Dr. Joseph H. SolomonThe NewScientist article Robot whiskers sense shapes and textures said
Artificial whiskers that mimic the way rats and seals sense their prey might one day let planetary rovers or uncrewed submarines explore the shape and texture of strange objects they encounter on their travels.
So says Joe Solomon and Mitra Hartmann at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, who have developed delicate artificial whiskers in both steel and plastic that can accurately sense different shapes and textures.
Rats actively rotate, or “whisk”, their whiskers against objects to discern features, while seals keep their whiskers relatively fixed to sense changes in wake flow that might mean prey is nearby.
Previous attempts to make whisker-like shape-sensors have relied on complex software to crunch data on the precise position of each whisker and its movement over time. But Solomon and Hartmann wondered if it would be simpler to use the “bending moment”, or torque, exerted at the base of each whisker to extract feature information.
Joseph H. Solomon, Ph.D. is Postdoctoral Scholar, Biomedical and
Mechanical Engineering, Northwestern University.
Joe coauthored Multifunctional Whisker Arrays for Distance Detection, Terrain Mapping, and Object Feature Extraction, Braitenberg Control of a Seven-Link Walking Model, Artificial Whiskers Suitable for Array Implementation: Accounting for Lateral Slip and Surface Friction, Biomechanics: Robotic whiskers used to sense features, Extracting Object Contours with the Sweep of a Robotic Whisker Using Torque Information, and Biomechanical Models for Radial Distance Determination by the Rat Vibrissal System. He has patent application Sensing device with whisker elements.
Joe earned his BS in Mechanical Engineering at University of Illinois at Urbana Champagne, his MS in Mechanical Engineering at University of Illinois at Chicago, and his Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering at Northwestern University in 2008.