Shared control–based bimanual robot manipulation

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Science Robotics  29 May 2019:
Vol. 4, Issue 30, eaaw0955
DOI: 10.1126/scirobotics.aaw0955


Human-centered environments provide affordances for and require the use of two-handed, or bimanual, manipulations. Robots designed to function in, and physically interact with, these environments have not been able to meet these requirements because standard bimanual control approaches have not accommodated the diverse, dynamic, and intricate coordinations between two arms to complete bimanual tasks. In this work, we enabled robots to more effectively perform bimanual tasks by introducing a bimanual shared-control method. The control method moves the robot’s arms to mimic the operator’s arm movements but provides on-the-fly assistance to help the user complete tasks more easily. Our method used a bimanual action vocabulary, constructed by analyzing how people perform two-hand manipulations, as the core abstraction level for reasoning about how to assist in bimanual shared autonomy. The method inferred which individual action from the bimanual action vocabulary was occurring using a sequence-to-sequence recurrent neural network architecture and turned on a corresponding assistance mode, signals introduced into the shared-control loop designed to make the performance of a particular bimanual action easier or more efficient. We demonstrate the effectiveness of our method through two user studies that show that novice users could control a robot to complete a range of complex manipulation tasks more successfully using our method compared to alternative approaches. We discuss the implications of our findings for real-world robot control scenarios.

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