Tactile Sensing over Articulated Joints with Stretchable Sensors
Killpack, Marc D.
Kemp, Charles C.
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Biological organisms benefit from tactile sensing across the entire surfaces of their bodies. Robots may also be able to benefit from this type of sensing, but fully covering a robot with robust and capable tactile sensors entails numerous challenges. To date, most tactile sensors for robots have been used to cover rigid surfaces. In this paper, we focus on the challenge of tactile sensing across articulated joints, which requires sensing across a surface whose geometry varies over time. We first demonstrate the importance of sensing across joints by simulating a planar arm reaching in clutter and finding the frequency of contact at the joints. We then present a simple model of how much a tactile sensor would need to stretch in order to cover a 2 degree-of-freedom (DoF) wrist joint. Next, we describe and characterize a new tactile sensor made with stretchable fabrics. Finally, we present results for a stretchable sleeve with 25 tactile sensors that covers the forearm, 2 DoF wrist, and end effector of a humanoid robot. This sleeve enabled the robot to reach a target in instrumented clutter and reduce contact forces.