Methods and technologies for the implementation of large-scale robot tactile sensors

Alexander Schmitz*, Perla Maiolino, Marco Maggiali, Lorenzo Natale, Giorgio Cannata, Giorgio Metta

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

329 Citations (Scopus)


Even though the sense of touch is crucial for humans, most humanoid robots lack tactile sensing. While a large number of sensing technologies exist, it is not trivial to incorporate them into a robot. We have developed a compliant skin for humanoids that integrates a distributed pressure sensor based on capacitive technology. The skin is modular and can be deployed on nonflat surfaces. Each module scans locally a limited number of tactile-sensing elements and sends the data through a serial bus. This is a critical advantage as it reduces the number of wires. The resulting system is compact and has been successfully integrated into three different humanoid robots. We have performed tests that show that the sensor has favorable characteristics and implemented algorithms to compensate the hysteresis and drift of the sensor. Experiments with the humanoid robot iCub prove that the sensors can be used to grasp unmodeled, fragile objects.

Original languageEnglish
Article number5771603
Pages (from-to)389-400
Number of pages12
JournalIEEE Transactions on Robotics
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2011 Jun
Externally publishedYes


  • Capacitance measurement
  • force and tactile sensing
  • grasping
  • humanoid robots
  • robot tactile systems

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Control and Systems Engineering
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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