The year 1928 in robotics involved at least one significant event including here the first humanoid robot called Eric based on electrical actuators. Since then many technologies were invented and reinvented with a high impact over industrial and service robots.
In later years we can speak about artificial skin, 3D vision, artificial muscles, artificial brain and even artificial nose. All of these new technologies can be integrated in future generation of robots and this is the subject of this article.
An advanced robot like a humanoid requires a wide range of systems including here vision, processing and touching. All of these technologies are used for one reason – make a robot to react like a human.
Starting with the most important part – the brain – a human can process a high amount of information in real-time and take the best decision. Mimicking the abilities of a human brain is perhaps the most desired projects for a neuroscientist, and for a while we can talk about this.
A good vision means a good understanding of the environment and opportunity to use a robot for complex tasks. The 3D vision systems reached a high-level of processing visual information with applications in various fields.
A robot that smell. This sounds like a joke, but it could be achieved in the near future using a system designed for identifying smells.
An artificial skin makes a robot more human and sensitive to touch or to changes in its surroundings.
Different types of muscles were developed over time and based on different materials. Using polymers that react to humidity, researchers build artificial muscles that mimic the human muscle system.
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An artificial brain that uses an electronic system to imitate the human brain.
Most advanced robots use powerful computers for processing while these are processing systems with high energy consumption and limited efficiency compared with a human brain. Building artificial brain is the Holy Grail for many scientists and very closer than this science fiction achievement are the researchers from the University of Zurich and ETH Zurich.
Even taking the most advanced computer it cannot work efficiently like a human brain works. Researchers demonstrate that using so-called neuromorphic chips can be imitated the processing system of a brain with real-time abilities. The final result is an artificial sensory system with cognitive abilities and with capabilities to perform particular tasks at a high degree of complexity.
A wide range of configuration can be created to cover a larger area of behavior modes.
The potential for this technology is huge especially in robotics where a large amount of information has to be processed in real-time.
Advanced 3D mapping system based on DSLR camera and Kinect digital model sensor.
Robots can see the world in three dimensions with vision systems already used at least on a limited scale in robotics. A more accurate vision means high details for the environment and this could be reached with stereo vision cameras like Kinect and the new entry in 3D interior mapping the MatterPort mapping camera.
This new stereo vision camera is presented as the future of interior mapping including here a camera for scan, compilation, and system for building 3D models. According to the manufacturer, a 3D model for a house can be created in about 45 minutes.
MatterPort is based on the Kinect digital model sensor and a DSLR camera with a tolerance of one inch on a surface of 12 x 12 foot.
A vision system that allows robots to see the world in 3D will be primarily used in advanced robotic application in the future and this is a good reason to invest time and money in developing new advanced 3D vision systems.
One of the five standard sense of humans can be found from now in robotics.
Humans have the ability to identify and remember a long list of smells, and this is one of the five standard senses. For robots the technology for identifying smells is very new and in development phase. With the code name Madeleine, the designer Amy Radcliffe builds an analog odor camera based on the ‘Headspace Capture’ technology used in the perfume industry for analyzing and recreation of odor compounds from various objects.
Working principle is simple and consists of a smell source that is placed under the device where a pump with plastic tube extension extract the smell. After the smell reached the main unit of the system, a series of particles are absorbed to record molecular information. The final result is a graph which contains all necessary information to be compared with a fingerprint of the smell.
This technology can be used in service or industrial robots and applied to a wide range of applications.
Advanced sense of touch using interactive sensor networks to react by increasing the light when pressure is applied.
The sense of touch is closely related to skin at humans and for a while to robots. Engineers at UC Berkeley develop an artificial skin that uses plastic and can be wrapped around robotic parts to enable a new and advanced human-machine interfacing, developed a new e-skin technology.
This intelligent skin system is the first interactive sensor network that works based on flexible plastic to respond at touch by increasing or decreasing the light. If the pressure is intense, a brighter light is emitted.
Inside, the skin uses semiconductors nano-wire transistors applied in layers while on top is applied a thin layer of polymer.
An advantage using this technology is the price, which is lower since the existing semiconductor machinery could be used in the manufacturing process.
In future, the engineers will improve the artificial skin with new and advanced features including here the sense of temperature and light in the same way as the pressure.
Based on the polymer material, this muscle system reacts when humidity stimulus is applied.
Muscles come in many shapes and forms in robotics while advanced technologies are developed to mimic the functionality of human muscle. Canadian researchers designed a new polymer material with response at humidity stimulus. This new material called artificial muscle can lift a weight higher than its own weight and hold in position the weight attached.
In tests, the artificial muscle lifts a weight with a value of 14 times its own weight. Doing some calculations a human arm is about 6.5% of the total mass of a human body while the equivalent of a 75 Kg human body can lift with one arm a weight of 68.3 Kg.
This new advanced technology is based on two layers that interact to shrink when feels drier. One-microgel and one-polycation layers interact to create motion when humidity is changed.
Delicate robots could use a soft and tiny artificial muscle including here a precise control of movements in order doesn’t damage any objects that enter in contact with the robot.