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Touchlab - the startup giving robots the sense of touch

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by Startacus Admin

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Edinburgh-based deep tech startup Touchlab is creating skin suits for robots, helping them to sense the world around them, just like us.

touchlab.Robots feature heavily in our future. Whether simply as receptionists or tour guides, as in-house robo-butlers whom we come to respect as more than just a machine, but with rising trepidation realise it’s becoming more than just respect and we fall in love with the wonderful mechanical man, because after all is not the human body but a fleshy machine, and we find that the key to sentience was love all along and we embark upon our life together in the face of ridicule and persecution to change the world, or as labourers, robots feature heavily in our future.

We have written recently about Ameca and their robot-human interaction platform that has recently taken great leaps in displaying emotion through facial expressions, but what about other ways in which a robot should interact with the world around it? What about that which it will need to gently wipe away our tears: touch?

Edinburgh-based deep tech startup Touchlab is creating skin suits for robots (e-skin, Buffalo Bill; sit down).

Screenshot Robots can be enveloped in this e-skin, giving them the ability to sense the world around them in much the same way as we do - with the sense of touch. Not only does this mean they can do that thing cats do when you blow on their ears, but it will allow them to feel texture, pressure, the degree of external force exerted upon it, and better control things like grip strength, basing it on the feedback from their touch sense rather than a pre-programmed grip (e.g. if a robot picks up a glass of water, it won’t need someone to tell it how hard it can grip the glass before it breaks, but rather sense for itself, and compensate for different sizes, weights, etc.). The skin is highly resistant to everyday hazards such as radioactivity, acid, and extreme temperatures, so it will be useable on the inevitable disaster-relief robots, and those sent in to locations too hazardous for humans. Something Skynet didn’t think of for Arnie’s T-800, apparently.

In March, Touchlab announced that it had raised $4.8 million in a seed round led by Octopus Ventures, with participation from Creator Fund and Techstart Ventures. This funding will help the startup to achieve the e-skin’s full potential of allowing robots to feel pain.

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Published on: 11th March 2022

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