Liquid metal sensors and AI could help prosthetic hands to ‘feel’ » 4State News MO AR KS OK
IMAGE: Researchers used individual fingertips fitted with stretchable tactile sensors with liquid metal on a prosthesis attached to a robotic arm.
Credit: Alex Dolce, Florida Atlantic University
Each fingertip has more than 3,000 touch receptors, which largely respond to pressure. Humans rely heavily on sensation in their fingertips when manipulating an object. The lack of this sensation presents a unique challenge for individuals with upper limb amputations. While there are several high-tech, dexterous prosthetics available today – they all lack the sensation of “touch.” The absence of this sensory feedback results in objects inadvertently being dropped or crushed by a prosthetic hand.
To enable a more natural feeling prosthetic hand interface, researchers from Florida Atlantic University’s College of Engineering and Computer Science and collaborators are the first to incorporate stretchable tactile sensors using liquid metal on the fingertips of a prosthetic hand. Encapsulated within silicone-based elastomers, this technology provides key advantages over traditional sensors, including high conductivity, compliance, flexibility and stretchability. This hierarchical multi-finger tactile sensation integration could provide a higher level of intelligence for artificial hands.
For the study, published in the journal Sensors, researchers used individual fingertips on the prosthesis to distinguish between different speeds of a sliding motion along different textured surfaces. The four different textures had one variable parameter: the distance between the ridges. To detect the textures and speeds, researchers trained four machine learning algorithms. For each of the ten surfaces, 20 trials were collected to test the ability of the machine learning algorithms to distinguish between the ten different complex surfaces comprised of randomly generated permutations of four different textures.