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Robotics & Machine Learning

A sense of touch for robots

The sense of touch makes robots more adept at handling objects. The sense of touch is conveyed by a network of sensing cells, which acts like an artificial skin.

A robot with a human sense of touch has an advanced skill set. With a touch sense a robotic hand can manipulate delicate objects – no breaking, no slipping – and even explore shapes and, thus, recognize objects. Creating an artificial touch sense requires a dense pressure/vibration sensor array, similar to the receptor network in the human skin. The presented prototype is a dense array with just one millimeter distance between individual sensors. The array is flexible and can be integrated into complex shapes and soft support structures such as an artificial skin. The technology was in the Top 5 of the Spark Award 2022. 

The technology is a development of the Micro- and Nanosystems (MNS) group. The group is dedicated to bringing new functionalities to micro and nanodevices by exploiting the properties of promising materials, focusing on sensing applications for environmental monitoring and internet-of-things.


Johannes Weichart is a PhD candidate in the Micro- and Nanosystems group of Prof. Hierold. He has experience in microfabrication with a few years experience in thin film process technology and studied Mechanical Engineering at ETH Zurich. In his spare-time he enjoys outdoor sports in the mountains, swimming in the lake or travel photography.

Micro- and Nanosystems (MNS) group Johannes Weichartweicharj@ethz.ch