Things to think about:
- In a very broad sense, what do sensors allow robots to do?
- Why are sensors important?
- Tell me about a couple robots that wouldn’t be possible without sensors (name & 1 sentence about what it does).
Excerpts from NSF.gov
Many kinds of sensors are available to detect information about the physical world, ranging from thermometers for temperature to chemical sensors for pollutants to seismometers for earthquakes.
Tiny, two-wheeled and wireless, RoboMotes are designed to create networks of sensors that move and reconfigure themselves to adapt to new situations. Developed at the University of Southern California’s Robotic Embedded Systems Lab, each golf-ball-sized RoboMote includes a wireless network interface, two wheels with odometers; a solar cell for power; a compass for direction; and bump and infrared sensors for obstacle avoidance. Because of their small size and low cost, RoboMotes make it possible to experiment with larger numbers of sensors in dynamic networks.
In the James San Jacinto Mountain Reserve near Idyllwild, California, a NIMS robotic sensor suspended between two trees has endured rain, snow and sun while its camera monitors plant growth throughout the experimental zone. Future test networks will observe a mountain stream ecosystem–from the ground to the treetops–for global change indicators, and monitor coastal wetlands and urban rivers for biological pathogens. The same technologies could one day be applied to securing public infrastructure.
Robotics researchers are also looking at developing novel sensor capabilities. For example, the sense of touch embedded in the human skin has been difficult to duplicate. Human skin bends and stretches to let us move around, but electrical circuits don’t like to be stretched. Sigurd Wagner and Stephanie Lacour of Princeton University have created a robot “skin” with the first stretchable metal film interconnects for elastic integrated circuits. Some samples have been stretched to twice their original length and remained conductive. But so far, the researchers don’t know why this technology works.
NSF has funded many projects in microelectromechanical systems (MEMS), which have provided new sensors relevant to robotics. Micromachined artificial hair cells, for example, might provide the ability to sense wind blowing or liquid flowing from different directions (see “Robots and Biology”).
- Keepon on The Works
- Soft Touch Sensor (video at the bottom)
- Sensor Simulation for Space
- Sensor Robot to Aid Military