robotic applications are inferior, lacking accurate force decoupling and proper spatial resolution at the same time. Here, we present a soft tactile sensor with self-decoupling and super-resolution abilities by designing a sinusoidally magnetized flexible film (with the thickness ~0.5 millimeters), whose deformation can be detected by a Hall sensor according to the change of magnetic flux densities under external forces. The sensor can accurately measure the normal force and the shear force (demonstrated in one dimension) with a single unit and achieve a 60-fold super-resolved accuracy enhanced by deep learning. By mounting our sensor at the fingertip of a robotic gripper, we show that robots can accomplish challenging tasks such as stably grasping fragile objects under external disturbance and threading a needle via teleoperation. This research provides new insight into tactile sensor design and could be beneficial to various applications in robotics field, such as adaptive grasping, dexterous manipulation, and human-robot interaction.

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