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Sensors poised to set new textile standards
31
Dec '15
Determining textile texture can be tricky because the feeling is subjective. But now, a standard measure may soon be adopted, thanks to technology.

Los Angeles based SynTouch, LLC developed and makes the only sensor technology in the world that endows robots with the ability to replicate - and sometimes exceed - the human sense of touch. Its lead product - the BioTac - mimics the mechanical properties, physical structure and the sensory capabilities of the human fingertip. Founded in 2008, SynTouch provides Machine Touch - complete tactile sensing solutions inspired by human applications of touch.

Organizations like the International Organization for Standardization offer some industrial standards for textures, but Matt Borzage, co-founder of the robotics company SynTouch, says their standards often fall short, wired.com has reported.

“We know this because most companies revert to shipping physical samples to customers or flying their in-house experts from factory to factory instead of communicating using their standard measurements,” he says.

SynTouch has another solution: a haptic sensor that provides robots with a sense of touch. The company used this sensor to develop the SynTouch Standard, a taxonomy of more than 500 materials ranging from synthetic fabrics to natural materials like stone. The standard is based on 15 factors, including coarseness, smoothness, friction and thermal properties. The idea is to create a standardized process to measure and classify the texture of any flat surface, taking the subjectivity out of the question of whether two objects feel the same.

SynTouch is a spin-off of the Medical Device Development Facility of the University of Southern California, where the team initially focused on prosthetics. And one of its core insights is this: When you touch something, you are doing more than sensing the surface of that object. You're also changing it, however subtly. Your finger emits heat, and no matter how gentle you are, you exert an almost imperceptible amount of pressure. In other words, you aren't just feeling the material, you're feeling its reaction to your touch. Syntouch's BioTac sensor tries to emulate this by radiating heat and exerting pressure so the surface it measures changes in much the same way it would if a person were touching it.

According to the report, the company is still working in the prosthetics industry and is focusing on giving artificial hands “reflexes” by making them to respond to different haptic sensations. But SynTouch is exploring other areas. Borzage says the company's customers for the SynTouch Standard taxonomy include automakers, consumer electronics firms, and apparel companies. Some want to standardize a product, while others want to figure out if a synthetic material—an artificial leather, for example—feels like the real thing. It's one more example of robots doing a job once only humans could do. But now it's also robots feeling what once only humans could feel. (SH)

Fibre2Fashion News Desk - India

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