S. Y. Shin from the Korean Institute of Science and Technology (KIST) is working on compliant object manipulation with the humanoid robot known as Mahru. The latest footage shows the (naked) robot being tele-operated in real-time by a human wearing a sensor suit. Although the researchers are not yet implementing lower-body motion control with this particular set-up (lower-body control has been demonstrated using the more traditional approach) the robot’s legs have been programmed to react automatically to compensate for small external disturbances. Beginning at around a minute in the following video, small hip movements automatically adjust Mahru’s posture when it is nudged off balance while simultaneously mirroring the upper-body motions of the operator.
Even without discrete hand controls (which would likely require a haptic control set-up similar to that used in the TeleSar 2) the operator can hold large objects effortlessly. It appears that Mahru’s hands will automatically conform to large objects when the operator brings his/her hands and arms together. This type of manipulation strategy may not be precise enough to handle smaller, more intricate objects, but it can adapt to spheres, boxes, and other simple shapes thanks to pressure readings from the robot’s sensitive finger tips.
In the next video, a naked Mahru is shown grasping a large balloon (among other objects) with both hands. It is able to hold the objects gently but firmly even when a person nudges the robot’s arms unexpectedly.
It could be a combination of tele-operation strategies (motion-capture sensor suit, haptic hand-and-finger controls, and semi-autonomous over-rides) that will allow astronauts to control robots like the Robonaut 2 on space walks from the comfy interior of the ISS someday, or perhaps even from operators on Earth. That’s only one example of a dangerous and potentially life-threatening situation that could be improved by a robot body physically replacing that of its skilled human operator.
[source: S. Y. Shin @ YouTube]