This paper presents the design of a wearable robotic forearm for close-range human-robot collaboration. The robot's function is to serve as a lightweight supernumerary third arm for shared workspace activities. We present a functional prototype resulting from an iterative design process including several user studies. An analysis of the robot's kinematics shows an increase in reachable workspace by 246 % compared to the natural human reach. The robot's degrees of freedom and range of motion support a variety of usage scenarios with the robot as a collaborative tool, including self-handovers, fetching objects while the human's hands are occupied, assisting human-human collaboration, and stabilizing an object. We analyze the bio-mechanical loads for these scenarios and find that the design is able to operate within human ergonomic wear limits. We then report on a pilot human-robot interaction study that indicates robot autonomy is more task-time efficient and preferred by users when compared to direct voice-control. These results suggest that the design presented here is a promising configuration for a lightweight wearable robotic augmentation device, and can serve as a basis for further research into human-wearable collaboration.
Wearing your arm on your sleeve: Studying usage contexts for a wearable robotic forearm
This paper presents the design of a wearable robotic forearm that provides the user with an assistive third hand, along with a study of interaction scenarios for the design. Technical advances in sensors, actuators, and materials have made wearable robots feasible for personal use, but the interaction with such robots has not been sufficiently studied. We describe the development of a working prototype along with three usability studies. In an online survey we find that respondents presented with images and descriptions of the device see its use mainly as a functional tool in professional and military contexts. A subsequent contextual inquiry among building construction workers reveals three themes for user needs: extending a worker's reach, enhancing their safety and comfort through bracing and stabilization, and reducing their cognitive load in repetitive tasks. A subsequent laboratry study in which participants wear a working prototype of the robot finds that they prioritize lowered weight and enhanced dexterity, seek adjustable autonomy and transparency of the robot's intent, and prefer a robot that looks distinct from a human arm. These studies inform design implications for further development of wearable robotic arms.
- Award ID(s):
- Publication Date:
- NSF-PAR ID:
- Journal Name:
- 26th IEEE International Symposium on Robot and Human Interactive Communication (RO-MAN 2017)
- Page Range or eLocation-ID:
- 974 to 980
- Sponsoring Org:
- National Science Foundation
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