Robot enhancement the cat’s whiskers

Robots in a packaging line. | Newsreel
Future robots could have blind sports eliminated by adding whiskers. | Photo: Onurdongel (iStock)

Future hi-tech robots may have blind spots eliminated thanks to the animal kingdom and South Australian researchers.

Researchers from Flinders University in Adelaide are developing affordable, flexible and highly responsive ‘whiskers’ to attach to robots.

PhD candidate Simon Pegoli said while lasers and camera vision was used to instruct robot movement, the additional support of whiskers would give workplace and domestic robots additional tactile abilities in confined or cluttered spaces.

“Like a rat’s whiskers, these sensors can be used to overcome a robot’s range-finder or camera blind spots which may not ‘see’ or register an object close by,” Mr Pegoli said.

He said the whiskers could reveal the properties of objects, such as moveability, not possible with camera or regular range-finder sensors.

Mr Pegoli said using mechanical beam theory, researchers were working on developing an optimal whisker shape.

He said robots could then use the attachments to touch and interpret the weight of objects they run into, potentially moving the obstacles out of their path and also avoiding damage.

“Every space is different, so giving robots effective tactile sensor systems to map their tasks and ‘visualise’ movement in their range will advance their abilities.”

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