Human dexterity refers to our skillful use of our hands in performing various tasks. But what does it take to be dexterous? Although we are born with specific hardware – sensors (vision, touch, and proprioception), actuators (muscles in the shoulders, arms, wrists, and fingers) and a processor (the brain) – we aren’t necessarily born with dexterity.
Have you ever watched a baby grasping things? It’s a far cry from the dexterity we see in adults, wherein fingers can seemingly effortlessly pinch, grasp, and manipulate even the smallest of day-to-day objects – we can slide a button through a slit along the collar of a linen shirt and turn a miniature screwdriver to delicately adjust the metal frame of our eyeglasses.
In the robotics industry at large, there is a clear need to design robots starting with rich sensing not only because it allows us to work with less precise actuation and lower tolerance parts – which will also potentially enable robots to be built more cost effectively – but also for the ability to acquire new manipulation skills and achieve human-like dexterity.