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Creators/Authors contains: "Lancaster, Patrick E."

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  1. We describe a single fingertip-mounted sensing system for robot manipulation that provides proximity (pre-touch), contact detection (touch), and force sensing (post-touch). The sensor system consists of optical time-of-flight range measurement modules covered in a clear elastomer. Because the elastomer is clear, the sensor can detect and range nearby objects, as well as measure deformations caused by objects that are in contact with the sensor and thereby estimate the applied force. We examine how this sensor design can be improved with respect to invariance to object reflectivity, signal-to-noise ratio, and continuous operation when switching between the distance and force measurement regimes. By harnessing time-of-flight technology and optimizing the elastomer-air boundary to control the emitted light's path, we develop a sensor that is able to seamlessly transition between measuring distances of up to 50 mm and contact forces of up to 10 newtons. We demonstrate that our sensor improves manipulation accuracy in a block unstacking task. Thorough instructions for manufacturing the sensor from inexpensive, commercially available components are provided, as well as all relevant hardware design files and software sources.