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Obrero Robot Has The Soft Touch

Obrero is a prototype robot built to explore the concept of sensitive manipulation; its grasp is very soft because it uses sensors in its robotic hand when manipulating objects, rather than just relying on machine vision.


(Obrero robot with sensitive manipulation)

Obrero has 8 force sensors, 5 position sensors, 5 motors and 7 high resolution tactile sensors in its hands.

The hand was designed to be compliant. It has postion and force control of the fingers. Additionally, it has very sensitive tactile sensors. Each of the fingers has series elastic actuators in its joints. A finger has two mecahnical coupled links. However they can decouple to conform to an object. The thumb and the middle finger can also rotate using series elastic actuator. The tactile sensors were custom made for doing manipulation task.

Take a look at a just a few seconds video showing Obrero picking up a very flexible object - a bag of my favorite cookies! This is a compilation video; the Obrero robot portion is just from 2:40 to 3:15.


(Obrero robot video [starts at about 2:40])

Obrero is a robotic project being worked on by Eduardo Torres-Jara and supervised by MIT Professor Rodney A. Brooks. Dr. Brooks is a co-founder of iRobot; he left his post of CTO a year ago to found his own robotics company, Heartland Robotics.

On his website, he states that "I want to effect a powerful evolution in the world's labor markets, and my current focus is to develop low-cost robots that will empower American workers." Obrero is where he is starting to do this work.

As it turns out, science fiction fans have been in good (robotic) hands as far as imagining robot hands that are controlled both by touch and by sight. Read what sf Grandmaster Robert Heinlein writes in his 1956 story The Door Into Summer.

Hands I could order from the atomics-engineering equipment companies who supplied Hired Girl's hands, only this time I would want the best, with wide-range servos and with the delicate feedback required for microanalysis manipulations and for weighing radioactive isotopes...

The ears I could buy from any of a dozen radio-TV houses - though I might have to do some circuit designing to have his hands controlled simultaneously by sight, sound, and touch feedback the way the human hand is controlled.
(Read more about Heinlein's robotic hands)

Take a look at the Obrero homepage; not much to see yet at the Heartland Robotics company website. Via NextBigFuture.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 10/6/2009)

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