First haptic robot hand transmits touch across the Atlantic

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In a first, a haptic robot hand has been able to transmit touch over a distance to the operator. The haptic telerobot was able to type, “Hello, World!” on a keyboard in London, while controlled from the US.

This is the first time anyone’s typed words by controlling a robotic hand from a distance and it’s certainly the first time anyone’s been able to feel what they type through a robot, said the event's organisers.

The system integrates technologies from three organisations who came together to collaborate:

• Shadow Robot Company (London & Madrid) in dexterous robotic hands;

• SynTouch (California) in tactile sensors; and

• HaptX (California) in realistic haptic feedback gloves.

Motion data captured by HaptX Gloves controls the movement of the anthropomorphic dexterous hand, developed by Shadow Robot Company. SynTouch’s BioTac sensors are embedded in each fingertip of the robotic hand to collect tactile data that’s recreated as haptic feedback by HaptX Gloves is transmitted to the user’s hand.

The international engineering team included members of SynTouch and HaptX in California and Shadow Robot Company in London and Madrid.

In the demonstration, an operator in California used a haptic glove to control a dexterous robotic hand in London. As the robot typed on a computer keyboard, tactile sensors on the robot’s fingertips detected the press of each key.

The demo also saw the telerobot performing a range of tasks from playing Jenga, to building a pyramid of plastic cups, to moving chess pieces on a chess board.

“This teleoperation system lets humans and robots share their sense of touch across the globe - it’s a step ahead in what can be felt and done remotely,” said Rich Walker, Managing Director of Shadow Robot Company. “We can now deliver remote touch and dexterity for people to build on for applications like safeguarding people from hazardous tasks, or just doing a job without having to fly there!”

Commenting Dr. Jeremy Fishel, Co-Founder of SynTouch said, “This is the first time anyone has ever demonstrated a telerobot with such high-fidelity haptics and control, which is very promising and would not have been possible without the great engineers and technologies from this collaboration.”