Ras Labs, Inc. is making Synthetic Muscle™, which is a class of electroactive polymers (EAPs) that contract and expand like muscle when controlled by low voltage. These EAPs also sense mechanical pressure, from a gentle touch to high impact. The direction of motion (contraction or expansion) is controlled by controlling the polarity of the electric input and amount of motion can be controlled by simply adjusting the voltage level. This could be used as a method of providing both large motor control and fine motor control (fine manipulation) within the same actuator unit. In robotics, existing actuators cannot provide streamlined expansion and contraction while dynamically sensing grip pressure.
Our initial target market is a sensor not unlike your own fingertips. They are among the most sensitive parts of your body. The nerve endings in your fingertips can perform complex neural computations. This process of touch extracts the geometrical features of the objects we touch, such as edge, shape and density. Human grasp is gentle yet firm at the same time. Lets give this to robotic grippers.
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