Haptic robot hand transmits across the Atlantic

Posted on 21 Mar 2019 and read 1309 times
Haptic robot hand transmits across the AtlanticHaptic robots have been around since the 1990s, but until now a haptic robot hand has not been able to transmit touch. In a ‘tried and tested’ demonstration, the haptic tele-robot’s first words typed on a keyboard were “Hello, World!”, marking the first time anyone has typed words by controlling a robotic hand from a distance — and certainly the first time anyone has been able to feel what they type through a robot.

The system integrates the pioneering technologies of three organisations that came together to collaborate on this project: Shadow Robot Co (London and Madrid), a developer of dexterous robotic hands; SynTouch (California), which provided expertise in tactile sensors; and HaptX (California), which developed and supplied the haptic feedback gloves. ANA Holdings (the parent company of ANA the airline) funded and facilitated this integration as part of its global Avatar initiative.

Motion data captured by HaptX gloves controls the movement of the anthropomorphic hand from Shadow Robot Co, while SynTouch’s BioTac sensors (embedded in each fingertip of the robotic hand) collect tactile data that is recreated as haptic feedback by HaptX gloves and transmitted to the user’s hand.

In a demonstration of the system, an operator in California used a haptic glove to control a robotic hand in London, under the guidance of team members from ANA Holdings in Tokyo.

As the robot typed on a computer keyboard, tactile sensors on the robot’s fingertips detected the press of each key.

Haptic data travelled over a network back to the human operator in California, who received the haptic feedback in real time. Other demonstrations have seen the tele-robot performing a range of tasks from playing Jenga, to building a pyramid of plastic cups, and moving pieces on a chess board.

Kevin Kajitani, co-director of ANA Avatar, said: “This achievement by Shadow Robot, SynTouch and HaptX marks a significant milestone towards achieving the mission of Avatar X.

“This prototype paves the way for industry use, including medicine, construction, travel and space exploration.”

Rich Walker, managing director of Shadow Robot Co (www.shadowrobot.com), said: “This tele-operation system lets humans and robots share their sense of touch across the globe; it is a step ahead in what can be felt and done remotely.

"We can now deliver remote touch and dexterity for people to build on for applications like safeguarding people from hazardous tasks, or just doing a job without having to fly there. It is not ‘touch-typing’ yet, but we can feel what we touch when we’re typing.”

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