Johannes Weichert, a PhD student at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich (ETH), is developing the basis for robots with a humanlike sense of touch. To achieve this, he is working on the development of an artificial skin with the sensitivity of human fingertips.
To achieve this, “around one sensor per square millimeter” is required, Weichert explains in a press release issued by ETH Zurich. These are embedded in a flexible substrate. Each sensor is made up of various layers with two conductive membranes. There is also a small bead, which if pressed will change the distance between the two conductive membranes and therefore the measuring signal from the corresponding sensor.
Moreover, each of these beads is combined with three electrodes. In this way, the angle of the force applied to these can be measured. “It means you can feel the quality and texture of a surface and recognize when an object is slipping over the surface of the skin by sampling the sensors at high enough frequencies”, Weichert explains.
Weichert was listed among the nominees for the ETH Spark Award, which was presented last week. According to the press release, he is not striving to achieve academic perfection, but rather “practical relevance”. He has not yet decided on an area of application for the further development of his technology, although medical robotics, telerobotics and warehouse robotics, as well as prosthetics, are all feasible options.
Robotics & intelligent systems in the Greater Zurich Area
The Greater Zurich Area continues to be a global leader in robotics, drone technology and computer vision. There are close ties in the region between the industry, world-class universities and researchers and innovation-friendly authorities. This has driven revolutionary advancements, attracted leading technology firms and talent and encouraged entrepreneurship in the region, leading to unmatched opportunities for robot technology companies.
Multinationals, SMEs and startups that are in Greater Zurich enjoy a high availability of talent. This is thanks to a plethora of renowned higher education institutions in the region. On an international level, the European Commission has made artificial intelligence in Europe a priority for the next several years. These advantages have attracted some of the finest robotics companies in the world to the Greater Zurich Area.