USC researchers unveiled a new simulator for robotic cutting that can accurately reproduce the forces acting on a knife as it slices through common food such as fruit and vegetables. The unique approach simulates cutting by introducing springs between the two halves of the object being cut, represented by a mesh. These springs are weakened over time in proportion to the force exerted by the knife on the mesh.
To transfer skills from simulation to reality, the simulator must be able to model a real system. In one of the experiments, the researchers used a dataset of force profiles from a physical robot to produce highly accurate predictions of how the knife would move in real life.
In addition to applications in the food processing industry, where robots could take over dangerous tasks like repetitive cutting, the simulator could improve force haptic feedback accuracy in surgical robots, helping to guide surgeons and prevent injury.