Retrographic sensing for touch, texture and shape


GelSight is a novel technology for measuring high-resolution surface topography, as demonstrated in this introductory video and described in this news story. Our latest design is capable of measuring surface features as small as 2 microns spatially with submicron depth resolution. We have made two prototypes based on this design, a bench configuration and a handheld portable configuration. The design of these systems and the related algorithmic improvements are described in our SIGGRAPH 2011 paper.

For more information, please visit

New Videos

This video demonstrates GelSight’s ability to reveal the detailed structure of a surface.

This video demonstrates our current prototypes and their resolution

Original Videos

Our original videos give a good introduction to the technology.



GelSight is a novel device that can be used as a 2.5D “scanner” for acquiring surface texture and shape. It consists of a slab of clear elastomer covered with a reflective skin. When an object presses on the skin, the skin distorts to take on the shape of the object’s surface. When viewed from behind (through the elastomer slab), the skin appears as a relief replica of the surface. The surface geometry of the object can then be estimated using photometric stereo techniques. There is no problem dealing with transparent or specular materials because the skin supplies its own BRDF. Complete information is recorded in a single frame; therefore we can record video of the changing deformation of the skin, and then generate an animation of the changing surface. The GelSight sensor has no moving parts (other than the elastomer slab), uses inexpensive materials, and can be made into a portable device that can be used “in the field” to record surface shape and texture.

This technology is patent pending.

More information


GelSight was presented at the following conferences:

  • CVPR 2009, Miami Beach FL, June 20 – 25, 2009. Won a Best Demo award.
  • SIGGRAPH 2009 Emerging Technologies, New Orleans, LA, August 3 – 7, 2009.
  • ICCV 2009, Kyoto, Japan, September 29 – October 2, 2009.


Portions of this work were supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 0739255. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.