Theses Doctoral

Intuitive Human-Machine Interfaces for Non-Anthropomorphic Robotic Hands

Meeker, Cassie

As robots become more prevalent in our everyday lives, both in our workplaces and in our homes, it becomes increasingly likely that people who are not experts in robotics will be asked to interface with robotic devices. It is therefore important to develop robotic controls that are intuitive and easy for novices to use. Robotic hands, in particular, are very useful, but their high dimensionality makes creating intuitive human-machine interfaces for them complex. In this dissertation, we study the control of non-anthropomorphic robotic hands by non-roboticists in two contexts: collaborative manipulation and assistive robotics.

In the field of collaborative manipulation, the human and the robot work side by side as independent agents. Teleoperation allows the human to assist the robot when autonomous grasping is not able to deal sufficiently well with corner cases or cannot operate fast enough. Using the teleoperator’s hand as an input device can provide an intuitive control method, but finding a mapping between a human hand and a non-anthropomorphic robot hand can be difficult, due to the hands’ dissimilar kinematics. In this dissertation, we seek to create a mapping between the human hand and a fully actuated, non-anthropomorphic robot hand that is intuitive enough to enable effective real-time teleoperation, even for novice users.

We propose a low-dimensional and continuous teleoperation subspace which can be used as an intermediary for mapping between different hand pose spaces. We first propose the general concept of the subspace, its properties and the variables needed to map from the human hand to a robot hand. We then propose three ways to populate the teleoperation subspace mapping. Two of our mappings use a dataglove to harvest information about the user's hand. We define the mapping between joint space and teleoperation subspace with an empirical definition, which requires a person to define hand motions in an intuitive, hand-specific way, and with an algorithmic definition, which is kinematically independent, and uses objects to define the subspace. Our third mapping for the teleoperation subspace uses forearm electromyography (EMG) as a control input.

Assistive orthotics is another area of robotics where human-machine interfaces are critical, since, in this field, the robot is attached to the hand of the human user. In this case, the goal is for the robot to assist the human with movements they would not otherwise be able to achieve. Orthotics can improve the quality of life of people who do not have full use of their hands. Human-machine interfaces for assistive hand orthotics that use EMG signals from the affected forearm as input are intuitive and repeated use can strengthen the muscles of the user's affected arm. In this dissertation, we seek to create an EMG based control for an orthotic device used by people who have had a stroke. We would like our control to enable functional motions when used in conjunction with a orthosis and to be robust to changes in the input signal.

We propose a control for a wearable hand orthosis which uses an easy to don, commodity forearm EMG band. We develop an supervised algorithm to detect a user’s intent to open and close their hand, and pair this algorithm with a training protocol which makes our intent detection robust to changes in the input signal. We show that this algorithm, when used in conjunction with an orthosis over several weeks, can improve distal function in users. Additionally, we propose two semi-supervised intent detection algorithms designed to keep our control robust to changes in the input data while reducing the length and frequency of our training protocol.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Mechanical Engineering
Thesis Advisors
Ciocarlie, Matei Theodor
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
September 22, 2020