Seminar by Prof. Stephen Redmond

Design of tactile sensors for robotic and prosthetic grippers
inspired by human touch.

January 9th, 2020 at 12.00

Maisin Auditorium, UCL, Brussels


Prosthetic and robotic hands demonstrate poor dexterity during object manipulation, often dropping objects. Humans rarely allow objects to slip because, among other strategies, we can sense if an object is slippery and adjust our grip. In recent years, while we have learned more about the biomechanics and neuroscience underpinning our ability to sense friction, there is still much to learn. Perhaps unsurprisingly, given how poorly we understand human friction sensing, very little research has been directed at replicating this ability to sense friction or slipperiness using artificial sensors.

In this talk, I will present ongoing neuroscience work at the University of New South Wales and University College Dublin, aiming to better understand the biomechanical and neurological mechanisms that enable humans to sense friction or grip security during object manipulation. Secondly, I will present some friction-based tactile sensor prototypes which were inspired by our various hypotheses on how humans sense friction, and I will demonstrate how these novel sensors enable improve dexterity in a robotic manipulation task. The talk will end with a higher-level discussion on current limitations in our knowledge of how humans utilize frictional information to achieve a secure grasp, and on how we can replicate this dexterity in robotic gripping applications.

The outcomes of this research, which would endow artificial hands with the ability to feel the slipperiness and/or impending loss of grip of a grasped object, could significantly advance the fields of prosthetics, telesurgery, and service, agricultural, and manufacturing robotics.


Associate Professor Stephen Redmond completed his Bachelor of (Electronic) Engineering in 2002, and his PhD (biosignal processing and machine learning) in 2006 at University College Dublin (UCD). In 2008, he moved to the Graduate School of Biomedical Engineering at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) in Sydney, Australia, where he spent 10 years working in the fields of: telehealth management of chronic disease; fall detection and prediction technology; automated foetal ultrasound analysis; tactile physiology; and tactile sensor design. There he held a prestigious Australian Research Council Future Fellowships award from 2014 to 2018 developing tactile sensors which can sense friction. He now holds an SFI Future Research Leaders Award (2019-2024) at the School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering at UCD, and retains an Adjunct Associate Professorship at UNSW. Generally, he is interested in the development of novel sensors and sensing systems, and in the subsequent application of signal processing and pattern recognition techniques to these acquired signals to solve or better understand biomedical engineering problems. The main application areas of these research methodologies include remote management of health, human movement measurement, and tactile sensing and physiology.