Academic journal article Science Scope

Human Arm Sensors Make Robot Smarter

Academic journal article Science Scope

Human Arm Sensors Make Robot Smarter

Article excerpt

Using arm sensors that can "read" a person's muscle movements, Georgia Institute of Technology researchers have created a control system that makes robots more intelligent. The sensors send information to the robot, allowing it to anticipate a human's movements and correct its own. The system is intended to improve time, safety, and efficiency in manufacturing plants.

It's not uncommon to see large, fast-moving robots on manufacturing floors. Humans seldom work next to them because of safety reasons. Some jobs, however, require people and robots to work together. For example, a person hanging a car door on a hinge uses a lever to guide a robot carrying the door. The power-assisting device sounds practical but isn't easy to use.

"It turns into a constant tug-of-war between the person and the robot," explained 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."

For example, as human operators shift the lever forward or backward, the robot recognizes the command and moves appropriately. But when they want to stop the movement and hold the lever in place, people tend to stiffen and contract muscles on both sides of their arms. …

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