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2020


Characterization of a Magnetic Levitation Haptic Interface for Realistic Tool-Based Interactions
Characterization of a Magnetic Levitation Haptic Interface for Realistic Tool-Based Interactions

Lee, H., Tombak, G. I., Park, G., Kuchenbecker, K. J.

Work-in-progress poster presented at EuroHaptics, Leiden, The Netherlands, September 2020 (misc)

Abstract
We introduce our recent study on the characterization of a commercial magnetic levitation haptic interface (MagLev 200, Butterfly Haptics LLC) for realistic high-bandwidth interactions. This device’s haptic rendering scheme can provide strong 6-DoF (force and torque) feedback without friction at all poses in its small workspace. The objective of our study is to enable the device to accurately render realistic multidimensional vibrotactile stimuli measured from a stylus-like tool. Our approach is to characterize the dynamics between the commanded wrench and the resulting translational acceleration across the frequency range of interest. To this end, we first custom-designed and attached a pen-shaped manipulandum (11.5 cm, aluminum) to the top of the MagLev 200’s end-effector for better usability in grasping. An accelerometer (ADXL354, Analog Devices) was rigidly mounted inside the manipulandum. Then, we collected a data set where the input is a 30-second-long force and/or torque signal commanded as a sweep function from 10 to 500 Hz; the output is the corresponding acceleration measurement, which we collected both with and without a user holding the handle. We succeeded at fitting both non-parametric and parametric versions of the transfer functions for both scenarios, with a fitting accuracy of about 95% for the parametric transfer functions. In the future, we plan to find the best method of applying the inverse parametric transfer function to our system. We will then employ that compensation method in a user study to evaluate the realism of different algorithms for reducing the dimensionality of tool-based vibrotactile cues.

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link (url) [BibTex]

2020


link (url) [BibTex]


A little damping goes a long way: a simulation study of how damping influences task-level stability in running
A little damping goes a long way: a simulation study of how damping influences task-level stability in running

Heim, S., Millard, M., Mouel, C. L., Badri-Spröwitz, A.

Biology Letters, 16(9), September 2020 (article)

Abstract
It is currently unclear if damping plays a functional role in legged locomotion, and simple models often do not include damping terms. We present a new model with a damping term that is isolated from other parameters: that is, the damping term can be adjusted without retuning other model parameters for nominal motion. We systematically compare how increased damping affects stability in the face of unexpected ground-height perturbations. Unlike most studies, we focus on task-level stability: instead of observing whether trajectories converge towards a nominal limit-cycle, we quantify the ability to avoid falls using a recently developed mathematical measure. This measure allows trajectories to be compared quantitatively instead of only being separated into a binary classification of ‘stable' or ‘unstable'. Our simulation study shows that increased damping contributes significantly to task-level stability; however, this benefit quickly plateaus after only a small amount of damping. These results suggest that the low intrinsic damping values observed experimentally may have stability benefits and are not simply minimized for energetic reasons. All Python code and data needed to generate our results are available open source.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


Tactile Textiles: An Assortment of Fabric-Based Tactile Sensors for Contact Force and Contact Location
Tactile Textiles: An Assortment of Fabric-Based Tactile Sensors for Contact Force and Contact Location

Burns, R. B., Thomas, N., Lee, H., Faulkner, R., Kuchenbecker, K. J.

Hands-on demonstration presented at EuroHaptics, Leiden, The Netherlands, September 2020, Rachael Bevill Burns, Neha Thomas, and Hyosang Lee contributed equally to this publication (misc)

Abstract
Fabric-based tactile sensors are promising for the construction of robotic skin due to their soft and flexible nature. Conductive fabric layers can be used to form piezoresistive structures that are sensitive to contact force and/or contact location. This demonstration showcases three diverse fabric-based tactile sensors we have created. The first detects dynamic tactile events anywhere within a region on a robot’s body. The second design measures the precise location at which a single low-force contact is applied. The third sensor uses electrical resistance tomography to output both the force and location of multiple simultaneous contacts applied across a surface.

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Project Page Project Page [BibTex]

Project Page Project Page [BibTex]


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Estimating Human Handshape by Feeling the Wrist

Forte, M., Young, E. M., Kuchenbecker, K. J.

