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Journal of Sensors
Volume 2017 (2017), Article ID 1357061, 14 pages
Research Article

A Distributed Tactile Sensor for Intuitive Human-Robot Interfacing

Dipartimento di Ingegneria Industriale e dell’Informazione, Università degli Studi della Campania “Luigi Vanvitelli”, Via Roma 29, 81031 Aversa, Italy

Correspondence should be addressed to Andrea Cirillo

Received 2 February 2017; Accepted 28 March 2017; Published 27 April 2017

Academic Editor: Calogero M. Oddo

Copyright © 2017 Andrea Cirillo et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Safety of human-robot physical interaction is enabled not only by suitable robot control strategies but also by suitable sensing technologies. For example, if distributed tactile sensors were available on the robot, they could be used not only to detect unintentional collisions, but also as human-machine interface by enabling a new mode of social interaction with the machine. Starting from their previous works, the authors developed a conformable distributed tactile sensor that can be easily conformed to the different parts of the robot body. Its ability to estimate contact force components and to provide a tactile map with an accurate spatial resolution enables the robot to handle both unintentional collisions in safe human-robot collaboration tasks and intentional touches where the sensor is used as human-machine interface. In this paper, the authors present the characterization of the proposed tactile sensor and they show how it can be also exploited to recognize haptic tactile gestures, by tailoring recognition algorithms, well known in the image processing field, to the case of tactile images. In particular, a set of haptic gestures has been defined to test three recognition algorithms on a group of users. The paper demonstrates how the same sensor originally designed to manage unintentional collisions can be successfully used also as human-machine interface.