Bio-inspired tactile sensor sleeve for surgical soft manipulators

S. Sareh, A. Jiang, A. Faragasso, Y. Noh, T. Nanayakkara, P. Dasgupta, L. D. Seneviratne, H. A. Wurdemann, K. Althoefer

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionpeer-review

68 Scopus citations


Robotic manipulators for Robot-assisted Minimally Invasive Surgery (RMIS) pass through small incisions into the patient's body and interact with soft internal organs. The performance of traditional robotic manipulators such as the da Vinci Robotic System is limited due to insufficient flexibility of the manipulator and lack of haptic feedback. Modern surgical manipulators have taken inspiration from biology e.g. snakes or the octopus. In order for such soft and flexible arms to reconfigure itself and to control its pose with respect to organs as well as to provide haptic feedback to the surgeon, tactile sensors can be integrated with the robot's flexible structure. The work presented here takes inspiration from another area of biology: cucumber tendrils have shown to be ideal tactile sensors for the plant that they are associated with providing useful environmental information during the plant's growth. Incorporating the sensing principles of cucumber tendrils, we have created miniature sensing elements that can be distributed across the surface of soft manipulators to form a sensor network capable of acquire tactile information. Each sensing element is a retractable hemispherical tactile measuring applied pressure. The actual sensing principle chosen for each tactile makes use of optic fibres that transfer light signals modulated by the applied pressure from the sensing element to the proximal end of the robot arm. In this paper, we describe the design and structure of the sensor system, the results of an analysis using Finite Element Modeling in ABAQUS as well as sensor calibration and experimental results. Due to the simple structure of the proposed tactile sensor element, it is miniaturisable and suitable for MIS. An important contribution of this work is that the developed sensor system can be 'loosely' integrated with a soft arm effectively operating independently of the arm and without affecting the arm's motion during bending or elongation.

Original languageBritish English
Title of host publicationProceedings - IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation
PublisherInstitute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc.
Number of pages6
ISBN (Electronic)9781479936854, 9781479936854
StatePublished - 22 Sep 2014
Event2014 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation, ICRA 2014 - Hong Kong, China
Duration: 31 May 20147 Jun 2014

Publication series

NameProceedings - IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation
ISSN (Print)1050-4729


Conference2014 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation, ICRA 2014
CityHong Kong


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