Work-in-progress poster presented at EuroHaptics, Leiden, The Netherlands, September 2020 (misc)

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[BibTex]

[BibTex]


Sweat Softens the Outermost Layer of the Human Finger Pad: Evidence from Simulations and Experiments
Sweat Softens the Outermost Layer of the Human Finger Pad: Evidence from Simulations and Experiments

Nam, S., Kuchenbecker, K. J.

Work-in-progress poster presented at EuroHaptics, Leiden, The Netherlands, September 2020, Award for best poster in 2020 (misc)

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Project Page [BibTex]

Project Page [BibTex]


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Intermediate Ridges Amplify Mechanoreceptor Strains in Static and Dynamic Touch

Serhat, G., Kuchenbecker, K. J.

Work-in-progress poster presented at EuroHaptics, Leiden, The Netherlands, September 2020 (misc)

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[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Seeing Through Touch: Contact-Location Sensing and Tactile Feedback for Prosthetic Hands

Thomas, N., Kuchenbecker, K. J.

Work-in-progress poster presented at EuroHaptics, Leiden, The Netherlands, September 2020 (misc)

Abstract
Locating and picking up an object without vision is a simple task for able-bodied people, due in part to their rich tactile perception capabilities. The same cannot be said for users of standard myoelectric prostheses, who must rely largely on visual cues to successfully interact with the environment. To enable prosthesis users to locate and grasp objects without looking at them, we propose two changes: adding specialized contact-location sensing to the dorsal and palmar aspects of the prosthetic hand’s fingers, and providing the user with tactile feedback of where an object touches the fingers. To evaluate the potential utility of these changes, we developed a simple, sensitive, fabric-based tactile sensor which provides continuous contact location information via a change in voltage of a voltage divider circuit. This sensor was wrapped around the fingers of a commercial prosthetic hand (Ottobock SensorHand Speed). Using an ATI Nano17 force sensor, we characterized the tactile sensor’s response to normal force at distributed contact locations and obtained an average detection threshold of 0.63 +/- 0.26 N. We also confirmed that the voltage-to-location mapping is linear (R squared = 0.99). Sensor signals were adapted to the stationary vibrotactile funneling illusion to provide haptic feedback of contact location. These preliminary results indicate a promising system that imitates a key aspect of the sensory capabilities of the intact hand. Future work includes testing the system in a modified reach-grasp-and-lift study, in which participants must accomplish the task blindfolded.

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[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Haptify: a Comprehensive Benchmarking System for Grounded Force-Feedback Haptic Devices

Fazlollahi, F., Kuchenbecker, K. J.

Work-in-progress poster presented at EuroHaptics, Leiden, The Netherlands, September 2020 (misc)

hi

[BibTex]

[BibTex]


Effective Viscous Damping Enables Morphological Computation in Legged Locomotion
Effective Viscous Damping Enables Morphological Computation in Legged Locomotion

Mo, A., Izzi, F., Haeufle, D. F. B., Badri-Spröwitz, A.

Frontiers Robots and Ai, 7:110, August 2020 (article)

Abstract
Muscle models and animal observations suggest that physical damping is beneficial for stabilization. Still, only a few implementations of mechanical damping exist in compliant robotic legged locomotion. It remains unclear how physical damping can be exploited for locomotion tasks, while its advantages as sensor-free, adaptive force- and negative work-producing actuators are promising. In a simplified numerical leg model, we studied the energy dissipation from viscous and Coulomb damping during vertical drops with ground-level perturbations. A parallel spring-damper is engaged between touch-down and mid-stance, and its damper auto-disengages during mid-stance and takeoff. Our simulations indicate that an adjustable and viscous damper is desired. In hardware we explored effective viscous damping and adjustability and quantified the dissipated energy. We tested two mechanical, leg-mounted damping mechanisms; a commercial hydraulic damper, and a custom-made pneumatic damper. The pneumatic damper exploits a rolling diaphragm with an adjustable orifice, minimizing Coulomb damping effects while permitting adjustable resistance. Experimental results show that the leg-mounted, hydraulic damper exhibits the most effective viscous damping. Adjusting the orifice setting did not result in substantial changes of dissipated energy per drop, unlike adjusting damping parameters in the numerical model. Consequently, we also emphasize the importance of characterizing physical dampers during real legged impacts to evaluate their effectiveness for compliant legged locomotion.

