GelSight – The Gel That Can “See” A Cell
“If you’ve ever looked at the odd images formed inside Jell-O when you thrust in your spoon, you’ll understand GelSight. The idea was to design for robots working with complex objects an unusual and very powerful fingertip sensor similar to our own. But the MIT team has since realized that their creation has equally exciting applications elsewhere.
GelSight is essentially a piece of soft optically transparent gel with one shiny face as a sensor–when it’s pressed onto a 3-D object, the sensor surface distorts to match the object’s shape and some cameras peeping at the reflections of the twisted surface can “see” what the gel is touching. The cameras are tighly focused on the reflective surface, and their image feed is processed by a computer to generate a 3-D image of the thing being touched.
It’s actually powerful enough to detect precisely the raised ink printed on a $20 bill–and actually far more detailed information than this, right down to objects that are a micrometer in depth and two across. A typical red blood cell is seven micrometers across.”