Professor Hugh Bruck (ME) is the principal investigator for "Compliant Multifunctional Robotic Structures for Safety and Communication by Touch," a three-year, $600K National Science Foundation National Robotics Initiative award.
He is joined by two co-PIs: Professor Elisabeth Smela (ME/ISR) and Associate Professor Miao Yu (ME and ISR affiliate).
The researchers will develop a robotic system similar to the human nervous system, based on arrays of conducting polymers. This sensor array will be integrated into composite foam structures using a scalable additive manufacturing process, and will be able to sense shape and force distributions. These multifunctional structures will be tested using a robotic arm interacting with objects of varying compliance.
The research will enable robots to physically communicate in a way similar to human touch. The new compliant, scalable, sensing structures will be able to simultaneously monitor in real-time both global and local shapes, as well as force distributions. It also will make possible new bio-inspired control principles for training robots. Enhancing robots' ability to distinguish humans from other objects in their environment will significantly advance robotic safety and decisionmaking, and create possibilities for new multifunctional robots in critical fields such as healthcare.
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