The sensor is an adaptation of a technology called GelSight, which was developed by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

The new sensor is smaller small enough to fit on a robot's gripper - and its processing algorithm is faster, so it can give the robot feedback in real time.

Industrial robots are capable of remarkable precision when the objects they are manipulating are perfectly positioned in advance.

"For a robot, this type of fine-grained manipulation is unprecedented," said co-researcher Robert Platt, an assistant professor at the Northeastern University in US.

"People have been trying to do this for a long time. They have not succeeded because the sensors they are using are not accurate enough and do not have enough information to localize the pose of the object that they are holding," Platt noted.

A GelSight sensor consists of a slab of transparent, synthetic rubber coated on one side with metallic paint.

The researchers presented their results at the International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems this week.

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