Do robots need a human-like sense of touch?

SynTouch, a California company working to give robots a human-like sense of touch, was recently awarded $2.5M in grants from the National Science Foundation and the Office of Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs.

So what’s special about human touch?

Consider what happens when you throw snowballs at your kid for a few minutes or try to scrape ice off a car windshield without wearing gloves. Your hands go numb and it becomes very difficult to perform fine motor tasks, such as zipping up your jacket or getting your keys in the ignition.

Those scenarios are so familiar they may not strike you as noteworthy, but numb hands are a real head scratcher for roboticists. In the above cases, your hands haven’t lost any of their mechanical abilities. Your muscles still work as they always have and the joints open and close freely. What’s changed is your sense of touch. You can no longer feel pressure, texture, heat or a number of other properties that we unconsciously rely on for fine manipulation. Your beautifully capable hands are reduced to clunky manipulators.


About Peter Coffaro 1426 Articles
A growth-driven and strategic executive, Peter Coffaro commands more than 20 years of progressive management success within the medical device industry. As a District Sales Manager for Stryker Orthopaedics, Peter was responsible for managing and directing a regional sales force to achieve sales and profit goals within the Rocky Mountain region. Previously, he was the Director of Sales & Marketing for Amp Orthopedics. In this role, Peter was responsible for planning, developing, and leading all sales and marketing initiatives. Peter is a former orthopedic distributor in the Pacific Northwest. He has also worked with DePuy Orthopaedics as well as Zimmer, and held positions in sales, sales training, and sales management. Peter has an extensive background in organizational development, business development, sales management, negotiating and P&L management. Peter holds a B.S. degree in Biology from Northern Illinois University.

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