Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Magic off the cuff

11.07.2017

Moving things with a wave of the hand: thanks to Empa technology this dream could soon become real. A sensor made of piezo-resistive fibers integrated in a wristband measures wrist movements and converts them into electrical signals. This can be used to steer drones or other electronic devices without a remote control.

A wave to the left: the drone moves to the left. A wave to the right: the drone turns right. Clench your hand into a fist and it lands gently on the table. No, not crazy talk; reality.


The watchstrap contains piezoresistive fibers produced on a 3D printer. The wrist movements are transmitted to steer the drone.

Empa researchers headed by Frank Clemens from the Laboratory for High-Performance Ceramics have devised a sensor made of piezo-resistive fibers and incorporated it into a wristband that registers the hand’s movements. The piezo-resistive fiber is electroconductive, recognizes a change in shape and converts it into an electrical signal, which can then be read by a terminal device and interpreted accordingly. This means that robots can be moved with a simple point of the finger, for instance.

Although motion sensors are nothing new, until now movements were primarily recorded using visual sensors (such as cameras), accelerometers and gyroscopes (for rotational movements). This manner of registering movements, however, requires large, clear movements within a particular speed range that are, by and large, unnatural for humans.

The new Empa sensor, on the other hand, responds to the minutest of natural movements made “off the cuff”. Nonetheless, Clemens doesn’t want to do away with previous technologies. “It takes a combination of different sensors to develop new concepts. Only then can we spot and use movements that weren’t detectable with previous technologies.” Combining acceleration, rotation and orientation sensors with the new fiber sensor would facilitate completely new “commands” to control technical devices – whether it be a drone or the garage door.

Algorithms “translate” movements

For test purposes, the researchers integrated the sensor in a conventional wristwatch strap, which can be worn unobtrusively and restricts the wearer as little as possible. Run-of-the-mill decorative bracelets are also conceivable. Nevertheless, it took quite a while to reach this stage. In the first prototypes, Frank Clemens and Mark Melnykowycz succeeded in attaching the piezo-resistive fibers to a piece of fabric. This was insufficient to use the sensor on the desired scale, however.

“With the aid of additive manufacturing, we managed to integrate the sensor structure in non-textile materials,” explains Clemens. The sensor could thus eventually be used in existing wristwatch straps.

In collaboration with the companies STBL Medical Research AG and Idezo, Clemens’s team then programmed the sensor in such a way that it could be used to control a drone with mere hand movements. Currently, the algorithm that “translates” between sensor and drone control is being optimized as part of a Bachelor’s project at Bern University of Applied Sciences supervised by Marx Stampfli so that it can respond to even simpler gestures.

Not only is the sensor supposed to recognize individual movements, but also entire movement sequences. For example, clenching your fist twice in quick succession would trigger a different command to once short and once long, and so on.

Wearing the sensor in a wristband might soon be a thing of the past, too. In her term paper, a student at ETH Zurich is examining the possibility of integrating the piezo-resistive sensor in a plaster. Then all that would be needed to perform diverse interactions with technical devices and robots would be a barely conspicuous plaster on the wrist.

Although the project is still very much in its infancy, everything already works perfectly. “Together with our industry partner STBL Medical Research AG, we are currently discussing a potential industrial implementation with partners from various sectors,” says Clemens.

Weitere Informationen:

http://www.empa.ch/web/s604/drohnensteuerung

Cornelia Zogg | Empa - Eidgenössische Materialprüfungs- und Forschungsanstalt

Further reports about: ETH Zurich Empa accelerometers drone fiber motion sensors

More articles from Power and Electrical Engineering:

nachricht Producing electricity during flight
20.09.2017 | Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg im Breisgau

nachricht Solar-to-fuel system recycles CO2 to make ethanol and ethylene
19.09.2017 | DOE/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

All articles from Power and Electrical Engineering >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: The pyrenoid is a carbon-fixing liquid droplet

Plants and algae use the enzyme Rubisco to fix carbon dioxide, removing it from the atmosphere and converting it into biomass. Algae have figured out a way to increase the efficiency of carbon fixation. They gather most of their Rubisco into a ball-shaped microcompartment called the pyrenoid, which they flood with a high local concentration of carbon dioxide. A team of scientists at Princeton University, the Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford University and the Max Plank Institute of Biochemistry have unravelled the mysteries of how the pyrenoid is assembled. These insights can help to engineer crops that remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while producing more food.

A warming planet

Im Focus: Highly precise wiring in the Cerebral Cortex

Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits, whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the so-called cerebral cortex of mammals, where among other things vision, thoughts or spatial orientation are being computed. Here the rules by which nerve cells are connected to each other are only partly understood. A team of scientists around Moritz Helmstaedter at the Frankfiurt Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Helene Schmidt (Humboldt University in Berlin) have now discovered a surprisingly precise nerve cell connectivity pattern in the part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for orienting the individual animal or human in space.

The researchers report online in Nature (Schmidt et al., 2017. Axonal synapse sorting in medial entorhinal cortex, DOI: 10.1038/nature24005) that synapses in...

Im Focus: Tiny lasers from a gallery of whispers

New technique promises tunable laser devices

Whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonators are used to make tiny micro-lasers, sensors, switches, routers and other devices. These tiny structures rely on a...

Im Focus: Ultrafast snapshots of relaxing electrons in solids

Using ultrafast flashes of laser and x-ray radiation, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Garching, Germany) took snapshots of the briefest electron motion inside a solid material to date. The electron motion lasted only 750 billionths of the billionth of a second before it fainted, setting a new record of human capability to capture ultrafast processes inside solids!

When x-rays shine onto solid materials or large molecules, an electron is pushed away from its original place near the nucleus of the atom, leaving a hole...

Im Focus: Quantum Sensors Decipher Magnetic Ordering in a New Semiconducting Material

For the first time, physicists have successfully imaged spiral magnetic ordering in a multiferroic material. These materials are considered highly promising candidates for future data storage media. The researchers were able to prove their findings using unique quantum sensors that were developed at Basel University and that can analyze electromagnetic fields on the nanometer scale. The results – obtained by scientists from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics, the Swiss Nanoscience Institute, the University of Montpellier and several laboratories from University Paris-Saclay – were recently published in the journal Nature.

Multiferroics are materials that simultaneously react to electric and magnetic fields. These two properties are rarely found together, and their combined...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

“Lasers in Composites Symposium” in Aachen – from Science to Application

19.09.2017 | Event News

I-ESA 2018 – Call for Papers

12.09.2017 | Event News

EMBO at Basel Life, a new conference on current and emerging life science research

06.09.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Rainbow colors reveal cell history: Uncovering β-cell heterogeneity

22.09.2017 | Life Sciences

Penn first in world to treat patient with new radiation technology

22.09.2017 | Medical Engineering

Calculating quietness

22.09.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>