Chief Executive Officer
Location: California, USA
Number of employees: 8
Year founded: 2008
2222 South Figueroa, Suite PH2
Los Angeles, CA 90007
SynTouch has developed the world’s first robotic finger that can feel in the same way as a human finger. Until now, robots’ fingers have been more like human fingers that are numb with cold.
The SynTouch BioTac is a tactile sensor that registers the three modalities that give humans sensory feedback from their fingertips – force, vibration and temperature. It offers potential for robots to become much more dexterous and better able to perform a wide range of tasks.
The research behind the BioTac was initially inspired by the quest to produce a better prosthetic hand. The technology is also being explored in various other contexts, including quality control in the production of items, such as textiles and cosmetics, where feel is important. Robots with BioTacs can classify textures in terms of their haptics – qualities which a person experiences as fuzzy, squishy, springy, grainy, and so on – more consistently than humans.
The challenge on which researchers are now working is to develop “machine touch” algorithms that can process the sensory information from the BioTac and use it to guide a robot’s movements. Analogous to machine vision, it is not enough to merely equip a robot with a camera; it also needs to be programmed to use that visual feedback to accomplish a specific task. As the market for tactile sensors is new, there remains considerable uncertainty about what will ultimately prove to be the BioTac’s main applications – although uses in factories, agriculture, households and surgery are all obvious possibilities.