A new robotic tactile sensor based on fiber optics is described. The sensor array is based on a matrix of optical fibers in perpendicular rows and columns separated by an elastomeric pad. The elastomer provides compliant response to normal force applied to the structure, and the magnitude of the force is measured by a change in transmitted light coupling across a gap between the fibers. Spatial structure of the force applied to the pad is obtained by the matrix addressing of rows of fibers individually excited by light emitting diodes (LEDs) and orthogonally arranged columns of signal pickup fibers conducting the sensed light to photodetectors. The structure can be made thin enough to wrap conformally over a curved surface. The sensor array lends itself to sensing and control applications in robotic end effectors and as a tactile imaging platform for part identification and orientation to complement or replace optical vision systems.