Object curvature plays an important role in grasping and manipulation. To be more exact, local curvature is a more useful information for grasping practically. Vision and touch are the two main methods to extract surface curvature of an object, but vision is often limited since the complete contact area is invisible during manipulation. In this paper, the authors propose an object curvature estimation method based on an artificial neural network algorithm through a lab-developed sparse tactile sensor array. The compliant layer covering on the sensor is indispensable for fitting the curved surface. Three types (plane, convex sphere, and convex cylinder) of sample and each type of sample including 30 different radiuses (1 mm to 30 mm) were used in the experiment. The overall classification accuracy was 93.1%. The average curvature radius estimating error based on an artificial neural network (ANN) algorithm was 1.87 mm. When the radius of curvature was bigger than 5 mm, the average relative error was smaller than 20%. As a comparison, the sensor array density we used in this paper was less than 9/cm2
, which was smaller than the density of human SAII receptors, but the discrimination result was close to the SAII receptors. Comparison with the curvature discrimination ability of the human body showed that this method has a promising application prospect.
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