Robots with extended sensorization of their physical building materials

Dana Hughes, Christoffer Heckman, Nikolaus Correll, Materials that make robots smart ,. The International Journal of Robotics Research, 38(12–13), 1338–1351, DOI: 10.1177/0278364919856099.

We posit that embodied artificial intelligence is not only a computational, but also a materials problem. While the importance of material and structural properties in the control loop are well understood, materials can take an active role during control by tight integration of sensors, actuators, computation, and communication. We envision such materials to abstract functionality, therefore making the construction of intelligent robots more straightforward and robust. For example, robots could be made of bones that measure load, muscles that move, skin that provides the robot with information about the kind and location of tactile sensations ranging from pressure to texture and damage, eyes that extract high-level information, and brain material that provides computation in a scalable manner. Such materials will not resemble any existing engineered materials, but rather the heterogeneous components out of which their natural counterparts are made. We describe the state-of-the-art in so-called “robotic materials,” their opportunities for revolutionizing applications ranging from manipulation to autonomous driving by describing two recent robotic materials, a smart skin and a smart tire in more depth, and conclude with open challenges that the robotics community needs to address in collaboration with allies, such as wireless sensor network researchers and polymer scientists.

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