Researchers from the Institut de Robòtica, i Informàtica Industrial in Spain, have developed a new whole-body robot teleoperation framework for human motion transfer for safe human-robot physical interaction. The team states the platform could be used as a tool for teaching assisted living tasks, such as helping those with limited mobility or movement get dressed. It also may be the next step in allowing robots to learn dynamic manipulation via human demonstrations.
The idea of assistive robots is nothing new, and the same can be said for teleoperated robots as well. Japan and South Korea have been using assistive robots in hospitals, classrooms, and museums for the better part of a decade, and several companies have been teleoperated robots for use in applications such as disaster response and as waiters in restaurants.
These types of robots are deemed safe for working around humans, and those scientists want to provide that same level of safety for full-body teleoperated robots as a first step towards automating complex manipulation and movement in human-shared environments.
The researchers developed the Robot Teleoperated Framework using a modified version of Pal Robotics’ TIAGo Mobile Manipulator robot, which features a differential drive base, laser range finder, lifting torso, RGB-D camera, and a 7-DOF arm outfitted with force/torque sensors. The 5-finger underactuated hand that generally comes on the TIAGo, the team replaced it with a gripper and equipped the robot with a variable admittance controller, which stably adapts the end-effector to switch between stiff and compliant actions depending on the task.
The platform was tested using several different experiments, with the first demonstrating upper-body motion similarity when a correspondence (or imitation) problem was introduced. The second involved testing the mobile base station of the TIAGo robot using an algorithm for differential drive control, and the third dealt with evaluating the performance of the role adaptation mechanism (transitioning from stiff to compliant) was sufficient to ensure a stable behavior. The tests were successful and showed that a capable whole-body teleoperated robot could be achieved in real-time.