Robots need a way to diagnose their artificial structure since they are not born with neurons.

Cornell University’s associate professor of mechanical engineering, Robert Shepherd claimed that think of a future in which robots are running automatically but an adjunct gets hurt. “It’s going to continue moving its limb and thinking its hand or foot is going to be in one position, when it’s actually going to be in a different position,” he claimed. “We need skins, or internal neural-like sensors, to communicate this information three-dimensionally and continuously, to the robot’s controller.”

Laboratory of Shepherd has created a light, foam, and artificial intelligence structure that permits it to feel what’s going on with it – whether the foam is going down or up, or maybe twisting, or both. On 29 November, the results were published in Science Robotics journal.

The system has a main sensor layer which has 30 optical fibers in the foam, that is build up of silicone. The fibers connect with other devices by coming out of one corner of the foam. The light intensity that is coming out the corner of the fibers allows the structure to know what’s going on with the foam. At resting position of foam, light shines some way, and if it twists or bends, the light will change.

Light optical fibers in the silicone foam

“So you can detect changes in shape by looking at the change in the overall pattern of light intensity,” Cornell’s Ph.D. candidate in mechanical engineering, Ilse Van Meerbeek, and the first author of the research paper claimed while explaining the foam.

Foam has no head or brain as humans do, so they can’t interpret on their own about what’s happening to them. For this task, the scholars went for artificial intelligence. For creating the AI, first of all, the researchers collected the data about the behavior of light when the foam was twisted or bent in some known way. That info allowed them to train machine learning models that they could further utilize to deduct what’s going on with the foam.

However, this is not the only detecting plan for the scholars to check how a soft created robot is widening: stretchy electronic sensors utilize changes in current to observe how the robot is enlarging. In a previous strategy at the lab of Shepherd, the stretchable light fibers were used to know if anything has been distorted.

Sensors of this kind are important for the robot to feel what is happening to it and in the surroundings.

“Your robot needs to have a sense of itself in the world,” senior author of the paper, Shepherd, claims.

For now, the AI and the foam test set-up at Cornell consists of an external apparatus for the foam, however, Van Meerbeek claims that it is likely to reduce the whole thing with the aim of developing a self-sensing, self-sufficient foam set up. One potential use of this type of sensor system that she sees is “Robots learning how to walk for themselves,” she claimed whole talking about soft ‘bots. “It has to be able to sense its shape.”