Research Assistant: Tactile Physiology, Tactile Sensing and Robotics

Background: Prosthetic and robotic hands demonstrate poor dexterity during object manipulation, often dropping objects. Humans rarely allow objects to slip because we can sense if an object is slippery and adjust our grip. In recent years, while we have learned more about the biomechanics and neuroscience underpinning our ability to sense friction, there is still much to learn. Perhaps unsurprisingly, given how poorly we understand human friction sensing, very little research has been directed at replicating this ability to sense friction or slipperiness in artificial sensors. This research program has three work packages: (WP1) To advance our understanding of how humans sense friction; (WP2) To demonstrate, using a number of friction-based tactile sensor prototypes currently under development by our research groups in Dublin and Sydney, that friction sensing leads to improved dexterity in robotic manipulation; (WP3) To use advanced design, manufacturing, and instrumentation methods to miniaturise the proposed sensors to a scale similar to a human finger pad. The outcomes of this research, which would endow artificial hands with the ability to feel the slipperiness and/or impending loss of grip of a grasped object, could significantly advance the fields of prosthetics, telesurgery, and service, agricultural, and manufacturing robotics.

Position description: The primary purpose of the role is to contribute to the establishment of a state-of-the-art tactile sensing and robotics laboratory at UCD. Duties include:

  • Contribute to the development of state-of-the-art next-generation robotic fingers which can sense friction/slipperiness in real-time (prototype demo: https://youtu.be/BGUe_tqjaBA);
  • Identify, acquire, install and programme research equipment, including: 3D printers; six-axis robotic arms; six-axis hexapod robotic stages; robotic grippers;
  • Machine/mould/assembly of bespoke mechanical and electrical apparatus;
  • Develop real-time control software for bespoke robotic stage control strategies;
  • Provide technical assistance with human neurological experiments;
  • Contribute to the collection, analysis and dissemination of experimental data and results.

Supervision and research environment: The Research Assistant will report to A/Prof Stephen Redmond (School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, UCD https://people.ucd.ie/stephen.redmond).

Salary: €22,109 - €30,393 per annum. Appointment on this range will be dependent on qualifications and experience. Position duration is 2 years (temporary). The project is funded by Science Foundation Ireland’s President of Ireland Future Research Leaders Award, held by A/Prof Redmond. Both tactile sensor design work packages are also partly supported by US Office of Naval Research Global funding held by A/Prof Redmond and Dr Heba Khamis at UNSW (Sydney, Australia).

How to apply: Visit https://www.ucd.ie/workatucd/jobs/  -> “External Applicants” -> “Search by Reference Number”… Use job reference number: 011247