Smart Foam is a new material that will allow robots to feel the touch. The idea is to place the smart foam on robotic hands to create robots with even more sensitive capabilities. The tiny sponge-like AiFoams was initially infused with tiny metal particles with miniature electrodes beneath the top surface. These electrodes are actually in the form of plates with thin metal wires running through them. The plates can be made to deform based on the needs of the actual robot.
This concept is far from the only one that uses the concept of Smart Foam. Researchers at Cornell University recently developed a material that can be used to create an acoustic transducer out of sheet metal. This transducer can detect any acoustic signals emanating from a body. Once it is learned how to do this, it will be practical for use inside of any building.
The idea for using the sponge is not far from researchers at NASA who have already been testing small versions of this concept. These tests have shown that the material works and can be used to replace human skin in many situations. When the robotic hand touches a person, or a pet touches another robotic hand, it is very sensitive to human skin sensations. By applying the material on robotic hands, the scientists are able to sense the temperature, perspiration, blood flow and even the amount of fat present. Once it is learned how to do this, it will be very practical for use inside of any building.
With the development of the material, no longer will workers have to worry about sore fingers that break easily. The material is also durable enough to withstand several washings with detergents. With all of these benefits, it is easy to see how this material will have a practical use within five years. If the material is ever made to replace human skin, it could be applied to perform tasks humans cannot. This is especially beneficial if there is a reduction in tasks that robots must perform due to their lack of dexterity.
Perhaps one of the most interesting applications of foams is within the area of artificial intelligence research. Engineers may one day use the material to create self-healing properties for robotic hand or to help robots to sense pressure. In this way, they would be able to control a robotic hand more effectively.
Polymer matrix has different properties when it is sprayed into an environment. When the polymer matrix is sprayed on the inside of a robot, it is able to form a sponge like exterior which is much closer within than its actual size. This allows engineers to create actuators and tiny hairs for the robotic hand to pick up and shape.
Imagine if you could use this material to create your own robotic pet. A Smart Foam sphere is going to be placed within an electrical field. The inside of the sphere is going to generate its own electric field to help provide a better medium for the electric signal from the Smart Foam sensors to travel through. If the Smart Foam sphere can detect the smallest of changes in the air pressure, it will sense whether you are walking in a circular pattern or not, and will either trigger an electronic action or stop you from moving in that particular way.
Another application for the Smart Foam is in creating artificial muscles. Engineers may one day use the material to create artificial hands and legs. By placing electrical charges on the Smart Foam electrodes underneath, the material will generate a miniature electrical field which will help provide power for artificial muscles. This is only one potential use for Smart Foam, but it’s certainly an interesting one.
Provided by Antonio Westley
Disclaimer: This article is meant to be seen as an overview of this subject and not a reflection of viewpoints or opinions as nothing is definitive. So, make sure to do your research and feel free to use this information at your own discretion.