about the episode
We humans use our sight and touch for many things, without really thinking about it. Grab a cup for example, or… a foldable washcloth.
This is less obvious for robots. There is a huge amount of data involved in processing haptic feedback, plus most robots only work with visual information to determine where an object is and how to deal with it.
Suppose we one day want to have parts of the family, for example also in organizations, that are carried out by robots, you will need more than just vision. To fold the corner of a hand, or pick up a single shirt from a pile of clothes, the robot must be able to feel the difference between the layers of fabric.
So scientists have developed artificial skin that provides a kind of delicate fingertips with which to do so. The material is a flexible polymer containing magnetic particles. This is actually used to pick up hard objects, but the fabric changes shape during picking and comes in all sorts of different types and thicknesses. There is a lot to consider when folding.
The researchers were already able to have the sensor measure the number of layers the robot is holding and correct that number when necessary. Can we let the robots do our laundry yet? not yet. But it is a step in that direction.