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SynTouch BioTac Prosthetics - Human-like Touch

  • Synopsis: Published: 2014-07-13 (Rev. 2014-11-28) - SynTouch has developed sensor technology that gives robots the ability to replicate the sense of touch people have. For further information pertaining to this article contact: Disabled World at Disabled World.

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"SynTouch has found out how to combine the natural compliance of human fingertips with simple contact sensing and biomimetic reflexes, meeting demanding requirements."

The company's lead product is called the, 'BioTac,' and it mimics the physical properties and sensory capability of a human fingertip. SynTouch was founded in the year 2008 and has headquarters in Los Angeles. The company provides, 'Machine Touch,' which is complete tactile sensing solutions for medical, industrial as well as military applications.

The products SynTouch creates do everything you might expect a person's fingers to do. For example; the company's products:

  • Protect humans
  • Prevent damage
  • Enable dexterity
  • Provide awareness
  • Improve product quality

Image of a person using BioTac technology in a prosthetic
Image of a person using BioTac technology in a prosthetic
SynTouch is introducing the sense of touch to a number of robots through their platform neutral strategy. BioTac technology is integrated with several popular robotic hands from companies including Shadow Robot Company, Barrett Technologies, Robotiq, Willow Garage, HUBO, and Allegro. Integration of Machine Touch into robotic products requires intelligent software along with tactile sensors.

SynTouch has already enjoyed significant success in the development of algorithms needed to identify and explore objects and continues to work on the algorithms needed to handle them with dexterity. The efforts provide the foundation for the application-specific code and commercial products that will get the company to the future of Machine Touch.

SynTouch and BioTac

The SynTouch BioTac and the expertise of the company's team can assist with development of quantifiable measures of, 'haptic,' properties which relate to human perception. Due to the fact that the BioTac is modeled after both the sensory capabilities and mechanical structure of a human fingertip it responds to and senses physical interaction with objects in the same way a person's finger would. The result is that BioTac is a perfect tool to quantify what a person would feel. SynTouch has substantial experience in the development and validation of signal processing algorithms that take raw data and provide descriptive properties that directly correlate the words people use to describe what it is they are feeling such as rough, smooth, soft or hard and so forth. The features of BioTac include the following:

  • Easily replaceable skins
  • Robust design that protects electronics
  • Software for collecting and processing data
  • Can be installed on virtually any robotic platform
  • Contains all the sensory capabilities of the human fingertip
  • Similar to the human fingertip in size, shape, and compliance

Chart showing features of BioTac
Chart showing features of BioTac
BioTac was initially developed by researchers at the University of Southern California. It has advanced, human-like tactile sensing and is the leading product in machine touch. The design consists of a rigid core surrounded by an elastic, liquid-filled skin and appears very similar to a human fingertip. BioTac is identical to human touch capabilities; it can sense vibration, force and temperature.

BioTac's sensory abilities have been incorporated into the device without placing a single sensor in the skin. All of the electronics are protected inside its rigid core instead. The product is in a class of its own when robustness and repair-ability are considered.

BioTac's Sensory Capabilities

The BioTac has unique types of sensors that permit it to sense all of the same information a person's fingertips are capable of detecting, to include pain, with a similar range and resolution.

The sensors in BioTac include:
A sensitive pressure transducer capable of sensing both total fluid pressure and vibrations that arise when sliding over textured surfaces
A set of heaters and a thermistor capable of sensing thermal gradients that arise when touching objects with different thermal properties
Impedance-sensing electrodes capable of measuring deformations that arise when normal or shear forces are applied to the surface of the skin

A sensitive pressure transducer capable of sensing both total fluid pressure and vibrations that arise when sliding over textured surfaces

A set of heaters and a thermistor capable of sensing thermal gradients that arise when touching objects with different thermal properties

Impedance-sensing electrodes capable of measuring deformations that arise when normal or shear forces are applied to the surface of the skin

More details about the sensory capabilities of BioTac are available through SynTouch's BioTac Sensory Modalities page. The company has a complete set of academic publications describing applications and uses of the BioTac available. The BioTac has the ability to mimic the sensory capabilities and mechanical structure of a human fingertip and can be used to perform several human-like tasks with incredible accuracy. The tasks the BioTac can perform include:

  • Detecting slip
  • Resolving point of contact
  • Resolving normal and shear forces
  • Discriminating edges, corners, and flat surfaces
  • Estimating the radius of curvature of a contacted object
  • Sensing initial contact with an remarkably high sensitivity
  • Discriminating objects based on their tactile proprieties such as texture, compliance and thermal properties

Regarding prosthetics, SynTouch says that clinicians have long known that insensate hands tend to be nearly useless, even if they have average motor function. People who have tried using their hands when their fingertips are numb from the cold understands as well. Despite this, designers of prosthetic hands have been reluctant to incorporate tactile sensing because their products need to be robust, simple, and cost-effective to fit and maintain. SynTouch has found out how to combine the natural compliance of human fingertips with simple contact sensing and biomimetic reflexes, meeting demanding requirements.

SynTouch
syntouchllc.com/

SynTouch Named Technology Pioneer 2014 by World Economic Forum
syntouchllc.com/Media/News/2013-08-27-SynTouch-Named-Technology-Pioneer/

NumaTac Selected as The Scientist's Top 10 Innovations of 2013
syntouchllc.com/Media/News/2013-12-01-NumaTac-Selected-as-Top-Innovations/

SynTouch BioTac Demo



Related Information:

  1. Bionic Hand Allows Amputee to Feel in Real-time - Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne - (Feb 5, 14)
    https://www.disabled-world.com/assistivedevices/prostheses/bionic-hand.php
  2. Genium X3 Waterproof Bionic Leg from Ottobock - Ottobock - (Jun 18, 14)
    https://www.disabled-world.com/assistivedevices/prostheses/genium-x3.php
  3. Touch Bionics Realistic Prostheses - Thomas C. Weiss - (May 6, 13)
    https://www.disabled-world.com/assistivedevices/prostheses/touch-bionics.php

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