Mechatronics and haptics

The CoRo laboratory has expertise in the areas of mechatronics and haptics. Research on this branch of robotics is carried out mainly by Professor Vincent Duchaine and his team. This broad category comprises work in the areas of physical interaction between humans and robots, the development of sensor technologies and the design of haptic devices.

Physical interaction between humans and robots
 
Physical interaction between humans and robots is a relatively new area of robotics, and is aimed at bringing humans and robots to share the synergy of a common workspace. This evolution would seem to be a natural step towards more advanced robotics, and lies halfway between today's industrial robots and the versatile humanoid robots of tomorrow. This possible future coexistence has the potential of having a significant impact on several areas associated with everyday life, such as rehabilitation, robot-assisted devices or assisted surgery. In addition to these three fields of application, the greatest impact of such an implementation should likely be in manufacturing. An effective synergy between humans and robots can be contemplated by marrying the remarkable capacities of humans to reason and to adapt to unstructured environments with the inexhaustible strength of robots.

Professor Vincent Duchaine is particularly interested in the challenge posed by fitting these robots with the capacity to intuitively interact with humans through the creation of the appropriate control algorithms. This involves work carried out on variable impedance control and on the development of collision reaction strategies.

The following articles present work covering the physical interaction between humans and robots:
  • Duchaine, V. and Gosselin, C., “Safe, stable and intuitive control for physical human-robot interaction”, IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation, Kobe, Japan, May 10-15, 2009.
  • Duchaine, V. and Gosselin, C., “General model of human-robot cooperation using novel velocity based variable impedance control”, World Haptics 2007, Tsukuba, Japan, March 21-25, 2007.


Robot-assisted drawing

Sensor technologies

Professor Duchaine’s team is also interested in creating new sensor technologies for various robotics applications. It is working actively to create low-cost multi-axis load transducers, to design touch sensors, and develop a touch layer for use as an artificial skin for robots. These technological developments are attributable to the emergence of new robotics applications in which robots get to perform more complex tasks and evolve in less structured environments.

The following articles examine the creation of an artificial skin:
  • Lacasse, M.A., Duchaine, V. and Gosselin, C., “Characterization of the electrical resistance of carbon-black-filled silicone: Application to a flexible and stretchable robot skin”, IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation, Anchorage, United States, May 17-21, 2010.
  • Duchaine, V., Lauzier, N., Baril, M., Lacasse, M.A. and Gosselin, C., “A flexible robot skin for safe physical human robot interaction”, IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation, Kobe, Japan, May 10-15, 2009.


Multi-axis load sensor mounted on Willow Garage PR2 robot


Artificial skin for robot

Haptic devices

Professor Vincent Duchaine and his team are currently working to create portable haptic interfaces allowing hand amputees to regain their sense of touch. Beyond the simplified mechanics which restricts the gripping ability of current prosthetic devices, the inability of such devices to perceive and transmit exteroceptive and proprioceptive information makes them that much more difficult to control. This lack of information has a negative impact on amputees’ ability to perform certain daily tasks, and requires constant monitoring of prosthetic devices.