SonicFinger: Pre-touch and Contact Detection Tactile Sensor for Reactive Pregrasping


International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA)



Research Areas


Robot end effectors with proximity detection and contact sensing capabilities can reactively position the gripper to align objects and ensure successful grasps. In this paper, we introduce SonicFinger, an acoustic aura based sensing system capable of full-surface pre-touch and contact sensing. A single piezoelectric transducer embedded within a novel 3D printed finger is excited using a monotone to create an acoustic aura encompassing the finger; this enables pre-touch sensing and gripper alignment, while changes in finger-transducer acoustic coupling indicate contact. SonicFinger is low-cost, compact, and easy to manufacture and assemble. Sensing capabilities are evaluated using a set of objects with various physical properties such as optical reflectivity, dielectric constants, mechanical properties, and acoustic absorption. A dataset with over 8,000 proximity and contact events is collected. Our system shows a pre-touch detection true positive rate (TPR) of 92.4% and a true negative rate (TNR) of 95.3%. Contact detection experiments show a TPR of 93.7% and a TNR of 98.7%. Furthermore, pretouch detection information from Sonic Finger is used to adjust the robot grippers pose to align a target object at the center of both fingers.