Getting a feel for the world

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Science  10 Oct 2014:
Vol. 346, Issue 6206, pp. 184-185
DOI: 10.1126/science.346.6206.184

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To be fully autonomous, robots must be able to make sense of their surroundings, but designing mundane, practical sensors for robots has proven to be a formidable challenge. Today's machines have the ability to gently touch objects with tactile "skin," differentiate beers with an electronic tongue, or even stay balanced on one leg when whacked with a 9-kilogram wrecking ball. Still, the automatons fail at many basic human skills, from filtering out noise during cocktail party conversations, to making sense of what they see and walking around without breaking an ankle. Some say that equipping robots with the senses humanizes them.