Researchers at the National University of Singapore have developed a smart foam material that allows robots to sense nearby objects, and to repair themselves when damaged. The self-repairing ability comes from creating a spongy material that fuses easily into one piece when it is cut.
The sense of touch, as this Reuters report explains, comes from “infusing the material with microscopic metal particles and adding tiny electrodes underneath the surface of the foam. When pressure is applied, the metal particles draw closer within the polymer matrix, changing their electrical properties.
These changes can be detected by the electrodes connected to a computer, which then tells the robot what to do”. It can be used in robots to help them handle materials better but also to allow prosthetic users to have a more intuitive use of their robotic arms. I love the fact that this material solves some of the classic problems for robots, you can easily imagine it being used in every robot hand that is built.
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