Artificial skin lets robots feel

BioTac Artificial Skin Technology is sure to be a storm with Robotics Designers. Giving them the opportunity to add a third sense to there robotic marvels. Now they can have the sense of touch to go along with existing technologies of sight and of sound.  Thanks to the technology coming out of the University of Southern California making this possible.

They have chosen to call their sensor BioTac, which is a new type of tactile sensor designed to mimic the human fingertip with its soft flexible skin. The sensor makes it possible to identify different types of texture by analyzing the vibrations produced as the sensor brushes over materials. This sensor is also capable of measuring pressure applied and  ambient temperature around the finger tip, expect to see this technology in next gen prosthetics. Let us know your thoughts on it.

[via technabob]
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BAMF2011: Keyboards built from scratch

As the most direct interface between computer and programmer, keyboards can be a deeply personal, sometimes almost religious thing. Some find solace in their vintage IBM Model M, or luxurious leather keyboard, but maker [Carol Chen] took things into her own hands, quite literally. [Carol]’s Maker Faire exhibit has a half dozen specimens of interesting commercial tactile and ergonomic options…but [Chen]’s personal keyboard, where she commits to her work as a full-time coder, has been made to her own exacting specifications.

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Build your own joystick


What can you build with a ballpoint pen and some extra parts? [gzip] found himself with a bonus box of right angle switches and other miscellaneous parts and set out to build a joystick. Simple arcade joysticks use switches that are actuated by the movement of the stick and this design embraces the concept. The four tactile switches are mounted on protoboard facing each other with part of a ballpoint pen in the middle. When the pen is moved it presses against one or more switches to close, completing a circuit. For good measure he even incorporated a fire button into the top of the “stick”. Now we just need someone to make this work with a tiny Ms. Pac-Man emulator.

Impress: tactile interface


Touch screen interfaces are generally hard and flat. Impress tries to break from that tradition by making the display flexible. Allowing you to feel more like you are interacting with the display. In the image above, the circles seem to physically fall into the dent made by your fingers. Another application shows some rudimentary 3d modeling being done by physically pushing on the vertexes. This prototype is very interesting, we’d love to see much higher resolution on the input side of things. It states that it does pressure sensitivity, but we weren’t able to distinguish it in the video. Maybe you can, catch the video after the break. Maybe laying one of these on some foam would be another alternative.

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Punchy punchout controller


We love alternative inputs. They can revitalize an old classic or add a twist to most any mundane task. Here, we see a perfect example where the game Punch Out for the NES is being controlled by a punching bag type thing. The impact sensors were made by hand, and wired to a PC game pad. They were mounted on some foam, allowing for a nice mushy punching surface.  There’s some feedback too, when your character is hit, a custom script detects the change in the sprites color and sends a signal to an Arduino. Right now, it just lights an LED, but the goal is to signal a strobe to make you flinch. This looks like it would be fun to play with, especially if you were to make it a little more high impact.  You can see a video of them lightly assaulting it after the break.

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Wearable haptic devices bestow sixth senses

Engadget recently posted a story about a flexible tactile display that can be wrapped around any part of the body and give haptic feedback to the user. The research team from Korea’s Sungkyunkwan University that developed the device are focusing on applications like Braille for the visually impaired or transmitting tactile data to a remote user, but this is just the beginning; the applications for wearable haptic feedback are wide open.

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Haptic RADAR: Electronic whiskers

[thomph-zhu] sent in this interesting project. If you’ve ever wished for cat like senses, you’ll dig this. It’s a set of electronic whiskers – it uses IR to detect nearby objects, and vibrates against your head upon detection. It’s definitely an interesting use of tactile feedback. The initial idea is for construction safety, but this could be useful for plenty of other applications. (Robotic control, etc)