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Youtube link (url) DOI [BibTex]

Youtube link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Model-Agnostic Counterfactual Explanations for Consequential Decisions

Karimi, A., Barthe, G., Balle, B., Valera, I.

Proceedings of the 23rd International Conference on Artificial Intelligence and Statistics (AISTATS), 108, pages: 895-905, Proceedings of Machine Learning Research, (Editors: Silvia Chiappa and Roberto Calandra), PMLR, August 2020 (conference)

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arXiv link (url) [BibTex]

arXiv link (url) [BibTex]


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Vision-based Force Estimation for a da Vinci Instrument Using Deep Neural Networks

Lee, Y., Husin, H. M., Forte, M., Lee, S., Kuchenbecker, K. J.

Extended abstract presented as an Emerging Technology ePoster at the Annual Meeting of the Society of American Gastrointestinal and Endoscopic Surgeons (SAGES), Cleveland, Ohio, USA, August 2020 (misc) Accepted

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[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Fair Decisions Despite Imperfect Predictions

Kilbertus, N., Gomez Rodriguez, M., Schölkopf, B., Muandet, K., Valera, I.

Proceedings of the 23rd International Conference on Artificial Intelligence and Statistics (AISTATS), 108, pages: 277-287, Proceedings of Machine Learning Research, (Editors: Silvia Chiappa and Roberto Calandra), PMLR, August 2020 (conference)

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link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


FootTile: a Rugged Foot Sensor for Force and Center of Pressure Sensing in Soft Terrain
FootTile: a Rugged Foot Sensor for Force and Center of Pressure Sensing in Soft Terrain

Felix Ruppert, , Badri-Spröwitz, A.

In Proceedings of the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation, IEEE, International Conference on Robotics and Automation, May 2020 (inproceedings) Accepted

Abstract
In this paper, we present FootTile, a foot sensor for reaction force and center of pressure sensing in challenging terrain. We compare our sensor design to standard biomechanical devices, force plates and pressure plates. We show that FootTile can accurately estimate force and pressure distribution during legged locomotion. FootTile weighs 0.9g, has a sampling rate of 330 Hz, a footprint of 10×10 mm and can easily be adapted in sensor range to the required load case. In three experiments, we validate: first, the performance of the individual sensor, second an array of FootTiles for center of pressure sensing and third the ground reaction force estimation during locomotion in granular substrate. We then go on to show the accurate sensing capabilities of the waterproof sensor in liquid mud, as a showcase for real world rough terrain use.

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Youtube1 Youtube2 Presentation link (url) [BibTex]

Youtube1 Youtube2 Presentation link (url) [BibTex]


VP above or below? A new perspective on the story of the virtual point
VP above or below? A new perspective on the story of the virtual point

Drama, Ö., Badri-Spröwitz, A.

Dynamic Walking, May 2020 (poster)

Abstract
The spring inverted pendulum model with an extended trunk (TSLIP) is widely used to investigate the postural stability in bipedal locomotion [1, 2]. The challenge of the model is to define a hip torque that generates feasible gait patterns while stabilizing the floating trunk. The virtual point (VP) method is proposed as a simplified solution, where the hip torque is coupled to the passive compliant leg force via a virtual point. This geometric coupling is based on the assumption that the instantaneous ground reaction forces of the stance phase (GRF) intersect at a single virtual point.

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Poster Abstract link (url) [BibTex]

Poster Abstract link (url) [BibTex]


Viscous Damping in Legged Locomotion
Viscous Damping in Legged Locomotion

Mo, A., Izzi, F., Haeufle, D. F. B., Badri-Spröwitz, A.

Dynamic Walking, May 2020 (poster)

Abstract
Damping likely plays an essential role in legged animal locomotion, but remains an insufficiently understood mechanism. Intrinsic damping muscle forces can potentially add to the joint torque output during unexpected impacts, stabilise movements, convert the system’s energy, and reject unexpected perturbations.

