Artificial sensitive skins are intended to emulate the human skin to improve the skills of robots and machinery in complex unstructured environments. They are basically smart arrays of pressure sensors. As in the case of artificial retinas, one problem to solve is the management of the huge amount of information that such arrays provide, especially if this information should be used by a central processing unit to implement some control algorithms. An approach to manage such information is to increment the signal processing performed close to the sensor in order to extract the useful information and reduce the errors caused by long wires. This paper proposes the use of voltage to frequency converters to implement a quite straightforward analog to digital conversion as front end interface to digital circuitry in a smart tactile sensor. The circuitry commonly implemented to read out the information from a piezoresistive tactile sensor can be modified to turn it into an array of voltage to frequency converters. This is carried out in this paper, where the feasibility of the idea is shown through simulations and its performance is discussed.
The interest in tactile sensors is increasing as their use in complex unstructured environments is demanded, like in telepresence, minimal invasive surgery, robotics etc. The matrix of pressure data these devices provide can be managed with many image processing algorithms to extract the required information. However, as in the case of vision chips or artificial retinas, problems arise when the array size and the computation complexity increase. Having a look to the skin, the information collected by every mechanoreceptor is not carried to the brain for its processing, but some complex pre-processing is performed to fit the limited throughput of the nervous system. This is specially important for high bandwidth demanding tasks. Experimental works report that neural response of skin mechanoreceptors encodes the change in local shape from an offset level rather than the absolute force or pressure distributions. This is also the behavior of the retina, which implements a spatio-temporal averaging. We propose the same strategy in tactile preprocessing, and we show preliminary results when it faces the detection of the slip, which involves fast real-time processing.