Active haptic perception in robots: a review

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  • Lucia Seminara
    Department of Electrical, Electronics and Telecommunication Engineering and Naval Architecture, University of Genoa
  • Paulo Gastaldo
    Department of Electrical, Electronics and Telecommunication Engineering and Naval Architecture, University of Genoa
  • Simon J. Watt
  • Kenneth F. Valyear
  • Fernando Zuher
    Department of Computer Science, University of Sao Paulo
  • Fulvio Mastrogiovanni
    Department of Computer Science, Bioengineering, Robotics, and Systems Engineering, University of Genoa

In the past few years a new scenario for robot-based applications has emerged. Service and mobile robots have opened new market niches. Also, new frameworks for shop-floor robot applications have been developed. In all these contexts, robots are requested to perform tasks within open-ended conditions, possibly dynamically varying. These new requirements ask also for a change of paradigm in the design of robots: on-line and safe feedback motion control becomes the core of modern robot systems. Future robots will learn autonomously, interact safely and possess qualities like self-maintenance. Attaining these features would have been relatively easy if a complete model of the environment was available, and if the robot actuators could execute motion commands perfectly relative to this model. Unfortunately, a complete world model is not available and robots have to plan and execute the tasks in the presence of environmental uncertainties which makes sensing an important component of new generation robots. For this reason, today's new generation robots are equipped with more and more sensing components, and consequently they are ready to actively deal with the high complexity of the real world. Complex sensorimotor tasks such as exploration require coordination between the motor system and the sensory feedback. For robot control purposes, sensory feedback should be adequately organized in terms of relevant features and the associated data representation. In this paper, we propose an overall functional picture linking sensing to action in closed-loop sensorimotor control of robots for touch (hands, fingers). Basic qualities of haptic perception in humans inspire the models and categories comprising the proposed classification. The objective is to provide a reasoned, principled perspective on the connections between different taxonomies used in the Robotics and human haptic literature. The specific case of active exploration is chosen to ground interesting use cases. Two reasons motivate this choice. First, in the literature on haptics, exploration has been treated only to a limited extent compared to grasping and manipulation. Second, exploration involves specific robot behaviors that exploit distributed and heterogeneous sensory data.


  • active touch, exploration, haptic perception, humans and robots, robot touch, sensorimotor control
Original languageEnglish
Article number53
JournalFrontiers in Neurorobotics
Publication statusPublished - 17 Jul 2019

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