skip to main content

Title: 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:
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
More Like this
  1. 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.
  2. Back injuries are the most prevalent work-related musculoskeletal disorders and represent a major cause of disability and socio-economic problems. Although innovations in wearable robots aim to alleviate this hazard, the majority of existing exoskeletons are obtrusive because the rigid linkage design limits natural movement, thus causing ergonomic risk. Moreover, these existing systems are typically only suitable for one type of movement assistance, not ubiquitous for a wide variety of activities. To fill in this gap, this paper presents a new wearable robot design approach continuum soft exoskeleton. This wearable robot is unobtrusive and assists both squat and stoops while not impeding walking motion. To tackle the challenge of the unique anatomy of spine, our robot is conformal to human anatomy and it can reduce multiple types of forces along the human spine such as the spinae muscle force, shear, and compression force of the lumbar vertebrae. We derived kinematics and kinetics models of this mechanism and established an analytical biomechanics model of human-robot interaction. Quantitative analysis of disc compression force, disc shear force and muscle force was performed in simulation. We further developed a virtual impedance control strategy to deliver force control and compensate hysteresis of Bowden cable transmission. Themore »feasibility of the prototype was experimentally tested on three healthy subjects. The root mean square error of force tracking is 6.63 N (3.3 % of the 200N peak force) and it demonstrated that it can actively control the stiffness to the desired value. This continuum soft exoskeleton represents a feasible solution with the potential to reduce back pain for multiple activities and multiple forces along the human spine.« less
  3. The social robotics market is appealing yet challenging. Though social robots are built few remain on the market for long. Many reasons account for their short lifespan with costs and context-specificity ranking high amount them. In this work, we designed, fabricated, and developed FLEXI, a social robot embodiment kit that enabled unlimited customization, making it applicable for a broad range of use cases. The hardware and software of FLEXI were entirely developed by this research team from scratch. FLEXI includes a rich set of materials and attachment pieces to allow for a diverse range of hardware customizations that ensure the embodiment is appropriate for specific customer/researcher projects. It also includes an open-source end-user programming interface to lower the barrier of robotics access to interdisciplinary teams that populate the field of Human-Robot Interaction. We present an iterative development of this cost-effective kit through the lenses of case studies, conceptual research, and soft deployment of FLEXI in three application scenarios: community-support, mental health, and education. Additionally, we provide in open-access the full list of materials and a tutorial to fabricate FLEXI, making it accessible to any maker space, research lab, or workshop space interested in working with or learning about social robots.
  4. Social robots are increasingly introduced into children’s lives as educational and social companions, yet little is known about how these products might best be introduced to their environments. The emergence of the “unboxing” phenomenon in media suggests that introduction is key to technology adoption where initial impressions are made. To better understand this phenomenon toward designing a positive unboxing experience in the context of social robots for children, we conducted three field studies with families of children aged 8 to 13: (1) an exploratory free-play activity (n = 12); (2) a co-design session (n = 11) that informed the development of a prototype box and a curated unboxing experience; and (3) a user study (n = 9) that evaluated children’s experiences. Our findings suggest the unboxing experience of social robots can be improved through the design of a creative aesthetic experience that engages the child socially to guide initial interactions and foster a positive child-robot relationship.
  5. Research in creative robotics continues to expand across all creative domains, including art, music and language. Creative robots are primarily designed to be task specific, with limited research into the implications of their design outside their core task. In the case of a musical robot, this includes when a human sees and interacts with the robot before and after the performance, as well as in between pieces. These non-musical interaction tasks such as the presence of a robot during musical equipment set up, play a key role in the human perception of the robot however have received only limited attention. In this paper, we describe a new audio system using emotional musical prosody, designed to match the creative process of a musical robot for use before, between and after musical performances. Our generation system relies on the creation of a custom dataset for musical prosody. This system is designed foremost to operate in real time and allow rapid generation and dialogue exchange between human and robot. For this reason, the system combines symbolic deep learning through a Conditional Convolution Variational Auto-encoder, with an emotion-tagged audio sampler. We then compare this to a SOTA text-to-speech system in our robotic platform, Shimonmore »the marimba player.We conducted a between-groups study with 100 participants watching a musician interact for 30 s with Shimon. We were able to increase user ratings for the key creativity metrics; novelty and coherence, while maintaining ratings for expressivity across each implementation. Our results also indicated that by communicating in a form that relates to the robot’s core functionality, we can raise likeability and perceived intelligence, while not altering animacy or anthropomorphism. These findings indicate the variation that can occur in the perception of a robot based on interactions surrounding a performance, such as initial meetings and spaces between pieces, in addition to the core creative algorithms.« less