Although robots may be able to process information faster than humans can, they do not surpass us in everything. Surprisingly, robots are quite clumsy when it comes to touching or grasping objects. Researcher Jukka Hakkinen, PhD, and Jussi Hakala, post-doctoral researcher, developed an imaging method to measure human touch, according to University of Helsinki.

“When humans grasp something, a very complicated subliminal calculation takes place about which muscles are needed in the process, as well as which neural pathways are used to control them and at what intensity. In the field of psychology, these brain mechanisms have been extensively studied,” said Jukka Häkkinen.

The researchers call their method Grasp Sense. By using thermal and depth cameras they can measure an object’s leftover heat from human touch. This data on human touch is used for the mechanics of robots.

“Robots need to know exactly the object’s three-dimensional structure, material and weight distribution, whereas humans have the ability of intuitive grasp. Our goal is to transfer human skills to robots,” said Jussi Hakala.

Grasp Sense has other uses, too. Additionally, it can be used for designing utility articles and to install cameras on hospital ceilings under hospital hygiene protocol. Using thermal cameras could help keep touch-intensive surfaces clean and more effective.

Hakkinen and Hakala hope to solve this increasingly important problem in robotics, so robots can hold an object and avoid crushing it.

“Their grip must be pleasant, unwavering and reliable,” notes Häkkinen.