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Abstract Poster link (url) [BibTex]

Abstract Poster link (url) [BibTex]


How Quadrupeds Benefit from Lower Leg Passive Elasticity
How Quadrupeds Benefit from Lower Leg Passive Elasticity

Ruppert, F., Badri-Spröwitz, A.

Dynamic Walking, May 2020 (poster)

Abstract
Recently developed and fully actuated, legged robots start showing exciting locomotion capabilities, but rely heavily on high-power actuators, high-frequency sensors, and complex locomotion controllers. The engineering solutions implemented in these legged robots are much different compared to animals. Vertebrate animals share magnitudes slower neurocontrol signal velocities [1] compared to their robot counterparts. Also, animals feature a plethora of cascaded and underactuated passive elastic structures [2].

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Abstract Poster link (url) [BibTex]


Physical Variables Underlying Tactile Stickiness during Fingerpad Detachment
Physical Variables Underlying Tactile Stickiness during Fingerpad Detachment

Nam, S., Vardar, Y., Gueorguiev, D., Kuchenbecker, K. J.

Frontiers in Neuroscience, 14(235):1-14, April 2020 (article)

Abstract
One may notice a relatively wide range of tactile sensations even when touching the same hard, flat surface in similar ways. Little is known about the reasons for this variability, so we decided to investigate how the perceptual intensity of light stickiness relates to the physical interaction between the skin and the surface. We conducted a psychophysical experiment in which nine participants actively pressed their finger on a flat glass plate with a normal force close to 1.5 N and detached it after a few seconds. A custom-designed apparatus recorded the contact force vector and the finger contact area during each interaction as well as pre- and post-trial finger moisture. After detaching their finger, participants judged the stickiness of the glass using a nine-point scale. We explored how sixteen physical variables derived from the recorded data correlate with each other and with the stickiness judgments of each participant. These analyses indicate that stickiness perception mainly depends on the pre-detachment pressing duration, the time taken for the finger to detach, and the impulse in the normal direction after the normal force changes sign; finger-surface adhesion seems to build with pressing time, causing a larger normal impulse during detachment and thus a more intense stickiness sensation. We additionally found a strong between-subjects correlation between maximum real contact area and peak pull-off force, as well as between finger moisture and impulse.

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link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]


Changes in Normal Force During Passive Dynamic Touch: Contact Mechanics and Perception
Changes in Normal Force During Passive Dynamic Touch: Contact Mechanics and Perception

Gueorguiev, D., Lambert, J., Thonnard, J., Kuchenbecker, K. J.

In Proceedings of the IEEE Haptics Symposium (HAPTICS), pages: 746-752, Washington, USA, March 2020 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Using a force-controlled robotic platform, we investigated the contact mechanics and psychophysical responses induced by negative and positive modulations in normal force during passive dynamic touch. In the natural state of the finger, the applied normal force modulation induces a correlated change in the tangential force. In a second condition, we applied talcum powder to the fingerpad, which induced a significant modification in the slope of the correlated tangential change. In both conditions, the same ten participants had to detect the interval that contained a decrease or an increase in the pre-stimulation normal force of 1 N. In the natural state, the 75% just noticeable difference for this task was found to be a ratio of 0.19 and 0.18 for decreases and increases, respectively. With talcum powder on the fingerpad, the normal force thresholds remained stable, following the Weber law of constant just noticeable differences, while the tangential force thresholds changed in the same way as the correlation slopes. This result suggests that participants predominantly relied on the normal force changes to perform the detection task. In addition, participants were asked to report whether the force decreased or increased. Their performance was generally poor at this second task even for above-threshold changes. However, their accuracy slightly improved with the talcum powder, which might be due to the reduced finger-surface friction.

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


A Fabric-Based Sensing System for Recognizing Social Touch
A Fabric-Based Sensing System for Recognizing Social Touch

Burns, R. B., Lee, H., Seifi, H., Kuchenbecker, K. J.

