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Objectives

The aim of the project is to develop a system of multiple mobile manipulators (with one arm or two arms in a  human torso configuration) able to perform handling and assembly tasks in collaboration with humans in indoor semistructured environments (the aim is not, therefore, the collaboration between mobile manipulators).

The system to be implemented pursues the objective of allowing humans to work in cooperation with robots in an  easy and convenient manner and at the same time in an effective, safe and reliable way.We seek to contribute to the improvement of working conditions and to the increase of the quality and the productivity, thinking mainly of small and medium enterprises, where there the system needs to be reconfigured to perform different tasks.

Upon completion of the project, the availability of this system should enable to investigate human behaviors when working jointly with co-worker robots. Also the perceptions and possible social acceptance of the changes involved need to be studied. The aim is, therefore, to contribute in solving the problem of the introduction of robots as partners in the workplace, for the change at the social level it can represent, both individually and as a collective perception. 

The proposed system seeks, on the one hand, an autonomous human-robot collaboration (i.e. the mobile manipulators cooperate with humans performing autonomously complementary tasks and moving freely in their environment), and on the other hand an interactive collaboration (either virtual through teleoperation, or through a physical object jointly manipulated). These two characteristics, autonomy and interaction, have the following requirements:

Autonomy

A task and motion planning system is required in order that the mobile manipulators be able to collaborate with humans in an autonomous way. Its required features are:

Motion Planning

Motion planning has to be done taking into account that the mobile manipualtors must operate in human semistructured environments and in the presence of humans. Regarding the first issue, the uncertainty in the positioning of the objects has to be taken into account, as well as the uncertianty in the perception process. Regarding the second, dynamic environments have to be handled, making emphasis in security issues, and planning human-like motions. This latter feature is important  so that the humans can expect which are the motions the robot will do in order to feel comfortable in its presence and also to easy the transfer of objects.

Task Planning

The cognitive skills of the mobile manipulators to acquire the information needed and efficiently plan the action to be executed are a key point in collaborative systems as that proposed. we seek to develop a system able to plan at task level in an agile and reactive way, considering the partial and dynamic information available, taking into account the human operators as actors in the process, and considering different degrees of autonomy of the robots.

Interaction

The non-autonomous collaboration between robots and humans requires an interaction between them, either virtual or physical. This makes necessary to consider the following issues regardoing teleoperation and joint manipulation:

Teleoperation

Due to the high number of degrees of freedom of the mobile manipulators, the capacity of autonomusly adapting the autonomy of the system to the task is a necessary requirement (i.e. some degrees of freedom are teleoperated while the others are computed to optimize some performance measure through the different levelos of autonomy). The availability of control algorithms for the bilateral teleoperation of robots with flexible links is considered necessary, since this is one of the required features, for safety reasons,  that robots working together with humans must have.

Cooperative Manipulation

The robot co-worker must assist the human operator in the manipulation of heavy and bulky objects. For this reason it is necessary to develop a force control scheme that allow to joinly manipulate an object in an agile way, by limiting the degrees of freedomn of the robot and toi add some type of guiding system for the execution of a particular task.