Sometimes learning about how sensing technology is used in an application that the reader is not that familiar with can provide inspiration for a new approach in an area that they are very familiar with. That is the intent of the applications that follow. Even if they are not used for inspiration, they make interesting reading.
In Military Defense
In cars, cameras provide backup, road ahead, side-mounted vision and more as well as internal monitoring and cargo protection. So, how could they be used in a tank? A recently announced camera system for tanks has day/night cameras that provide a 360° view around the tank. With a specially designed helmet, the operator is able to identify targets both in front of and behind the tank. The digital helmet provides the user with a 3D view of the battlefield as well as data to conduct combat operations. In addition to sensors, radar, and small cameras, artificial intelligence (AI) helps to process the input quickly to make the right decisions. New sensors enable the system to independently acquire targets for the decision-making process.
In a Snake-Like Robot
Robots use a wide variety and different types of sensors to understand the environment they are operating in and to perform targeted tasks effectively. What if the robot has an unexpected form factor, for example a snake? That is exactly the challenge that NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) had to solve when they conceived of a multi-section snake to traverse unknown and uneven terrain on Saturn’s moon Enceladus. The Exobiology Extant Life Surveyor or EELS is a self-propelled, autonomous robot that crawls with the intent of descending into narrow vents in the surface of Enceladus to look for signs of life in the ocean below the surface.
Designed to autonomously sense its environment, calculate risk, travel, and gather data, the snake will have several scientific instruments, many of which are yet-to-be-determined. For navigation purposes, four pairs of stereo cameras and LiDAR provide the inputs. The snake’s movable sections will contain 48 actuators to provide the necessary flexibility. Many of the actuators will have built-in force-torque sensing, so the EELS can feel how much force it is exerting on the terrain.
In an Implantable Ventilator
Ventilators became a well-known issue during the COVID-19 epidemic to help patients with restricted breathing for a limited period of time. However, what if the patient’s requirements were not limited? With the right design, an implantable ventilator could be a long-term solution. To determine critical design aspects and verify their approach, researchers demonstrated a diaphragm-assisted system to function as an implantable ventilator. It used soft robotic actuators to mechanically supplement the diaphragm function during inhalation.
Researchers used the contractile function of pneumatic artificial muscles (PAMs) to mimic and augment the native contraction of the diaphragm. The actuator’s design consisted of an expandable weaved mesh surrounding a bladder connected to an air line. The pressurized bladder expands the mesh radially and drives linear contraction and can generate up to 40 N of contractile force under 20 psi pressurization. With actuator behavior controlled by the degree of pressurization, pressurization waveforms were programmed to the control system and electropneumatic regulators. Researchers analyzed both in vitro and in vivo characterization of actuator behavior when controlled by different pressurization waveforms.