This week, Meta AI researchers, in collaboration with Carnegie Mellon University, announced the development of a new skin that could allow robots to feel, according to a new blog. It’s called ReSkin and it leverages advances in machine learning and magnetic sensing to offer an inexpensive, versatile, and durable solution that is ideal for repeated long-term use.
“Robust tactile sensing is a significant bottleneck in robotics,” said Lerrel Pinto, an assistant professor of computer science at NYU. “Current sensors are either too expensive, offer poor resolution, or are simply too unwieldy for custom robots. ReSkin has the potential to overcome several of these issues. Its lightweight and small form factor makes it compatible with arbitrary grippers, and I’m excited to further explore applications of this sensor on our lab’s robots.”
How does it work? When ReSkin touches something, the plastic it’s made of deforms, changing the magnetic field created by the embedded particles. A circuit board then tracks these changes and communicates them to artificial intelligence.
How does it feel? The circuit board also communicates these changes as a force (a sense of touch). The novel technology can identify a touch as light as 0.1 newtons of force with an accuracy of 1 millimeter.
ReSkin is also cost-efficient to produce. It amounts to less than $6 each at 100 units and even less at larger quantities. It’s 2-3 mm thick and can be used for more than 50,000 interactions without needing to be replaced.
So far the researchers have trialed ReSkin in robot hands, tactile gloves, arm sleeves, and even dog shoes and have been able to monitor many activities from the skin such as how the gloves grasp and how the shoes walk and rest. From these experimentations, the scientists have collected useful data to help with the evolution of the new technology.
They have concluded that ReSkin is also ideal for fast manipulation tasks like slipping, throwing, catching, and clapping. Best of all, when the skin does finally succumb to wear and tear (after 50,000 interactions) it can be easily stripped off and replaced.
Although ReSkin can have many applications, we can venture a guess that its first mission will be in the construction of the Metaverse and we must admit we are excited to see how it will be used even if some people are wary of the new universe…