Biomimetic whiskers for shape recognition

Dae Eun Kim, Ralf Möller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

86 Citations (Scopus)


Rodents demonstrate an outstanding capability of tactile perception with their whiskers. Mechanoreceptors surrounding the whisker shaft in their follicle structure measure deflection of the whisker. We designed biomimetic whiskers following the basic design of the follicle. In experiments with the artificial whiskers, we have explored tactile perception based on active whisking where the deflection angle or velocity provides the localization information which is the basis of shape recognition. Measuring contact distances at varying protraction angles allows discrimination of round objects with a varying curvature, or objects with different lateral shapes, such as square and round objects. We show the capabilities and limitations of a single whisker for shape recognition as well as the usefulness of multiple whiskers. In addition, measuring both vertical and horizontal deflection of a single whisker allows detection of the vertical shape for objects with a smooth surface. Two or more whiskers stacked vertically can recognize the vertical shape by observing the difference of their deflection amplitudes or the time shift of deflection velocity peak. The results provide a clue on how autonomous robots could improve their sensory capabilities with mechanical probes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)229-243
Number of pages15
JournalRobotics and Autonomous Systems
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2007 Mar 31

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work has been supported by the EU in the project AMOUSE (IST-2000-28127).

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Software
  • Mathematics(all)
  • Control and Systems Engineering
  • Computer Science Applications


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