Columbia University

Technology Ventures

High-resolution tactile sensors for flexible and precise robotic manipulation

Technology #cu16254

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Matei Ciocarlie
Managed By
Greg Maskel

Precise tactile sensors are a must for robots to delicately manipulate physical objects: too much gripping pressure crushes objects, and too little drops them. While many sensing systems have been developed for this complicated task, current designs significantly increase complexity of fabrication and integration with robotic technologies. This technology provides a simple, fast method for manufacturing and integrating tactile sensors into robotic grippers by utilizing a continuous polymer sensor array that is easily molded into any arbitrary shape. Moreover, this tactile sensing technology produces accurate pressure measurements and can detect a wide variety of objects based on specific indentations. Accordingly, this technology grants robotic producers with flexible, easy-to-produce, and highly precise tactile sensors for a wide range of applications, from medicine to domestic care.

Moldable tactile sensors streamline manufacturing and provide higher sensing accuracy

This technology achieves the difficult task of tactile sensing across arbitrarily-shaped surfaces by combining a continuous array of electrodes within a flexible, piezoresistive polymer. This composition facilitates several manufacturing advantages: 1) the sensor can be molded into a wide range of custom shapes and form factors without insulation, 2) the device is easily integrated onto the curved surfaces of robotic manipulators because it is a single volume of flexible polymer, and 3) the sensor is able to provide both high-resolution pressure measurements (with sub-millimeter accuracy) and detection of individual objects based on their specific indentation through a customized learning algorithm. Taken together, this new technology offers companies cost-effective, adaptable, and highly accurate tactile sensing systems.

A prototype of this technology has been successfully produced and tested.

Lead Inventor:

Matei Ciocarlie, Ph.D.


  • Robotic surgery
  • Domestic robotics
  • Scientific robotics
  • Remote medicine in war zones
  • Search and rescue robotics
  • Fine manufacturing robotics
  • Advanced prostheses
  • Human-machine interfaces
  • Complex pressure sensing for chemical / pharmaceutical manufacturing
  • Identity validation for security
  • Robotic manipulation in tight, cluttered, or occluded settings


  • High-resolution pressure sensing
  • Proactive detection of individual objects via an effective learning algorithm
  • Continuous, surface-covering sensor
  • Easily moldable into custom shapes without the need for insulation
  • Simple integration onto robotic manipulators & other complex surfaces

Patent Information:

Patent Pending

Tech Ventures Reference: IR CU16254, IR CU17105, IR CU17175

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