Biomimetic Active Touch with Fingertips and Whiskers

Nathan F Lepora*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

36 Citations (Scopus)
524 Downloads (Pure)


This study provides a synthetic viewpoint that compares, contrasts, and draws commonalities for biomimetic perception over a range of tactile sensors and tactile stimuli. Biomimetic active perception is formulated from three principles: (i) evidence accumulation based on leading models of perceptual decision making; (ii) action selection with an evidence-based policy, here based on overt focal attention; and (iii) sensory encoding of evidence based on neural coding. Two experiments with each of three biomimetic tactile sensors are considered: the iCub (capacitive) fingertip, the TacTip (optical) tactile sensor, and BIOTACT whiskers. For each sensor, one experiment considers a similar task (perception of shape and location) and the other a different tactile perception task. In all experiments, active perception with a biomimetic action selection policy based on focal attention outperforms passive perception with static or random action selection. The active perception also consistently reaches superresolved accuracy (hyperacuity) finer than the spacing between tactile elements. Biomimetic active touch thus offers a common approach for biomimetic tactile sensors to accurately and robustly characterize and explore non-trivial, uncertain environments analogous to how animals perceive the natural world.
Original languageEnglish
Article number7466131
Pages (from-to)170-183
Number of pages14
JournalIEEE Transactions on Haptics
Issue number2
Early online date6 May 2016
Publication statusPublished - 16 Jun 2016


  • Robotics
  • tactile devices
  • perception
  • touch
  • active
  • biomimetic


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