Many animals, such as cats, seals and rats, rely on their whiskers to sense their way in the darkness. The scientists at the University of Illinois’s Advanced Digital Sciences Centre in Singapore have studied this and explored the ways sensing systems can benefit from tactile perception. They developed a fully robotic whisker array, which can produce tomographic images of the surroundings by measuring the fluid flow.
In order to make a robo-whisker researchers used five elastic Nitinol, a mixture of nickel and titanium, wires and covered them with plastic straws, resulting in the whiskers being about 15cm long and 3mm wide. The movements are measured by the strain gauges attached at the base, which then build up the tomographic image of the fluid flow.
Although there is no proof that animals are able to construct a similar image of the surrounding in the brains, this project can become an efficient sensing system, the researchers say. It can be helpful in the cardiac surgeries, reducing the risks of injuries.
The scientists are currently working on the ways to improve and develop the robotic whiskers further.
The article has been published in the Bioinspiration & Biomimetics journal.