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Sony Designed Force-controlled Robot

Published Thu, Jan 27 2022 08:52 am
by The Silicon Trend




Sony Designed a Force-controlled Robotic Hand Called Manipulator

A Japanese multinational conglomerate corporation - SONY, designed a futuristic robot hand 'Manipulator' equipped with sensors, allowing robots to grasp unfamiliar objects and move them around stably. Standard industrial robots find it challenging to tackle unknown things in varied environments.


Responsiveness and Flexibility

With the expansion of robots in fields like education, healthcare, entertainment, and communication, the robotics sector is expected to drive market growth in the coming years. A central aspect of being noted is that robots in these sectors indicate how the robot performs safe interactions involving objects, human interactions, and the environment while maintaining force balance.

A remote-controlled, wheeled device known as a telepresence robot with wireless connectivity is now practical. It exhibits excellent effectiveness when interacting with humans via voice communication and 'see and talk.' Yet they are not experts in interacting with object manipulation. SONY believes that the future requirements involve force-controlled robots that don't need proficient robot commands or advanced environmental settings. These sorts of the robot only need human interventions to make complex decisions for autonomous environmental control.


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Intelligent Robots


Technologies Supporting Force-controlled Robots

Robots that work in unknown remote environments are controlled using data, including motion and error plans that need adequate processing time. This makes it strenuous to manipulate objects swiftly; hence SONY is developing 3 techs to handle these problems.


  • The first tech is 'hand' built with a group of sensors for the stable grip of unknown objects - containing uncertainties like friction coefficient, shape, and weight. To estimate the object's shape and location, an overhead camera is fixed on the upper area of the robot. Based on the camera data, the hand and arm are controlled but the precise estimations of object location is difficult, leading to an increase in the failure rate of object attaining tasks. Therefore, the robot can detect the exact object location by implementing multiple sensors with SONY's sensing tech onto the robot's hands.


  • The second tech - grasp force control for unknown objects. For a robot to have a stable grasp on things, it must have an appropriate grasp force. Since robots don't understand how heavy an object can be, where the center of mass is, and whether it is slippery.


  • The third tech is fast motion planning, which permits seamless robots' movements. It produces a continuous collision-free trajectory towards the target. As the joint numbers increase, a multi-scale search issue needs a higher computational load. SONY targets minimizing the load and making the motion planning swifter by leveraging ML frameworks and other top algorithms based on practical information.


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An object might break if the grasp force is too large due to unknown factors such as friction coefficient, weight and hardness. Because of grasp force deficiency, the object may slip and drop off. SONY focused on a physical phenomenon known as incipient slip to address this issue. 

It is observed when a partial area in the contact area slips before the robot drop an object. With the help of sensors, the incipient slips can be monitored, thus keeping the minimum necessary grasp force. Thus, combining these techs, the company aims to develop manipulation techniques that can be smartly and safely leveraged under complex situations.