Robot with sense of touch grabs ocean trash without harming sea life


The robotic arm gripping a seashell

Xun Zhao

An artificial skin is helping a robot to recognise the difference between picking up inanimate objects and living sea creatures such as starfish and shellfish. That sense of touch could prove useful in cleaning up the ocean, doing underwater exploration or even carrying out deep-sea mining on the seafloor.

The artificial skin’s sense of touch harnesses what is known as the magnetoelastic effect – changes that occur in the magnetic field of materials as they are pushed and pulled. This phenomenon is unaffected by underwater…

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