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shape, formed by a tiny lens on the top of the LED (Figure 8.2a). The beam cones of neighboring LEDs must overlap, forming a continuous detection cushion in the space around the robot. To increase the skin reliability, it is desirable to decrease the amount of wiring running within sensor modules, between modules, and especially between modules attached to different robot links (because these wires will have to run over robot joints). This requirement is in con ict with a desire to control every sensor independently. The latter requires parallel addressing of sensors, hence many wires, whereas a serial addressing scheme allows one to minimize the number of interconnecting wires. Another advantage of a parallel scheme is that sensing information it produces in each cycle is known to correspond to the same time moment, hence the same position of all robot links. With the serial polling scheme, the sensing information obtained from polling sensors corresponds to the robot links being in slightly different positions. The motion within one serial polling cycle is usually insigni cant: The actual uncertainty depends on the serial scheme implementation and the robot speed. A fully parallel scheme with n sensors requires roughly logn wires. In a fully serial addressing scheme, only one wire will be suf cient to do the job. In the system described here, this con ict is resolved via a compromise parallel serial system: The system is divided into modules that are run in parallel, whereas sensors in each module are divided into rows and columns and addressed serially.
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Sensor Interface. The purpose of the sensor interface circuit (Figure 8.1) is to realize computer access to the skin sensor. The circuit s two major components are an analog-to-digital converter and a number of one-shots that control sensor addressing. In each sensor module, sensors are addressed in a serial fashion. The entire skin is reset regularly, synchronizing address counters of the sensor modules. (More information on a version of this unit appears in Ref. 134.) Sensor Circuit Module. A sensor circuit module contains a group of sensors that, from the standpoint of control and mechanical design, are handled as a unit. A number of sensor modules makes the whole skin. The skin system described in Ref. 134 and shown in Figure 8.6 included three sensor modules, each with a different geometric shape and with an unequal number of sensors, totaling about 500 sensors. A later system described in Ref. 135 and shown in Figure 8.7 featured smaller standardized modules, each about 23 by 23 cm in size and with 8 by 8 sensors, with the whole system totaling over 1200 sensors. Each module is wrapped around and fastened to the robot arm. Neighboring modules are connected physically, using appropriate fasteners such as Velcro fasteners and electrically, through appropriate connectors. Besides sensors, each module contains all necessary control electronics. The latter can be divided into two parts. The rst part is a sensor addressing circuit,
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of the pair Y. This scenario suggests an interesting hardware and processing schemes that would be checking for various combinatorial possibilities, to determine which object actually triggered the signal. No such attempts have been done so far, to my knowledge.
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which decodes the order of sensor addressing. The second part is a sensor detection circuit, which ampli es and lters signals from the light detectors. The addressing scheme is organized as follows. Each sensor module has a counter that keeps track of which sensor is being addressed currently. The counter is incremented by a clock, causing selection of a new sensor. When needed, the counter is set to zero by a long pulse from a pulse discriminator. In the earlier system, pulses longer than 10 s are considered zero reset pulses; pulses shorter than 10 s increment the counter. This addressing scheme allows one signal line to address a practically unlimited number of sensors. Besides its serial nature, an obvious drawback of this scheme is that it does not allow random addressing. When picking a particular sensor, all sensors with addresses lower than this sensor will be selected. Note, however, that this is not a serious drawback, because by the nature of the skin all sensors must be addressed in turn in each cycle of sensor polling. The order in which sensors are addressed is immaterial, and so the advantages of serial addressing outweigh its disadvantages. The sensor module circuit implemented in Ref. 134 is shown in Figure 8.5. In brief, it operates as follows. The Sensor Select signal from the Sensor Interface is rst cleaned up by triggers IC8b and IC8c and is then passed to the Clk input of the 8-bit counter that keeps track of selected sensors. The function of the pulse discriminator IC6 (a dual one-shot) is to choose the time of resetting the counter. In the pulse discriminator, when the Sensor Select line is low, the oneshots outputs Q are low, and the 8-bit counter is not reset. As a pulse arrives on the Sensor Select line at time Ta , the output Q of the one-shots IC6a is triggered high. If the Sensor Select line stays high longer than 10 s, IC6a will time out, causing its output to go low at time Tb . This triggers IC6b, and its output Q goes high, resetting the counter. If, on the other hand, Sensor Select signal goes low before IC6a times out, no reset pulse is generated and the counter increments normally. The infrared diode (LED) light is amplitude-modulated and then synchronously detected, to increase the system immunity to other light sources. This scheme allows operation on several channels : For example, light transmitted by an LED on the robot link X will not be sensed by a detector on a link Y even if directly illuminated by it. The output byte Out of IC7 controls analog multiplexers that switch optical components in the sensor circuit. The least signi cant four bits are connected to the analog multiplexer IC2, which selects signals among the 12 preampli ers on the skin. The analog signal is rst high-pass ltered by IC1a to remove noise due to the ambient (room) light, then passed to the synchronous detector ICb, which demodulates the transmitted signal, and then low-pass ltered by a three-pole Butterworth lter composed of IC1c and IC1d. The IC1d output is then passed to one of the input channels of the Sensor Interface Board via a resistor, which provides short-circuit protection for the IC1d s output. The setting time of the Butterworth lter is about 0.25 m, which determines the overall scheme s response time. A higher bandwidth lter would settle in less
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