High-tech 'whiskers' For Robots

Taking inspiration from the animal kingdom, Flinders University researchers are developing affordable, flexible and highly responsive 'whiskers' to attach to robots.
While lasers and camera vision is used to instruct robot movement, the additional support of light-weight, cheap and flexible 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, says Flinders College of Science and Engineering PhD candidate Simon Pegoli. Additionally, whiskers uncover properties of objects, such as moveability, not possible with camera or regular range-finder sensors.
Associate Professor Russell Brinkworth and Simon Pegoli with 3D whisker prototypes they are working on at the Tonsley campus.

Using mechanical beam theory, researchers are working on developing an optimal whisker shape so that robots could use these whisker attachments to "touch and interpret the weight of objects they run into, potentially moving the obstacles out of their path and also avoid damage", says mechatronics graduate Mr Pegoli.

"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," he says.
"We'll continue to put these electro-mechanical 'whisker' prototypes to the test in problematic scenarios so the robot's operating system will eventually know how to respond to the information they gather."
Associate Professor in Autonomous Systems, Dr Russell Brinkworth, focuses on bringing robotics "out of the lab and into the real world," and is helping researchers build artificial systems with the ability to adapt to different environments.
"We would like to see these whiskers function in a way similar to how our fingertips can assess the weight, shape and kind of object before us," says Associate Professor Brinkworth, a coauthor of the new article published in Sensors and Actuators A: Physical.
"These 3D printed sensor whiskers could be fitted at low cost and give robots many useful additional capacities."
The article, Optimising electromechanical whisker design for contact localisation (2024) by Simon P Pegoli, Phillip SM Skelton and Russell SA Brinkworth has been published in the journal Sensors and Actuators A: Physical DOI: 10.1016/j.sna.2024.115591.
Acknowledgement: Simon Pegoli is supported by an Australian Government Research Training Program Scholarship.
/Public Release. This material from the originating organization/author(s) might be of the point-in-time nature, and edited for clarity, style and length. Mirage.News does not take institutional positions or sides, and all views, positions, and conclusions expressed herein are solely those of the author(s).View in full here.