Work-in-progress paper (3 pages) presented at the IEEE Haptics Symposium, Washington, DC, USA, March 2020 (misc)

Abstract
We present a fabric-based piezoresistive tactile sensor system designed to detect social touch gestures on a robot. The unique sensor design utilizes three layers of low-conductivity fabric sewn together on alternating edges to form an accordion pattern and secured between two outer high-conductivity layers. This five-layer design demonstrates a greater resistance range and better low-force sensitivity than previous designs that use one layer of low-conductivity fabric with or without a plastic mesh layer. An individual sensor from our system can presently identify six different communication gestures – squeezing, patting, scratching, poking, hand resting without movement, and no touch – with an average accuracy of 90%. A layer of foam can be added beneath the sensor to make a rigid robot more appealing for humans to touch without inhibiting the system’s ability to register social touch gestures.

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Project Page [BibTex]

Project Page [BibTex]


Do Touch Gestures Affect How Electrovibration Feels?
Do Touch Gestures Affect How Electrovibration Feels?

Vardar, Y., Kuchenbecker, K. J.

Hands-on demonstration (1 page) presented at the IEEE Haptics Symposium, Washington, DC, USA, March 2020 (misc)

hi

[BibTex]

[BibTex]


Trunk pitch oscillations for energy trade-offs in bipedal running birds and robots
Trunk pitch oscillations for energy trade-offs in bipedal running birds and robots

Drama, Ö., Badri-Spröwitz, A.

Bioinspiration & Biomimetics, 15(3), March 2020 (article)

Abstract
Bipedal animals have diverse morphologies and advanced locomotion abilities. Terrestrial birds, in particular, display agile, efficient, and robust running motion, in which they exploit the interplay between the body segment masses and moment of inertias. On the other hand, most legged robots are not able to generate such versatile and energy-efficient motion and often disregard trunk movements as a means to enhance their locomotion capabilities. Recent research investigated how trunk motions affect the gait characteristics of humans, but there is a lack of analysis across different bipedal morphologies. To address this issue, we analyze avian running based on a spring-loaded inverted pendulum model with a pronograde (horizontal) trunk. We use a virtual point based control scheme and modify the alignment of the ground reaction forces to assess how our control strategy influences the trunk pitch oscillations and energetics of the locomotion. We derive three potential key strategies to leverage trunk pitch motions that minimize either the energy fluctuations of the center of mass or the work performed by the hip and leg. We suggest how these strategies could be used in legged robotics.

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Youtube Video link (url) DOI [BibTex]

Youtube Video link (url) DOI [BibTex]


Learning to Predict Perceptual Distributions of Haptic Adjectives
Learning to Predict Perceptual Distributions of Haptic Adjectives

Richardson, B. A., Kuchenbecker, K. J.

Frontiers in Neurorobotics, 13(116):1-16, Febuary 2020 (article)

Abstract
When humans touch an object with their fingertips, they can immediately describe its tactile properties using haptic adjectives, such as hardness and roughness; however, human perception is subjective and noisy, with significant variation across individuals and interactions. Recent research has worked to provide robots with similar haptic intelligence but was focused on identifying binary haptic adjectives, ignoring both attribute intensity and perceptual variability. Combining ordinal haptic adjective labels gathered from human subjects for a set of 60 objects with features automatically extracted from raw multi-modal tactile data collected by a robot repeatedly touching the same objects, we designed a machine-learning method that incorporates partial knowledge of the distribution of object labels into training; then, from a single interaction, it predicts a probability distribution over the set of ordinal labels. In addition to analyzing the collected labels (10 basic haptic adjectives) and demonstrating the quality of our method's predictions, we hold out specific features to determine the influence of individual sensor modalities on the predictive performance for each adjective. Our results demonstrate the feasibility of modeling both the intensity and the variation of haptic perception, two crucial yet previously neglected components of human haptic perception.

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DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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Exercising with Baxter: Preliminary Support for Assistive Social-Physical Human-Robot Interaction

Fitter, N. T., Mohan, M., Kuchenbecker, K. J., Johnson, M. J.

