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Robot whiskers sense shapes and textures

WhiskersResearchers say that whiskers will allow both robotic explorers and unscrewed submarines to explore the shape and texture of strange objects which is encountered in their travels. Snip from National Geographic:
Whiskered animals such as rats can detect an object's size, shape, texture, and orientation with just a few sweeps of their body bristles.

So how do the animals sense this 3-D data with what are basically overgrown hairs? Scientists have been puzzling over the features for nearly a century… Researchers in Illinois say they may have solved the mystery.

What's more, the team has already applied their insights to building robotic whiskers that may one day appear in everything from assembly lines to space and deep-sea rovers.

Link: National Geographic & New Scientist
Rat photograph: A.S. Kaloti and M.J. Hartmann, Northwestern University
Robotic whiskers image: J.H. Solomon and M.J. Hartmann, Northwestern University
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