An Electric Field Pretouch System for Grasping and Co-Manipulation

Posted 03 Jan 2010

Pretouch is a sense that is longer range than touch, but shorter than vision. Using electric field sensing hardware that I designed to fit inside a robot’s fingers, several robotic manipulation tasks are made easier or possible.

Human-to-robot and robot-to-human handoff

In this work, the robot is programmed to accept an object from a human, and then hand it to another human.

Picking up stationary objects

We also demonstrated the use of the e-field pretouch sensors to pick up stationary objects from surfaces when only the approximate position of the object is known. Using closed-loop controllers, the sensor inputs are used to correct the positioning of the arm and fingers to facilitate reliable grasps.


This technology has been featured in several high-profile demos, including:


Grasping various objects with and without e-field pretouch sensing
E-field handoff demo at the CeBIT 2009 opening ceremony, with Intel Chairmain Craig Barrett, Governor Schwarzenegger, and Chancellor Merkel

Relevant Publications

Mayton, B., Legrand, L., and Smith, J. "An Electric Field Pretouch System for Grasping and Co-Manipulation". IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation. 2010.
Mayton, B., Garcia, E., LeGrand, L., and Smith, J.R. "Electric field pretouch: towards mobile manipulation". RSS Workshop on Mobile Manipulation in Human Environments. 2009.
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