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Underwater Robot With Touch Sensitive Skin

This underwater robot has special sensor strips that provide it with a sense of touch - anywhere on the surface of its metal skin. This comes in handy when lights serve little practical purpose in murky, sediment-laden water.


(Fraunhofer underwater robot)

"One component in this tactile capability is a strain gauge," says Marcus Maiwald, project manager at the Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Technology and Applied Materials Research IFAM in Bremen. Together with his Fraunhofer colleagues and staff at the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence DFKI, Bremen Laboratory, he has developed the model of an underwater robot with a sense of touch. "If the robot encounters an obstacle, the strain gauge is distorted and the electrical resistance changes. The special feature of our strain gauge is that it is not glued but printed on – which means we can apply the sensor to curved surfaces of the robot."

The single printed strip is just a few ten micrometers wide, i.e. about half the width of a human hair. As a result, the strain gauges can be applied close to each other and the robot can identify precisely where it is touching an obstacle. The sensor is protected from the salt water by encapsulation.

Fans of science fiction writer Murray Leinster might remember the Wabbler autonomous underwater robot from his 1942 short story of the same name.

Take a deep breath and go down for a look at these underwater robots:

The press release states that the Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Technology and Applied Materials Research IFAM in Bremen and their colleagues at the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence DFKI, Bremen Laboratory will be presenting an "octopus-shaped underwater robot" at the Sensor and Test trade show from May 26 to 28 in Nuremberg, Germany.

From Eurekalert.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 5/6/2009)

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