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Sense of Touch and Feeling in Robotic Technology

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Submitted By jolin2
Words 995
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Sense of touch and feeling is very important to the human race. We use this sense every day, whether we are trying to decide how tightly to hold a coffee mug, or how delicately we should touch a flower. This sense is vital to us and those who surround us, and we understand how important it is to use this sense and learn from it. This is just as important when creating artificial intelligent beings. Robotics is reaching new levels of complexity, mobility, and use of senses which will continue to advance over time. This is important to creating artificial life since humans are essentially the blueprint for science to follow. Every sense, emotion, thought process, and functions that humans use should be considered and become part of an artificial intelligent being.

Humans have a sense of touch because we are created with a network of nerve endings and touch receptors that process information that we feel, like hot, cold, pain, and pressure. Our bodies are programmed to respond differently to these feelings, and we learn from these senses over time. The idea is to give robotic technology the same sensations. One way this is happening is with a research engineer at Idaho National Laboratory, Corrie Nichol. Corrie is programming robotic technology to transmit tactile sensations. The robot is installed with sensors that can detect external forces, where he wrote software that can translate data and feedback. This technology is hoped to advance to assist in situations that is more dangerous for humans, like bomb deactivation and inspecting a nuclear reactor.

One important part of being able to touch and feel is skin. Robots don't have skin like humans, but scientist Charlie Kemp, a biomedical engineer at the Georgia Institute of Technology, created artificial skin to help robots feel their way around. The artificial skin is lined with sensors, so when the robot comes into contact with a material it measures the force and feedback. This technology was used to assist Henry Evans who suffered a stroke in 2003 and became quadriplegic, and has limited use of only one finger. After Henry Evans operated the robotic arm he stated “With the touch sensitive skin I can feel the robot keeping contact forces low but still in constant pursuit of its goal. I felt immediately that it wouldn't hurt me. But rather it seemed aware of my presence as it went about its business”.

This type of technology has impacted the life of Henry Evans, who can now complete tasks himself with the help of the robot, instead of being dependent on others. Artificial skin is just another step towards creating Artificial Intelligence. For the human body to function at it's best all our parts need to work together, the same goes for robotic technology. This specific robot is able to learn when its touch is to soft or hard, and then it can adjust to fit Henrys needs better.

Science is not only able to give a robotic machine the sensations of touch, but also a robotic prosthetic arm. Denis Sorensen lost his left hand 9 years ago, and has been fitted with a robotic arm that “connects directly to the remaining nerves in his upper arm”. This means that Denis can not only pick up an object or complete a task with the prosthetic arm, but he can also feel what is happening. The sensors in the arm send information to his brain, and Denis is able to operate the arm with thought, like he would if he had not lost his limb. This technology is still in the beginning stages, and testing will still need to be continued, however when Denis was using and testing the arm they found that even blindfolded he could recognize items by only touching them. This shows that the arm and the brain are able to work together, and change any position or pressure if needed.

Although this is just one of the steps that science is taking in Artificial Intelligence, it is vital to giving a life like feeling to the “machines”. If you consider how much humans use just our senses of touching and feeling, it is incredible that science is able to recreate those sensations in a similar way. This technology will help people in the medical field, especially those who need prosthetics, and in many other cases around the world. Our ability to touch, feel, lift and carry makes us self sufficient, and without this sense we can not function fully.

It will take time for the technology to reach a level of flawlessness, but using humans as a blueprint is smart, since our body parts work with each other for an end result. The sensations of touch are vital to creating Artificial Life, and I believe that science is definitely on its way to creating it. It will take science years to complete an artificial entity as complex as humans, but based off how far technology has come in the past 50 years, I believe it can be done.
Bibliography:

- Home Science Tools. (2013) Sense of touch. http://www.hometrainingtools.com/a/skin-touch
- Kwok, R. (2011) Engineer simulates a robot's sense of touch. http://inlportal.inl.gov/portal/server.pt?open=514&objID=1269&mode=2&featurestory=DA_156367
- Reuters (2014) A sense of touch makes robots more 'human'. http://www.cbsnews.com/news/a-sense-of-touch-makes-robots-more-human/
- Diep, F. (2014) A mind-controlled robotic hand with a sense of touch. http://www.popsci.com/article/science/mind-controlled-robotic-hand-sense-touch

Photographs:
- http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-m90XqE2ag3E/Tm5KuLY26XI/AAAAAAAAADc/PHR2rTNFjvg/s1600/touch+sense.jpg
- http://img.deusm.com/designnews/2012/07/246869/112144_631671.jpg
- http://www.popsci.com/sites/popsci.com/files/styles/large_1x_/public/import/2013/images/2013/04/evans-with-robot-arm.jpg?itok=sPG5Mja9
- http://www.popsci.com/sites/popsci.com/files/styles/medium_1x_/public/import/2014/sorensen%20with%20researcher.jpg?itok=yUo_vU2C…...

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