Tactile sensing with whiskers of various shapes: Determining the three-dimensional location of object contact based on mechanical signals at the whisker base

Lucie A. Huet, John W. Rudnicki, Mitra J.Z. Hartmann*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations

Abstract

Almost all mammals use their mystacial vibrissae (whiskers) as important tactile sensors. There are no sensors along the length of a whisker: All sensing is performed by mechanoreceptors at the whisker base. To use artificial whiskers as a sensing tool in robotics, it is essential to be able to determine the three-dimensional (3D) location at which a whisker has made contact with an object. With the assumption of quasistatic, frictionless, single-point contact, previous work demonstrated that the 3D contact point can be uniquely determined if all six components of force and moment are measured at the whisker base, but these measurements require a six-axis load cell. Here, we perform simulations to investigate the extent to which each of the 20 possible "triplet" combinations of the six mechanical signals at the whisker base uniquely determine 3D contact point location. We perform this analysis for four different whisker profiles (shapes): Tapered with and without intrinsic curvature, and cylindrical with and without intrinsic curvature. We show that whisker profile has a strong influence on the particular triplet(s) of signals that uniquely map to the 3D contact point. The triplet of bending moment, bending moment direction, and axial force produces unique mappings for tapered whiskers. Four different mappings are unique for a cylindrical whisker without intrinsic curvature, but only when large deflections are excluded. These results inform the neuroscience of vibrissotactile sensing and represent an important step toward the development of artificial whiskers for robotic applications.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)88-102
Number of pages15
JournalSoft Robotics
Volume4
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 2017

Keywords

  • biomimetic robots
  • morphological computation
  • physical simulation
  • soft sensing
  • trigeminal
  • vibrissa

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Control and Systems Engineering
  • Biophysics
  • Artificial Intelligence

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