US firm iRobot has subcontracted touch technology developer Novint Technologies to co-develop a remote touch kit (RTK) for PackBot, one of iRobot’s military-grade unmanned ground vehicles.

The RTK will enable soldiers, for the first time, to experience force and tactile sensing when operating the PackBot from a distance.

While operating Packbot with RTK, soldiers will be able to feel how hard the robot’s gripper clinches an object, or when it touches a wire or reaches a movement limit, and safely pick up and handle fragile objects.

The soldiers also feel the bumps and jerks of the robot, improving performance over rugged terrain and significantly reducing task times, dexterity and situational awareness, and also reducing training.

The military robotics project was funded by the Secretary of Defense Joint Ground Robotics Enterprise through the Robotics Technology Consortium (RTC).