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University of Wisconsin–Madison

Physically-Responsive Collaborative Robot Manipulation

The robotics revolution is transforming how physical work is done everywhere. In the workplace, home, field and more, robots will both serve a wider range of tasks and work with a wider range of people.

Many of these tasks will call for a great deal of physical responsiveness. Jobs like picking fruit, connecting delicate pieces in an assembly or assisting a therapist by guiding human patients through precise motions require not only moving to the right place, but also applying only the appropriate amount of force in the correct direction. These assignments call for robots that have overcome two core challenges of robotics: the ability to simultaneously monitor their surroundings and modulate the motion and force they apply, and the capacity to be trained and operated by non-experts.

Most of the emerging standards for human-robot communication do not extend naturally to physically-responsive tasks. This project plans to change that by addressing several questions: How do people combine gestures, language and demonstration to communicate about the precise needs of specific physical interactions? How can sensing and display technologies facilitate the communication of physical responses — the result of a certain level of force, or a certain position — between human and robot? And how do we adapt human physical responses so that a robot can effectively execute them even if it has a completely different structure and method for tactile sensing?

Principal Investigator

  • Michael Gleicher
    Computer Sciences

Co-Principal Investigators

  • Michael Zinn
    Associate professor
    Mechanical Engineering
  • Bilge Mutlu
    Associate professor
    Computer Sciences