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Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2001, MCB UP Limited
Keywords: Robots, Fuzzy logic
A research group led by Mr Takashi Kato of Tokyo's Kogakuin University has developed a robot arm incorporating a mechanism made of a shape-memory alloy that senses the hardness of an object. Weighing just 2.5kgs and measuring 650mm, the Kato arm gauges the solidity of objects by the degree of resistance encountered at its "finger-tips", thereby opening the way to applications in nursing care and other activities that involve the handling of humans by robotic means.
The alloys used enable the arm to stretch and contract its grippers when heated or cooled, recoil from solid surfaces and sink into softer ones, with its movement depending on the amount of force exerted on an object by the robotic fingertips and on how much the object yields to that touch, with "fuzzy logic" being used to account for any ambiguous data.
Robotic arms capable of ascertaining solidity are not new, but earlier models required motors or other weight devices to move the parts used for grasping, thanks to shape-memory alloys.