Robotic touch

Deakin University researchers are developing an intelligent robot that allows its operator to feel what the robot’s gripper is feeling.


A major grant has been awarded to researchers at Australia’s Deakin University who are developing an intelligent robot that allows its operator to feel what the robot’s gripper is feeling.


The development of the Deakin robot is to be ‘fast-tracked’ under the Capability and Technology Demonstrator (CTD) Extension Programme managed by the Australian Defence Science and Technology Organisation (DSTO).


The researchers at Deakin’s Centre for Intelligent Systems Research (CISR) developed a proof-of-concept prototype as part of an earlier research grant awarded to them under the CTD programme.


‘This new funding will enable us to refine the robot’s design for harsh environments,’ said Professor Saeid Nahavandi, chief investigator for the project.


The Deakin researchers have used haptic (sense of touch) technology to allow the robot’s operator to ‘feel’ objects handled by the robot’s gripper.


As a result, the operator can get a sense of an object’s centre of mass, density and consistency, even though it may be up to 500m away.


Professor Nahavandi said this ability gives the robot great potential for use in harsh or dangerous environments without risk to the operator.


‘Our intelligent robot allows the operator to ‘feel’ the physical environment it is working in.


‘This ability can help the operator to defuse an explosive device without damage to people or property.


‘Because the device is defused rather than blown up, information about the device and its makers can be collected.’