This article presents the design process of a supernumerary wearable robotic forearm (WRF), along with methods for stabilizing the robot’s end-effector using human motion prediction. The device acts as a lightweight “third arm” for the user, extending their reach during handovers and manipulation in close-range collaborative activities. It was developed iteratively, following a user-centered design process that included an online survey, contextual inquiry, and an in-person usability study. Simulations show that the WRF significantly enhances a wearer’s reachable workspace volume, while remaining within biomechanical ergonomic load limits during typical usage scenarios. While operating the device in such scenarios, the user introduces disturbances in its pose due to their body movements. We present two methods to overcome these disturbances: autoregressive (AR) time series and a recurrent neural network (RNN). These models were used for forecasting the wearer’s body movements to compensate for disturbances, with prediction horizons determined through linear system identification. The models were trained offline on a subset of the KIT Human Motion Database, and tested in five usage scenarios to keep the 3D pose of the WRF’s end-effector static. The addition of the predictive models reduced the end-effector position errors by up to 26% compared to direct feedback control.
End-Effector Stabilization of a Wearable Robotic Arm Using Time Series Modeling of Human Disturbances
For a wearable robotic arm to autonomously assist a human, it has to be able to stabilize its end-effector in light of the human’s independent activities. This paper presents a method for stabilizing the end-effector in planar assembly and pick-and-place tasks. Ideally, given an accurate positioning of the end effector and the wearable robot attachment point, human disturbances could be compensated by using a simple feedback control strategy. Realistically, system delays in both sensing and actuation suggest a predictive approach. In this work, we characterize the actuators of a wearable robotic arm and estimate these delays using linear models. We then consider the motion of the human arm as an autoregressive process to predict the deviation in the robot’s base position at a time horizon equivalent to the estimated delay. Generating set points for the end-effector using this predictive model, we report reduced position errors of 19.4% (x) and 20.1% (y) compared to a feedback control strategy without prediction.
- Award ID(s):
- Publication Date:
- NSF-PAR ID:
- Journal Name:
- The ASME 2019 Dynamic Systems and Control Conference (DSCC)
- Sponsoring Org:
- National Science Foundation
More Like this
Synthetic Muscle Electroactive Polymer (EAP) pressure sensing and controlled shape-morphing for robotic grippersMadden, John D. ; Anderson, Iain A. ; Shea, Herbert R. (Ed.)Ras Labs makes Synthetic Muscle™, which is a class of electroactive polymer (EAP) based materials and actuators that sense pressure (gentle touch to high impact), controllably contract and expand at low voltage (1.5 V to 50 V, including use of batteries), and attenuate force. We are in the robotics era, but robots do have their challenges. Currently, robotic sensing is mainly visual, which is useful up until the point of contact. To understand how an object is being gripped, tactile feedback is needed. For handling fragile objects, if the grip is too tight, breakage occurs, and if the grip is too loose, the object will slip out of the grasp, also leading to breakage. Rigid robotic grippers using a visual feedback loop can struggle to determine the exact point and quality of contact. Robotic grippers can also get a stuttering effect in the visual feedback loop. By using soft Synthetic Muscle™ based EAP pads as the sensors, immediate feedback was generated at the first point of contact. Because these pads provided a soft, compliant interface, the first point of contact did not apply excessive force, allowing the force applied to the object to be controlled. The EAP sensor could alsomore »
In remote applications that mandate human supervision, shared control can prove vital by establishing a harmonious balance between the high-level cognition of a user and the low-level autonomy of a robot. Though in practice, achieving this balance is a challenging endeavor that largely depends on whether the operator effectively interprets the underlying shared control. Inspired by recent works on using immersive technologies to expose the internal shared control, we develop a virtual reality system to visually guide human-in-the-loop manipulation. Our implementation of shared control teleoperation employs end effector manipulability polytopes, which are geometrical constructs that embed joint limit and environmental constraints. These constructs capture a holistic view of the constrained manipulator’s motion and can thus be visually represented as feedback for users on their operable space of movement. To assess the efficacy of our proposed approach, we consider a teleoperation task where users manipulate a screwdriver attached to a robotic arm’s end effector. A pilot study with prospective operators is first conducted to discern which graphical cues and virtual reality setup are most preferable. Feedback from this study informs the final design of our virtual reality system, which is subsequently evaluated in the actual screwdriver teleoperation experiment. Our experimental findingsmore »
We present a closed-loop multi-arm motion planner that is scalable and flexible with team size. Traditional multi-arm robotic systems have relied on centralized motion planners, whose run times often scale exponentially with team size, and thus, fail to handle dynamic environments with open-loop control. In this paper, we tackle this problem with multi-agent reinforcement learning, where a shared policy network is trained to control each individual robot arm to reach its target end-effector pose given observations of its workspace state and target end-effector pose. The policy is trained using Soft Actor-Critic with expert demonstrations from a sampling-based motion planning algorithm (i.e., BiRRT). By leveraging classical planning algorithms, we can improve the learning efficiency of the reinforcement learning algorithm while retaining the fast inference time of neural networks. The resulting policy scales sub-linearly and can be deployed on multi-arm systems with variable team sizes. Thanks to the closed-loop and decentralized formulation, our approach generalizes to 5-10 multiarm systems and dynamic moving targets (>90% success rate for a 10-arm system), despite being trained on only 1-4 arm planning tasks with static targets.
This paper addresses the problem of autonomously deploying an unmanned aerial vehicle in non-trivial settings, by leveraging a manipulator arm mounted on a ground robot, acting as a versatile mobile launch platform. As real-world deployment scenarios for micro aerial vehicles such as searchand- rescue operations often entail exploration and navigation of challenging environments including uneven terrain, cluttered spaces, or even constrained openings and passageways, an often arising problem is that of ensuring a safe take-off location, or safely fitting through narrow openings while in flight. By facilitating launching from the manipulator end-effector, a 6- DoF controllable take-off pose within the arm workspace can be achieved, which allows to properly position and orient the aerial vehicle to initialize the autonomous flight portion of a mission. To accomplish this, we propose a sampling-based planner that respects a) the kinematic constraints of the ground robot / manipulator / aerial robot combination, b) the geometry of the environment as autonomously mapped by the ground robots perception systems, and c) accounts for the aerial robot expected dynamic motion during takeoff. The goal of the proposed planner is to ensure autonomous collision-free initialization of an aerial robotic exploration mission, even within a cluttered constrained environment. Atmore »