Expanding the horizons of wireless sensing: Sensing and localizing contact forces with signal reflections


All interactions of objects, humans, and machines with the physical world are via contact forces. For instance, objects placed on a table exert their gravitational forces, and the contact interactions via our hands/feet are guided by the sense of contact force felt by our skin. Thus, the ability to sense the contact forces can allow us to measure all these ubiquitous interactions, enabling a myriad of applications. Furthermore, force sensors are a critical requirement for safer surgeries, which require measuring complex contact forces experienced as a surgical instrument interacts with the surrounding tissues during the surgical procedure. However, with currently available discrete point-force sensors, which require a battery to sense the forces and communicate the readings wirelessly, these ubiquitous sensing and surgical sensing applications are not practical. This motivates the development of new force sensors that can sense, and communicate wirelessly without consuming significant power to enable a battery-free design. In this magazine article, we present WiForce, a low-power wireless force sensor utilizing a joint sensing-communication paradigm. That is, instead of having separate sensing and communication blocks, WiForce directly transduces the force measurements onto variations in wireless signals reflecting WiForce from the sensor. This novel trans-duction mechanism also allows WiForce to generalize easily to a length continuum, where we can detect as well as localize forces acting on the continuum. We fabricate and test our sensor prototype in different scenarios, including testing beneath a tissue phantom, and obtain sub-N sensing and sub-mm localizing accuracies (0.34 N and 0.6 mm, respectively).

In GetMobile Mobile Computing and Communications
Cédric Girerd
Cédric Girerd
CNRS Researcher

My research interests include continuum, soft and inflatable robots for medical application and inspection tasks.