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Sensor Technology in Robotics

Updated: Feb 16, 2023

Sensors remain a critical part of operational functions across multiple industries, from manufacturing, production, and building automation. Sensors are also a vital part of robotics and automation. Let's explore a few types of new sensors being developed now for the near future, as described by's Mark Donovan.

Gesture sensors used in human-robot interaction

Gesture sensors are also being increasingly integrated into some of today’s most sophisticated robots for aiding in providing user interface commands. Gesture sensor technology includes both optical sensors and control armband sensors worn by a robot operator.

With optical based gesture sensors a robot can be trained to recognise specific hand movements and perform certain tasks based on the specific gesture or hand movement. These types of gesture sensors afford many opportunities in the home or hospital for people with disabilities and limited communicaton abilities, as well as in the smart factory.

Force torque sensors

Force Torque sensors are also increasingly being used in today’s next generation of robots. Force torque sensors are used not only in robots’ end effectors and grippers, but now also in other parts of the robot, for example, the torso, arms, legs and head. These force torque sensors are used to monitor limb speed movement, detect obstacles and provide safety alerts to the robot’s central processor.

Force torque sensors are also working in conjunction with presence sensors, as well as other safety monitoring sensors, e.g. environmental sensors, for providing total safe zone monitoring functions.

Environmental sensors

Environmental sensors are also finding their way into both industrial and consumer robots. Environmental sensors that can detect volatile organic compounds in regards to air quality, temperature and humidity sensors, pressure sensors, and even sensors that can detect the presence of lighting. These sensors ensure a robot can continue to operate effectively and safely, but also make humans in the robot’s local area aware of unsafe environmental conditions.

Power management sensors

Power management sensors are used in the areas of voltage regulation, and power and thermal management of robot joint motors. All onboard robot electronics, such as microprocessors, sensors, and actuators, need low noise ripple power supplies and regulation to ensure they work efficiently and properly.

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