Robot that looks like a bin bag can understand what a hug is

Soft robots with translucent “skin” can detect human touch with internal cameras and differentiate between a prod, a stroke or a hug. The technology could lead to better non-verbal communication between humans and robots.

Guy Hoffman and his colleagues at Cornell University, New York, created a prototype robot with nylon skin stretched over a 1.2-metre tall cylindrical scaffold atop a platform on wheels. Inside the cylinder sits a commercial USB camera which is used to interpret different types of touch on the nylon.

The team built a large database from camera images of humans making one of six interactions with …

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