I became a robot in London 5,000 miles away.

 I became a robot in London 5,000 miles away.

I think Im great. Im very, very proud of myself. Applause erupted from the computer in front of me. But it wasnt American applause in San Francisco. It was British applause. Robot arms and balls were actually in London. I just ordered some computer hardware on the other side of the Atlantic. The tools that helped me accomplish this feat were A ShadowHand, perhaps the most complex robotic arm on Earth.

Each of its fingertips has a sensor that allows the robot to sense, which is then transmitted to my tactile gloves through special channels. If I just touch a ball with ShadowHand, I have only a subtle feeling. When I hold the ball, it becomes very strong, surprisingly, even though the system is on the table next to me. When the 4G mobile phone was running, there was almost no delay between my movements and the robots. With gloves on, I felt like I was really in London, but it wasnt. My feeling about the ball was paradoxical, because all I got was a reproduction of the feeling. The gentle stimulation was like a group of elves dancing on the fingertips.

This is the bizarre and incredible frontier of remote control robot technology: remote control robot, simple tactile technology has been used in surgery and bomb-removal robots. Operators mainly use it to send touch signals, but compared with this rich and delicate robot tactile, simple tactile technology appears to be relatively weak.

The new system is developed by three different teams, each of which has its own research field: the tactile gloves are designed by HaptX, and the robotic arm is made by Shadow Robot, UK, equipped with SynTouchs fingertip sensing system.

First of all, ShadowHand looks a little like the Terminators hand, just without metal. Its aim is to accurately reproduce the movement of human arms. Ricky Walker, general manager of Shadowrobot, said: We havent yet developed some subtle details about the robot, such as the bending of the palm, the movement of the root of the thumb, and the skin around the joints. Nevertheless, one of the real benefits of such projects is that teams can identify current deficiencies in R&D and explore new approaches.

ShadowHand has 24 electrodes at the top of each finger. The top of the electrodes is a layer of silicon material. When SynTouch is injected with saline, it forms a flow between the simulation and the electrodes to exert pressure on the fingertips, so that the electrodes can detect changes in resistance in saline, thus enabling the fingers to accurately perceive touch.

When I put on my gloves, I felt as if I had been pushed into a world that was initially disorienting. The worlds perspective is made up of two camera lenses juxtaposed on the screen. One of them was enlarged and faced my arm; the other was on the table, watching carefully what I was manipulating. Although this is not the normal way for humans to look at the world - we are used to looking directly at our hands, but now I have become accustomed to looking at the shrinking world of a camera, extending my hand to an object, and then switching my sight to a desktop camera when we almost touch it.

Once you grasp this perspective, you will feel as if your arm has actually crossed the Atlantic Ocean. Michael Eichermueller, project manager and R&D center director of HaptXs Stelerobotics, said: A gentle touch can cause local expansion of the sensor, which can replace the skin of the users fingertips. If the finger touches the sphere completely, it can trigger a complete pressure expansion, which activates the tactile sensation and feeds back to the skeleton, and at the same time oppresses the skin to limit the movement of the finger on the edge of the sphere. This restriction makes people feel that their fingers are touching the sphere, but in fact we have nothing in our hands.

But thats not the touch were used to. Tactile vibration is a good technology for mobile phones and game controllers, but these devices do not use tactile technology to reproduce an object. Only when people receive text messages or encounter explosions in the game can they really appreciate the changes brought about by this technology.

Reproducing human touch requires very subtle techniques: you can feel the texture of an object by touching its surface with your fingers, or squeeze it to determine its softness. Jake Rubin, founder and CEO of HaptX, said: There are many subtle clues in the human subconscious, such as manipulating objects and performing more skillful tasks using the pressure or force exerted on the skin by objects.

Although this technology is still in its early stages, it is in line with one of the greatest advantages of advanced robots: keeping humans away from dangerous environments. Although ShadowHand does not simulate human hands perfectly, it is an unexpected breakthrough. This may be the starting point for the development of highly dexterous robotic arms. Maybe one day, we can send robots into difficult environments, remotely manipulate them and make them our own incarnations.

Jeremy Fishel, co-founder and chief technology officer of SynTouch, said that robots without touch functions can only be used in well-known familiar environments or are forced to move slowly so that staff can solve problems in time before things deteriorate. And tactile reproduction solves these problems.

Theres a strange question: Should robots signal pain? After all, pain can prevent us from using our bodies to get hurt. If you are operating a fake expensive robot, you may also want to know if your operation will hurt the robot. In fact, researchers are studying this feature of prostheses. The first step scientists need to take is to let the inanimate robots without perception experience pain, and to study how robots communicate with amputees.

Another more strange question: maybe one day we will fall into such an awkward situation that the development of robotic touch technology will encounter bottlenecks. Heather Culbertson, a specialist in robotic tactile technology at the University of Southern California, said: I believe that the embarrassment of robotic tactile technology is reflected in the real contact between organisms.

So its a strange thing for robots to touch objects like humans, and its only going to get even stranger. Were all babies, and were re re re exploring the world again. (Selected from: Wired original author: Matt Simon Compiler: Netease Intelligent Participation: Yuki) Focus on Netease Intelligent Public Number (smartman 163), for you to interpret major corporate events in the field of AI, new ideas and new applications. Source: Netease Intelligent Responsible Editor: Ding Guangsheng_NT1941

So its a strange thing for robots to touch objects like humans, and its only going to get even stranger. Were all babies, and were re re re exploring the world again.

(Selected from: Wired original author: Matt Simon Compiler: Netease Intelligent Participation: Yuki)

Focus on the smartman 163, to interpret the major events of AI companies, new ideas and new applications.