Plug-and-Play GelSight Mini Brings "Superhuman" AI-Powered Tactile Sensing Capabilities to All

Offering a resolution beyond that of the human finger, this compact tactile sensor boasts a five-minute out-of-box experience.

Tactile intelligence specialist GelSight, spun out of a project at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), has announced an off-the-shelf plug-and-play implementation of its technology with the promise of a five-minute out-of-the-box experience: the GelSight Mini.

“GelSight Mini is a first-of-its-kind, affordable, and compact tactile sensor with an easy, plug-and-play set up that lets users get to work within five minutes of taking the device out of the box," claims Dennis Lang, vice president of product at GelSight, of his company's launch. "We believe that GelSight Mini will reduce the barrier of entry into robotics and touch-based scanning for corporate research and development, academics, and hobbyists, while opening doors to new terrain, such as the Metaverse."

The GelSight Mini is based on technology unveiled by MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) in 2009, in which a sensor proved capable of providing two- and three-dimensional mapping of any touched object at a resolution exceeding that of the human fingertip. The sensor is made of a block of transparent rubber finished on one face with a metallic paint; when the sensor touches an object, the rubber deforms and a camera picks up the change — processing the resulting image through a machine learning system to produce a map of the touched object with impressive resolution.

Unlike its lab-based forebears, the GelSight Mini is designed to be immediately accessible: The company claims that users can get started in just five minutes, connecting to the sensor via USB and communicating with it through bundled Robot Operating System (ROS) support, PyTouch-based Python scripts, or a frame-grabber for integration into existing computer vision systems.

The core technology behind GelSight was born at MIT's CSAIL in 2009. (📹: MIT)

As well as the sensor itself, GelSight is providing 3D-printable CAD files for adapters, which allow the sensor to be quickly added to a range of common robot systems; bundled software also allows for the creation of "digital twins" for any touched item.

The GelSight Mini is now available for $499 from the company store, with replacement gels priced at $49; the company has not publicly stated how often the gels are expected to be replaced to maintain peak performance.

Gareth Halfacree
Freelance journalist, technical author, hacker, tinkerer, erstwhile sysadmin. For hire:
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