Scientists Meet Scientists – Wednesday Coffee Talk by Prof. Dr. Gordon Cheng on "Solving Hard Problems with Neuroengineering: Sensitive Robots are Safer"

On November 11th, Prof. Dr. Gordon Cheng (TUM Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering) will give a talk entitled “Solving Hard Problems with Neuroengineering: Sensitive Robots are Safer”. Sensitive synthetic skin enables robots to sense their own bodies and surroundings – a crucial capability if they are to be in close contact with people. Inspired by human skin, Professor Cheng and his team have developed a system combining artificial skin with control algorithms and used it to create the first autonomous humanoid robot with full-body artificial skin. Said skin consists of hexagonal cells about the size of two-euro coins, each being equipped with a microprocessor and sensors to detect contact, acceleration, proximity and temperature. The cells themselves were developed around 10 years ago by Professor Cheng, but the invention only revealed its full potential when integrated into a sophisticated system.

As human skin has around 5 million receptors, the biggest obstacle in developing robot skin has always been computing capacity. To overcome this problem, the team does not monitor the skin cells continuously, but rather with an event-based system, which reduces the processing effort by up to 90 percent. Each individual cell transmits information from their sensor only when values are changed.

Professor Cheng and his team are now working on creating smaller skin cells with the potential to be produced in larger numbers (TUM press release).


Cheng, G., Dean-Leon, E., Bergner, F., Rogelio Guadarrama Olvera, J., Leboutet, Q., Mittendorfer, P., „A Comprehensive Realization of Robot Skin: Sensors, Sensing, Control, and Applications“ (2019). DOI: 10.1109/JPROC.2019.2933348.


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