Dr. Jacob Segil and his colleague and former PhD adivsor Prof. Richard Weir work on prosthetic hands and know how important the sense of touch is. While it is well known in the research community that simply providing a prosthesis user with information when contact is made can dramatically improve performance in standardized manipulation tests, getting this information has been evasive so far. Existing sensors are not only too expensive, but it is unclear how pressure or vibration readings should be translated to a prosthetic user. Indeed, measuring contact has not really been possible without exerting force on an object, thereby possibly changing its pose and jeopardizing manipulation.
In collaboration with Robotic Materials and the Correll Lab at the University of Colorado, Dr. Segil has retrofitted a BeBionic five finger hand with a custom integrated pressure and force sensor. This sensor is able to not only measure proximity and force, but has the ability to detect contact independently of surface properties. Getting to the prototype was quick: given a 3D model of the BeBionic hand, Dr. Segil was able to quickly fit the Robotic Materials sensor, print the structure on an Objet 30, and over-mold the finger with abrasive-resistant PDMS.
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