Exoskeleton to remote-control robot

May 08, 2014
An exoskeleton that weighs just 10 kg can control over 400 km away. The robot will copies arm and hand movements as commands and feedback are sent over the regular cell-phone network.Credit: ESA

Visionary 'rocket scientists' will share their ideas on Thursday, 8 May at the TEDx RocketMinds event at ESA's operations centre in Darmstadt, Germany.

André Schiele, leading ESA's telerobotics lab, will attempt a very special demonstration of remote robotic operations. Donning an exoskeleton that weighs just 10 kg, he will control a at ESA's technical heart in Noordwijk, the Netherlands – over 400 km away.

The robot will copy André's arm and hand movements as commands and feedback are sent over the regular cell-phone network.

"Doing this live is nerve-racking," says André, "but this is a game-changer. The technology we developed for space has enormous potential for assisting in where humans cannot go – like the Fukushima nuclear meltdown or the Deep Water Horizon oil spill."

Sending robots into has long been a goal of emergency workers, but electricity and communications networks are often the first to be hit.

As the exoskeleton is battery-powered and sends commands through a cellular network, it can be deployed quickly in an emergency even if the infrastructure in the disaster zone has been damaged. As long as the robot can receive a cell-phone signal, it will work.

Telerobotics exoskeleton. Credit: ESA

A key ingredient is that the remote robot transmits what it 'feels' back to the operator wearing the . This touch-sensitive information allows the fine control needed to cope in difficult situations. For example, different forces are required to move a rock or pull someone out of a collapsed building.

Tune in and watch the short presentations live – each is no longer than 18 minutes. Follow the event live from 17:00 CEST via new.livestream.com/tedx/rocketminds or directly below.


Explore further: Image: ESA's telerobotic robot hand

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antialias_physorg
not rated yet May 08, 2014
I hope they get the calibration right. I remember a similar experiment where two remote 'surgeons' would interact on a simulated spleen. The haptic hardware used was from the same manufacturer, but different models. One of those was able to exert 10 times the feedback force of the other.

When one poked the virtual spleen the different force feedback values (in conjunction with the lag induced by the remote location) almost broke the arm of the other operator.

Haptics is tricky that way.
You also need to update a lot faster than for the eye to get a natural sensation (the eye needs 18-24 images per second for a smooth impression. Haptic sensors need 800-1000 updates per second. Luckily haptics usually requires a lot less 'pixels')