Intuitive Robot Teleoperation Based on Haptic Feedback and 3D Visualization
Robots are required in many jobs. The jobs related to tele-operation may be very challenging and often require reaching a destination quickly and with minimum collisions. In order to succeed in these jobs, human operators are asked to tele-operate a robot manually through a user interface. The design of a user interface and of the information provided in it, become therefore critical elements for the successful completion of robot tele-operation tasks. Effective and timely robot tele-navigation mainly relies on the intuitiveness provided by the interface and on the richness and presentation of the feedback given. This project investigated the use of both haptic and visual feedbacks in a user interface for robot tele-navigation. The aim was to overcome some of the limitations observed in a state of the art works, turning what is sometimes described as contrasting into an added value to improve tele-navigation performance. The key issue is to combine different human sensory modalities in a coherent way and to benefit from 3-D vision too. The proposed new approach was inspired by how visually impaired people use walking sticks to navigate. Haptic feedback may provide helpful input to a user to comprehend distances to surrounding obstacles and information about the obstacle distribution. This was proposed to be achieved entirely relying on on-board range sensors, and by processing this input through a simple scheme that regulates magnitude and direction of the environmental force-feedback provided to the haptic device. A specific algorithm was also used to render the distribution of very close objects to provide appropriate touch sensations. Scene visualization was provided by the system and it was shown to a user coherently to haptic sensation. Different visualization configurations, from multi-viewpoint observation to 3-D visualization, were proposed and rigorously assessed through experimentations, to understand the advantages of the proposed approach and performance variations among different 3-D display technologies. Over twenty users were invited to participate in a usability study composed by two major experiments. The first experiment focused on a comparison between the proposed haptic-feedback strategy and a typical state of the art approach. It included testing with a multi-viewpoint visual observation. The second experiment investigated the performance of the proposed haptic-feedback strategy when combined with three different stereoscopic-3D visualization technologies. The results from the experiments were encouraging and showed good performance with the proposed approach and an improvement over literature approaches to haptic feedback in robot tele-operation. It was also demonstrated that 3-D visualization can be beneficial for robot tele-navigation and it will not contrast with haptic feedback if it is properly aligned to it. Performance may vary with different 3-D visualization technologies, which is also discussed in the presented work.