Rehabilitation Robotics is a small, specialized field within the rapidly growing Robotics Industry that fundamentally seeks to improve the overall independence and quality of life of severely disabled individuals by providing suitable technological solutions that allow the user to interact with their surrounding environment with a higher degree of autonomy.
Due to the very intimate relationship between the User and the Robot and demanding requirements, this field provides an extensive and vigorous testing ground for Human-Robot Interaction.
This project has been aimed at tackling the lacking functionality of current WMRA End-Effector Solutions and also the issue of lacking Product Development within this field of Robotics. The world leading system, the Manus ARM has been available since the mid 80’s and as not been replaced or made obsolete by any newer products even though extensive research has been untaken towards developing this field.
The initial research undertaken concluded three potential conceptual directions of focus that the project might take:
- Gripper Functionality. Current Parallel-Jaw End-Effector solutions tend to lack overall functionality, fundamentally placing to an increased cognitive load upon the user. By increasing the versatility of a Design one hopes that a larger range of ADL tasks can be achieved with greater ease to the user.
- Feedback via a User Interface. Due to handicap, many disabled people loose an innate ability for their bodies to provide vital data that is processed in order for manipulation tasks to be carried out effectively and efficiently. By introducing a computer system that employs a range of sensors that obtain and communicate this data via a User Interface, the user can build up a greater understanding of how the End-Effector is interacting with an object.
- Semi-Autonomous Behaviors. This direction follows on from the pervious concept and is aimed at processing data input via a range of sensors within an End-Effector in order to mimic abilities that have been lost through handicap, such as the ability to feel grasp force or slip.
It was decided that the Griper Functionality direction would be pursued; with the reasoning that following a potential mix of two or more of the directions would be impractical choice to make due to the time restrictions.