The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) will create the first
robot that will enable a human to interact with it through touch, much as they
would another human. Last week, MIT commissioned the British company Peratech to develop its next generation tactile robotic skin to accomplish its goal.
Peratech is the company that developed Quantum Tunnelling Composites (QTC's), a new material that, while in 'repose,' acts as an electrical insulator, but when stressed acts as an electrical conductor.
QTC Pressure Sensing Material
QTC is a proprietary material made from various metal fillers combined with an elastomer, generally silicone. QTC compares favorably to carbon composites: it can be used as a solid state switch; it can detect very small changes due to compression, tension, or other stresses, and it can carry significant currents.
QTC can be tailored to suit different force, pressure, or touch sensing
applications – from sensing feather-light or finger operation to heavy
pressure applications, and that is why QTC is so perfect for the next tactile robot.
QTC provides a sensing skin in prothetic hand.
In addition to sensing how hard they have been touched, the new QTC robots will be able to detect where they have been touched, thanks to Peratech's patented scanning technology.
NASA's Robonaut 2 Though QTC has been used for many applications, the technology is not new to robotics. It's been adopted by NASA for the Robonaut and by Shadow Robot in the UK, which produces a robotic hand to sense touch.
But the MIT project will create the first robot that will enable a human to interact through touch much as they would another human. You can let your imagination work on that for awhile.
Peratech, company communication
Related read: Most Functional Bionic Hand Gets 2008 British Engineering Award