A team of researchers from the Chinese Academy of Sciences has developed an artificial finger capable of identifying certain materials with 90% accuracy.

In his work, published in the magazine Science Advancesthe group describes how they used triboelectric sensors to give their finger the ability to sense touch.

Previous research has led to the development of robotic fingers that have the ability to recognize certain attributes of certain surfaces, such as pressure or temperature; the team behind the new study continued those efforts by adding the ability to identify the material being touched.

How was the artificial finger created?

The artificial finger was created by attaching small square sensors to the tip of a finger-shaped object. Each of the squares was made from a different kind of plastic polymer, each chosen for its unique electrical properties.

When such sensors are placed close to an object, such as a flat surface, the sensors’ electrons interact with the materials in unique ways.

The sensors beneath the polymer were all connected to their own processors inside the finger, which were then linked together to allow comparison of results and machine learning-based data analysis.

The researchers also attached a small LCD screen to display the results. The scientists then tested their finger by having it touch different flat surfaces such as glass, wood, plastic and silicone.

How did the device fare in tests?

They found that the finger is able to detect the right material about 96.8% of the time, with a minimum accuracy of 90% for all surfaces. The researchers also tested the strength of the finger by having it touch a surface thousands of times and found it held up well enough for industrial applications, they write Tech Xplore.

The researchers suggest that if their finger was used in an industrial setting, it could be directly connected to a control mechanism.

They also suggest it could be used to test products to ensure they meet manufacturing standards.

Applications of this finger

The scientists also note that such a finger could also be used on a full-sized humanoid robot, developing its capabilities.

They point out that the technology behind their finger could be used in prosthetic devices to help restore some degree of touch to people who have lost this ability.

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