In our telepresence and virtual reality setups, a human operator immerses him/herself into a remote or virtual environment and controls a tele-operated device on motion and force level. By means of a multimodal human machine interface (HMI) the human perceives and acts as in the real world. Telerobotic systems, in contrast to telepresence systems, are implemented if the delay is too large to include the human operator into the control loop, or if the task can be performed semi-autonomously, i.e. the teleoperator acts according to its pre- or tele-programmed behaviour and the operator supervises the task execution.
Our research group places special emphasis on the haptic feedback which is used for exploring virtual or remote environments more realisticly. Haptics (from Greek haptikos “able to touch or grasp”) is related to the perception and manipulation of objects using the senses of touch and proprioception. By means of haptic feedback it is intended to imitate the touch and kinesthetic sensations that a human would feel while manipulating objects with his/her hands in the real world. Providing the user with haptic feedback is essential even for simple human activities that involve handling objects.
Technologies in order to achieve these goals are developed at the Institute.
Our group researches into three main fields:
We use a human-scale bimanual haptic interface, consisting of two Light-Weight Robots (LWR) that are horizontally attached to a column.
The size of the robot (its length is of about one meter), its power (forces / torques of around 150N / 25Nm in any valid configuration) and its manipulation capabilities as well as its workspace are fairly similar to that of a human arm, and turn the LWR into a well suited Human Machine Interface (HMI). The control update rate of 1 kHz allows for a highly dynamic behavior, which is required for haptic feedback.
We use several interfaces in order to connect the human hand to the robot, depending on the specific application; from left to right in the picture above:
In addition to the mentioned haptic feedback, a vibro-tactile feedback device called VibroTac an be worn on the arm in order to increase immersion during the simulation.