Abstract: Manipulation tasks often require robots to be continuously in contact with an object. Therefore tactile perception systems need to handle continuous contact data. Shear deformation causes the tactile sensor to output path-dependent readings in contrast to discrete contact readings. As such, in some continuous-contact tasks, sliding can be regarded as a disturbance over the sensor signal. Here we present a shear-invariant perception method based on principal component analysis (PCA) which outputs the required information about the environment despite sliding motion. A compliant tactile sensor (the TacTip) is used to investigate continuous tactile contact. First, we evaluate the method offline using test data collected whilst the sensor slides over an edge. Then, the method is used within a contour-following task applied to 6 objects with varying curvatures; all contours are successfully traced. The method demonstrates generalisation capabilities and could underlie a more sophisticated controller for challenging manipulation or exploration tasks in unstructured environments.
Authors: Kirsty Aquilina, David A. W. Barton, Nathan F. Lepora (University of Bristol)