The glove that can talk to robots

Textile gloves that control robots, and robots ‘dressed’ in soft textiles. The strategic research collaboration between the Universities of Borås and Skövde demonstrates exciting opportunities and impressive creativity.

– We are at the prototype stage, but the unique combination of smart textiles and robots is a good example of the great potential that we are working with, Vincent Nierstrasz, Professor of Textile Materials Technology, explains.

The University of Borås’s expertise in textile technology and design and Skövde’s expertise in information technology are being utilised as researchers from the two universities collaborate. One exciting result is a glove, the manipulation of which controls a robot using textile sensors. Communicating through hand movements may look easy, but the road to get there was anything but. Anja Lund, Katharina Bredies and Gauss Lee have, with their knowledge of textile sensors, electronic textiles and robotics, put in significant amounts of work. Katharina says:

– Gloves that communicate already exist, but in this area – human-robot interaction – it’s a relatively recent development. Textile sensors are easy to use, but they work in a different way from standard electronic components, which must be taken into account during development.

A communicating glove is also very complicated to develop due to the complex range of movement of the hand.  Smart textiles as a medium of communication between man and machine may find widely varying applications. In industry, robots and humans could work more closely if the robot were programmed to sense a human’s movements and maintain a safe distance, allowing the two to work side-by-side. Another scenario involves patients wearing garments with embedded textile sensors, which would sense movement and provide doctors with information about the patient’s health. The research team are also at work on developing a skin made of smart textiles, which a robot could be ‘dressed’ in. This opens up for the possibility of creating a ‘soft’ robot, and for an increase in interaction between man and machine. The initiative is supported by Region Västra Götaland and involves design, textiles and sustainable development, among other things.


Researchers: Katharina Bredies, Anja Lund, Gauss Lee, Vincent Nierstrasz