Fast track for ‘sense of touch’ robot

12 March 2009

A major grant has been awarded to researchers at Deakin University developing an intelligent robot that allows its operator to feel what the robot's gripper is feeling – for example giving the operator a sense of 'touch' when they are defusing a bomb up to 500 metres away.

The grant was announced by the Minister for Defence Science and Personnel the Hon. Warren Snowdon MP during the opening of the Australian International Airshow at Avalon on Tuesday 10 March 2009.

The Deakin robot was one of four technology projects identified by Mr Snowdon as having their development 'fast-tracked' under the Capability and Technology Demonstrator (CTD) Extension Program managed by the Defence Science & Technology Organisation (DSTO). Deakin's Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) Professor Lee Astheimer welcomed the announcement.

"As well as highlighting the world class robotics research and development that is taking place at Deakin, this grant also underlines the University's commitment to developing a distinctive, broad-based portfolio of high quality discovery, applied and commercial research," Professor Astheimer said.

Director of Deakin's Centre for Intelligent Systems Research(CISR) and Chief Investigator for the project, Professor Saeid Nahavandi, said that the grant was the first time a university had been awarded extension funding and follows on from the robot's successes in an earlier CTD trial.

"CISR developed a proof of concept Intelligent Robot prototype as part of the earlier research grant awarded to us in 2006 under the CTD program.

"This new major funding will enable us to refine the robot's design for harsh environments and improve the robot's system fidelity."

The Deakin researchers have used haptic (sense of touch) technology to allow the robot's operator to 'feel' objects handled by the robot's gripper.

As a result, the operator can get a sense of an object's centre of mass, density and consistency, even though they may be up to 500 metres away.

Professor Nahavandi said this ability gives the robot great potential for use in harsh or dangerous environments without risk to the operator.

"Our intelligent robot allows the operator to 'feel' the physical environment it is working in. This ability can help the operator to defuse an explosive device without damage to people or property. Because the device is defused rather than blown up, information about the device and its makers can be collected.

"This technology is particularly relevant in areas where Australian forces are exposed to great risk handling improvised explosive devices," he said.

Professor Nahavandi said CTD funding is very competitive and subject to rigorous peer review, with a usual success rate of only around 10 per cent.


Media contact

Rebecca Tucker
Media and Corporate Communications
03 5227 8568, 0418 979 134
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