These robotic fingers allow interaction with the microscopic world


This is a major breakthrough that has just been made by Japanese researchers from Ritsumeikan University. They developed robotic “micro-fingers” that allowed them to interact directly with insects without taking the risk of hurting them.

The world of the infinitely small at your fingertips

This technology is extremely promising because it gives hope for great advances. Until then, only the microscope allowed scientists to observe the microscopic world. But the new device developed by the Japanese university could make it possible to touch much smaller objects such as insects, bacteria or viruses.

Satoshi Konishi, who led this study, describes this system as follows: “A tactile micro-finger is made using a flexible liquid metal strain sensor. A flexible balloon-shaped pneumatic actuator acts like an artificial muscle, allowing the sensor to be controlled and moved like a finger. With a robotic glove, a human user can directly control the microfingers. »

Researchers have already put it into action to study the reaction force of a bedbug. What to note that this one is about 10 millinewtons, that is to say the value which one estimated until there without having never been able to demonstrate it concretely.

All this makes Professor Konishi particularly optimistic: “ Using our micro-finger, we were able to directly measure the pushing motion and strength of a thumbtack’s legs and torso, which was impossible to achieve before! We believe that our results will lead to further technological developments for micro-finger-insect interactions, leading to human-environment interactions at much smaller scales. “.

GoPros for beetles

It is interesting to remember that this is not the first time that new technologies have been used on insects. To cite just one example, in 2020 researchers at the University of Washington created tiny sensory backpacks for insects. Then they fitted beetles with a model of “GoPro for beetles”. These robotic objects offer an exciting view of the world of insects.

Quoted by our colleagues from Engadget, a researcher then explained: There are so many questions you could explore, like how does the beetle respond to different stimuli it sees in the environment? But also, insects can traverse rocky environments, which is really difficult for robots at this scale to do. This system can therefore also help us by allowing us to see or collect samples in spaces that are difficult to navigate. “.

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