The resolution of contact location is important in many applications in robotics and automation. This is generally done by using an array of contact or tactile receptors, which increases cost and complexity as the required resolution or area is increased. Tactile sensors have also been developed using a continuous deformable medium between the contact and the receptors, which allows few receptors to interpolate the information among them, avoiding the weakness highlighted in the former approach. The latter is generally used to measure contact force intensity or magnitude but rarely used to identify the contact locations. This paper presents a systematic design and characterisation procedure for magnetic-based soft tactile sensors (utilizing the latter approach with the deformable contact medium) with the goal of locating the contact force location. This systematic procedure provides conditions under which design parameters can be selected, supported by a selected machine learning algorithm, to achieve the desired performance of the tactile sensor in identifying the contact location. An illustrative example, which combines a particular sensor configuration (magnetic hall effect sensor as the receptor, a selected continuous medium and a selected sensing resolution) and a specific data-driven algorithm, is used to illustrate the proposed design procedure. The results of the illustrative example design demonstrates the efficacy of the proposed design procedure and the proposed sensing strategy in identifying a contact location. The resulting sensor is also tested on a robotic hand (Allegro Hand, SimLab Co) to demonstrate its application in real-world scenarios.
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