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News Link • Robots and Artificial Intelligence

The Sensitive Robot: How Haptic Technology is Closing the Mechanical Gap

• popsci.com
 

There Advertisementare surgeons operating on patients right now who can't feel their instruments. Similarly, there are workers in nuclear facilities around the world using remote manipulator arms to handle radioactive materials without a sense of what they're touching. It's an epidemic of numbness that afflicts virtually everyone who performs a manual job with robotic assistance—from bomb disposal experts in Afghanistan to astronauts aboard the International Space Station.

The problem isn't physiological; but rather, mechanical. As robots become increasingly common, particularly in high-stakes and high-risk situations, the benefit of deploying remotely operated surrogates is hitting a functional wall. For the most part, robots can't feel what they touch, forcing their users to rewire their own instincts and replace simple tactile cues—the contours of a wire between two fingertips, for example—with constant visual confirmation.

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