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Researchers use arm sensors to improve robot control


January 21, 2014

The Georgia Tech system is designed to improve the "intelligence" of human-controlled robots

The Georgia Tech system is designed to improve the "intelligence" of human-controlled robots

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Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology have created a system that makes a human-controlled robot more "intelligent," and improves the amount of control that a human user has over it. It incorporates a number of sensors that are placed on the user's arm to read muscle information, and help the robot to anticipate the user's intentions. The system has been developed to improve safety and efficiency in manufacturing plants.

The research cites the example of car manufacturing workers who have to hang car doors on hinges, using a lever to guide a robot that carries the door. Whilst the power-assisting device used sounds practical, it is not necessarily easy to use.

"It turns into a constant tug of war between the person and the robot," explains Billy Gallagher, a recent Georgia Tech PhD graduate in robotics who led the project. "Both react to each other's forces when working together. The problem is that a person's muscle stiffness is never constant, and a robot doesn't always know how to correctly react."

The Georgia Tech system eliminates any "confusion" in the robot by monitoring the operator's muscle movements and sending the data to a computer. The system judges the person's intention and adjusts its interaction accordingly, resulting in safer and easier use.

The main aims of the research are to improve safety, time and efficiency in manufacturing plants, and it is expected to benefit industries including automobile manufacture, aerospace and military. The system will continue to be developed using a US$1.2 million National Robotics Initiative grant supported by a National Science Foundation grant and will focus on better understanding the "mechanisms of neuromotor adaptation in human-robot physical interaction."

"Future robots must be able to understand people better," says Jun Ueda, Professor at the Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering. "By making robots smarter, we can make them safer and more efficient."

Watch the video below to find out more about how the system works.

Source: Georgia Institute of Technology

About the Author
Stu Robarts Stu is a tech writer based in Liverpool, UK. He has previously worked on global digital estate management at Amaze and headed up digital strategy for FACT (Foundation for Art and Creative Technology). He likes cups of tea, bacon sandwiches and RSS feeds. All articles by Stu Robarts
1 Comment

Without going into too much boring detail, it is possible to envisage an application of this software where remotely controlled armaments, such as those on drones and the like, could have the targeting intentions of the operator more rapidly understood by the weapon(s) within the device, and more accurately acquired. If that reduces collateral damage, as it is euphemistically called, then so much the better.

Mel Tisdale
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