The Role of Exploratory Conditions in Bio-Inspired Tactile Sensing of Single Topogical Features

R. Candelier , A. Prevost , G. Debregeas

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Sensors, 11, 8
Published 11 Aug. 2011
DOI: 10.3390/s110807934
ISSN: 1424-8220


We investigate the mechanism of tactile transduction during active exploration of finely textured surfaces using a tactile sensor mimicking the human fingertip. We focus in particular on the role of exploratory conditions in shaping the subcutaneous mechanical signals. The sensor has been designed by integrating a linear array of MEMS micro-force sensors in an elastomer layer. We measure the response of the sensors to the passage of elementary topographical features at constant velocity and normal load, such as a small hole on a flat substrate. Each sensor's response is found to strongly depend on its relative location with respect to the substrate/skin contact zone, a result which can be quantitatively understood within the scope of a linear model of tactile transduction. The modification of the response induced by varying other parameters, such as the thickness of the elastic layer and the confining load, are also correctly captured by this model. We further demonstrate that the knowledge of these characteristic responses allows one to dynamically evaluate the position of a small hole within the contact zone, based on the micro-force sensors signals, with a spatial resolution an order of magnitude better than the intrinsic resolution of individual sensors. Consequences of these observations on robotic tactile sensing are briefly discussed.

Cette publication est associée à :

Mécanique des systèmes biologiques intégrés et artificiels