Having seen the rather clumsy attempts of most robots today to pick up objects, the new GelSight, currently under development by Massachusetts Institute of Technology is a giant leap forward. The future home robot will need to be picking up objects every day. Sensitivity is so important, just compare a toothbrush and a tube of toothpaste for example.
The video below shows how a Baxter robot from Rethink Robotics was equipped with a two-pincer gripper, one of whose pincers had a GelSight sensor on its tip. Using conventional computer-vision algorithms, the robot identified a dangling USB plug and attempted to grasp it. It then determined the position of the USB plug relative to its gripper from an embossed USB symbol. Although there was a 3-millimeter variation in where the robot grasped the plug, it was able to measure its position accurately enough to insert it into a USB port that tolerated only about a millimeter’s error.