Robust High Fidelity Sensors

We focus on two types of sensing especially important for health care and medicine: implantable/biocompatible sensors and tactile/force sensing. These sensors along with perception algorithms are often necessary to give state of a physician/caregiver, the patient, and the environment.

Implantable/biocompatible sensors would be a great catalyst to major advancements in this field. The close physical interaction between patients and robots requires system that will not harm biological tissues or cease to function when in contact with them. In surgery, mechanisms must be design that will not unintentionally damage tissues and sensors need to be able to function appropriately in environment debris, wetness, and variable temperature. For prosthetics, sensors and probes must access neurons, muscles, and brain tissue and maintain functionality over long periods without performance degradation. These devices and sensors must be designed with medical and health robotics application in mind, in order to define performance requirements.

When robots work in unstructured environments, especially around and in contact with humans, using the sense of touch is crucial to accurate, safe operations and efficient. Force, tactile and contact data is required for informed manipulation of soft materials, from human organs to blanket and other objects in the household. It is challenging particularly to acquire and interpret spatially distributed touch information, due to the large area and high resolution required of the sensors. Current sensors are limited in robustness, deformability , resolution, and size.

For systems ranging from ultra minimally invasive surgery robots to human size prosthetic fingers, robots need very small actuators and mechanisms with high power to weight ratio. These designs will allow us to build that are smaller, less costly, and use less power. This enables greater effectiveness, as well as dissemination to population in need. We will highlight below two examples of how advances in mechanism and actuators could improve medicine.

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