Journal of NeuroEngineering and Rehabilitation, 17(19), Febuary 2020 (article)

Abstract
Background: The worldwide population of older adults will soon exceed the capacity of assisted living facilities. Accordingly, we aim to understand whether appropriately designed robots could help older adults stay active at home. Methods: Building on related literature as well as guidance from experts in game design, rehabilitation, and physical and occupational therapy, we developed eight human-robot exercise games for the Baxter Research Robot, six of which involve physical human-robot contact. After extensive iteration, these games were tested in an exploratory user study including 20 younger adult and 20 older adult users. Results: Only socially and physically interactive games fell in the highest ranges for pleasantness, enjoyment, engagement, cognitive challenge, and energy level. Our games successfully spanned three different physical, cognitive, and temporal challenge levels. User trust and confidence in Baxter increased significantly between pre- and post-study assessments. Older adults experienced higher exercise, energy, and engagement levels than younger adults, and women rated the robot more highly than men on several survey questions. Conclusions: The results indicate that social-physical exercise with a robot is more pleasant, enjoyable, engaging, cognitively challenging, and energetic than similar interactions that lack physical touch. In addition to this main finding, researchers working in similar areas can build on our design practices, our open-source resources, and the age-group and gender differences that we found.

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DOI Project Page [BibTex]

DOI Project Page [BibTex]


Potential for elastic soft tissue deformation and mechanosensory function within the lumbosacral spinal canal of birds
Potential for elastic soft tissue deformation and mechanosensory function within the lumbosacral spinal canal of birds

Kamska, V., Daley, M., Badri-Spröwitz, A.

Society of Integrative & Comparative Biology Annual Meeting, January 2020 (poster)

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[BibTex]

[BibTex]


Getting in Touch with Children with Autism: Specialist Guidelines for a Touch-Perceiving Robot
Getting in Touch with Children with Autism: Specialist Guidelines for a Touch-Perceiving Robot

Burns, R. B., Seifi, H., Lee, H., Kuchenbecker, K. J.

Paladyn. Journal of Behavioral Robotics, 2020 (article) Accepted

Abstract
Children with autism need innovative solutions that help them learn to master everyday experiences and cope with stressful situations. We propose that socially assistive robot companions could better understand and react to a child’s needs if they utilized tactile sensing. We examined the existing relevant literature to create an initial set of six tactile-perception requirements, and we then evaluated these requirements through interviews with 11 experienced autism specialists from a variety of backgrounds. Thematic analysis of the comments shared by the specialists revealed three overarching themes: the touch-seeking and touch-avoiding behavior of autistic children, their individual differences and customization needs, and the roles that a touch-perceiving robot could play in such interactions. Using the interview study feedback, we refined our initial list into seven qualitative requirements that describe robustness and maintainability, sensing range, feel, gesture identification, spatial, temporal, and adaptation attributes for the touch-perception system of a robot companion for children with autism. Lastly, by utilizing the literature and current best practices in tactile sensor development and signal processing, we transformed these qualitative requirements into quantitative specifications. We discuss the implications of these requirements for future HRI research in the sensing, computing, and user research communities.

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Project Page [BibTex]


Postural Stability in Human Running with Step-down Perturbations: An Experimental and Numerical Study
Postural Stability in Human Running with Step-down Perturbations: An Experimental and Numerical Study

Oezge Drama, , Johanna Vielemeyer, , Alexander Badri-Spröwitz, , Müller, R.

2020 (article) In revision

Abstract
Postural stability is one of the most crucial elements in bipedal locomotion. Bipeds are dynamically unstable and need to maintain their trunk upright against the rotations induced by the ground reaction forces (GRFs), especially when running. Gait studies report that the GRF vectors focus around a virtual point above the center of mass (VPA), while the trunk moves forward in pitch axis during the stance phase of human running. However, a recent simulation study suggests that a virtual point below the center of mass (VPB) might be present in human running, since a VPA yields backward trunk rotation during the stance phase. In this work, we perform a gait analysis to investigate the existence and location of the VP in human running at 5 m s−1, and support our findings numerically using the spring-loaded inverted pendulum model with a trunk (TSLIP). We extend our analysis to include perturbations in terrain height (visible and camouflaged), and investigate the response of the VP mechanism to step-down perturbations both experimentally and numerically. Our experimental results show that the human running gait displays a VPB of ≈ −30 cm and a forward trunk motion during the stance phase. The camouflaged step-down perturbations affect the location of the VPB. Our simulation results suggest that the VPB is able to encounter the step-down perturbations and bring the system back to its initial equilibrium state.

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link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]