Intel shows off a very interesting application of capacitive touch sensing at Research@Intel Day 2008. The application is called Electric Field Pretouch and applied to a robotic manipulator. The robot's fingertips are surrounded by long-ragne capacitive touch sensors. The sensing technique is called electric field imaging and originally proposed by Intel researcher Joshua Smith, who was a member of MIT Media Lab. Intel's sensor can detect remote conductive materials while the range of detectionof conventional sensors are very short.
As shown in the movie clip below, the manipulator effectively senses a bottle of water before it touches. The technique can be very helpful for configuring robots operating within uncontrolled environments.
Note: Freescale proximity capacitive touch sensors also utilize the same technique.