Learn about Robots and Robotics

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Telerobotics

This is a 1970's era manual controller developed for controlling robots operating in radioactive environments. This controller is roughly the size of a human arm. At the back of the controller you can see a number of black disks. These are electric motors. These electric motors provide the energy to feed forces back to the operator. These forces are proportional to the current in the robot's motors which in turn are proportional to the forces being experienced by the robot. The placement of the motors at the back of the controller provides perfect counter balancing. The motors drive the robot joints with almost no friction via metal tape. Developed 40 years ago and without any computer control, I believe this controller works as well or better than any human-arm scale controller available today.

This is an example of full immersion telecontrol. This guy has an exoskeleton around his arm, hand, fingers and head. He is controlling a force-reflecting 9-degree-of-freedom (DOF) hand coupled to a  force-reflecting 7-DOF arm. The hand/arm combination is mounted on a 3-DOF torso that extends the work volume of the manipulator system. A 3-DOF head that holds a stereoscopic pair of TV viewing cameras is also mounted on the torso. The helmet holds a 3D display and motions of the operator's head control the robot's head. I'm not too sure what to say about this one as I've never tried a system like this. I will say that it is definitely not for the claustrophobic operator! The overall system was developed and integrated by SSC San Diego. The manipulator (hand/arm/torso/head) was developed in conjunction with Sarcos Research  and the Center for Engineering Design at the University of Utah. The vision system uses technologies developed by Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and Technology Innovation Group.

The picture at left shows the commercial version (called Phantom) of a manual controller developed by MIT. This is  my favorite scale of manual controller. I believe that humans can achieve their best precision with just small movements of the wrist and hand. Because the controller weighs very little, it can feed back forces with a very high bandwidth - even to the point where the operator can actually "feel" textures. By stressing design principals of low mass, low friction, low backlash, high stiffness and good back-drivability, this system is capable of presenting sensations of contact, constrained motion, surface compliance and surface friction.

The device at right is called a SpaceBall. It has three independent force sensors and three independent torque sensors to provide the requisite six degrees of freedom for arbitrarily positioning a solid body in space. This controller was developed primarily to give 3D designers the ability to pan, spin, zoom, rotate and analyze their designs on the computer. It also makes a quick, easy, intuitive and inexpensive manual controller for robots. Just push or twist on the ball and the robot's hand moves in a corresponding fashion.

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