skip to main content

Title: Recent progress in tactile sensing and sensors for robotic manipulation: can we turn tactile sensing into vision?
Award ID(s):
Author(s) / Creator(s):
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Advanced Robotics
Page Range / eLocation ID:
661 to 673
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. A long-standing question in robot hand design is how accurate tactile sensing must be. This paper uses simulated tactile signals and the reinforcement learning (RL) framework to study the sensing needs in grasping systems. Our first experiment investigates the need for rich tactile sensing in the rewards of RL-based grasp refinement algorithms for multi-fingered robotic hands. We systematically integrate different levels of tactile data into the rewards using analytic grasp stability metrics. We find that combining information on contact positions, normals, and forces in the reward yields the highest average success rates of 95.4% for cuboids, 93.1% for cylinders, and 62.3% for spheres across wrist position errors between 0 and 7 centimeters and rotational errors between 0 and 14 degrees. This contact-based reward outperforms a non-tactile binary-reward baseline by 42.9%. Our follow-up experiment shows that when training with tactile-enabled rewards, the use of tactile information in the control policy’s state vector is drastically reducible at only a slight performance decrease of at most 6.6% for no tactile sensing in the state. Since policies do not require access to the reward signal at test time, our work implies that models trained on tactile-enabled hands are deployable to robotic hands with a smaller sensor suite, potentially reducing cost dramatically. 
    more » « less
  2. Tactile sensing for robotics is achieved through a variety of mechanisms, including magnetic, optical-tactile, and conductive fluid. Currently, the fluid-based sensors have struck the right balance of anthropomorphic sizes and shapes and accuracy of tactile response measurement. However, this design is plagued by a low Signal to Noise Ratio (SNR) due to the fluid based sensing mechanism “damping” the measurement values that are hard to model. To this end, we present a spatio-temporal gradient representation on the data obtained from fluid-based tactile sensors, which is inspired from neuromorphic principles of event based sensing. We present a novel algorithm (GradTac) that converts discrete data points from spatial tactile sensors into spatio-temporal surfaces and tracks tactile contours across these surfaces. Processing the tactile data using the proposed spatio-temporal domain is robust, makes it less susceptible to the inherent noise from the fluid based sensors, and allows accurate tracking of regions of touch as compared to using the raw data. We successfully evaluate and demonstrate the efficacy of GradTac on many real-world experiments performed using the Shadow Dexterous Hand, equipped with the BioTac SP sensors. Specifically, we use it for tracking tactile input across the sensor’s surface, measuring relative forces, detecting linear and rotational slip, and for edge tracking. We also release an accompanying task-agnostic dataset for the BioTac SP, which we hope will provide a resource to compare and quantify various novel approaches, and motivate further research. 
    more » « less