Sensor-Laden Glove Could Lead to More Capable Robots

MIT researchers embedded hundreds of sensors within an ordinary glove in hopes of teaching robots how to interact with different objects.

Teaching robots how to recognize and handle unknown items remains a key hurdle to enabling automation of a much wider range of routine tasks.

But researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology may have come up with a relatively simple solution: they outfitted an ordinary glove with hundreds of tiny, inexpensive sensors, then used the way its wearers handled things to build a data set of how future robotic arms should respond to a variety of objects.

The scalable tactile glove, or STAG, is a knitted glove laminated with a conductive polymer and threaded with a conductive thread, which resulted in 550 different sensors that captured the pressure applied by a human grip as it interacted with an object.

A neural network then processed the signals, allowing it to identify and analyze 26 common objects, from a soda can and scissors to a pen and a mug.

Using the data set in combination with other systems, such as image recognition or computer vision, could ultimately give robotic arms a more intuitive understanding of unfamiliar objects.

MIT researchers noted that the glove is made with materials costing about $10, and that it also demonstrated how movements in one part of the hand corresponded to movements elsewhere — a potential breakthrough for prosthetics design.

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