Berkeley,-based BeBop Sensors recently introduced a smart fabric sensor technology that can give tactile awareness to robots and prosthetics. BeBop RoboSkin has a sense of touch thanks to taxels: pressure sensors that determine the relative amount of force applied when the sensor contacts an object. RoboSkin employs an array of 80 taxels in a 31 mm by 20 mm sensing zone. Each array has a silicon covering for responsiveness and grip. Multiple arrays can be woven or applied to smart fabric that can then be molded or fit to robotic fingers, limbs, feet, torso, or head. BeBop Sensors’ primary focus is to develop RoboSkin for human-like robotic forms that can help humans at home, at work, or any environment where an accurate sense of touch is helpful.

RoboSkin elements collects 12-bit of data from each 80-element array via a central board that transmits the data to a host device in real-time. Users can adjust the data rates from 10 to 150 Hz depending on the application. BeBop Sensors also developed real-time raw data stream APIs with sample code for Python and JavaScript. The applications can run on Windows, MacOS, Ubuntu, and Raspberry Pi OS. The developer also crated a Desktop Chrome Web application with multiple visualization modes and data recording to CSV files.

Because smart fabric with BeBop RoboSkin is flexible and can conform to shapes, the sensor data can interpret force, location, size, weight, shape, and presence. BeBop Sensors believes that adding an accurate, complex sense of touch and feel to robotics will aid human interaction with robots and prosthetics. Also, robots with human shapes will be capable of assisting with or performing any human task.

Assisting older people in their homes is integral to BeBop Sensors founder Keith McMillen’s vision for the company. “I have been working with roboticists refining our RoboSkin for 10 years. We are pleased we can make this important contribution to the worldwide effort to bring humanoid robots into our lives to help people live longer, healthier, and more enjoyable lives,” McMillen said.