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Robotics, Volume 9, Issue 4 (December 2020) – 36 articles

Cover Story (view full-size image): Confined, subterranean inspection of legacy mine workings is a challenging task. Current methods are time-consuming and costly as multiple boreholes are drilled into the voids to allow sensors to be placed into them. Prometheus presents an autonomous UAV that can actively reconfigure its shape to be deployed via a borehole and then explore the cavern below to allow the workings to be mapped from a single point, reducing time and cost. The vehicle is designed to overcome the specific challenges that are present in the workings, such as tight size constraints and a lack of GPS and other contact from the surface. This paper presents the design as well as an initial confined flight on a representative system. View this paper.
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Open AccessArticle
A Fuzzy Guidance System for Rendezvous and Pursuit of Moving Targets
Robotics 2020, 9(4), 110; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/robotics9040110 - 19 Dec 2020
Viewed by 513
Abstract
This article presents the development of a fuzzy guidance system (FGS) for unmanned aerial vehicles capable of pursuing and performing rendezvous with static and mobile targets. The system is designed to allow the vehicle to approach a maneuvering target from a desired direction [...] Read more.
This article presents the development of a fuzzy guidance system (FGS) for unmanned aerial vehicles capable of pursuing and performing rendezvous with static and mobile targets. The system is designed to allow the vehicle to approach a maneuvering target from a desired direction of arrival and to terminate the rendezvous at a constant distance from the target. In order to perform a rendezvous with a maneuvering target, the desired direction of arrival is adjusted over time to always approach the target from behind, so that the aircraft and target velocity vectors become aligned. The proposed guidance system assumes the presence of an autopilot and uses a set of Takagi–Sugeno fuzzy controllers to generate the orientation and speed references for the velocity and heading control loops, given the relative position and velocity between the aircraft and the target. The FGS treats the target as a mobile waypoint in a 4-D space (position in 2-dimensions, desired crossing heading and speed) and guides the aircraft on suitable trajectories towards the target. Only when the vehicle is close enough to the rendezvous point, the guidance law is complemented with an additional linear controller to manage the terminal formation keeping phase. The capabilities of the proposed rendezvous-FGS are verified in simulation on both maneuvering and non-maneuvering targets. Finally, experimental results using a multi-rotor aerial system are presented for both fixed and accelerating targets. Full article
(This article belongs to the Section Aerospace Robotics and Autonomous Systems)
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Open AccessArticle
A Taxonomy for Mobile Robots: Types, Applications, Capabilities, Implementations, Requirements, and Challenges
Robotics 2020, 9(4), 109; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/robotics9040109 - 15 Dec 2020
Viewed by 649
Abstract
Mobile robotics is a widespread field of research, whose differentiation from general robotics is often based only on the ability to move. However, mobile robots need unique capabilities, such as the function of navigation. Also, there are limiting factors, such as the typically [...] Read more.
Mobile robotics is a widespread field of research, whose differentiation from general robotics is often based only on the ability to move. However, mobile robots need unique capabilities, such as the function of navigation. Also, there are limiting factors, such as the typically limited energy, which must be considered when developing a mobile robot. This article deals with the definition of an archetypal robot, which is represented in the form of a taxonomy. Types and fields of application are defined. A systematic literature review is carried out for the definition of typical capabilities and implementations, where reference systems, textbooks, and literature references are considered. Full article
(This article belongs to the Section Intelligent Robots and Mechatronics)
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Open AccessArticle
Development of an Automatic Robotic Procedure for Machining of Skull Prosthesis
Robotics 2020, 9(4), 108; https://doi.org/10.3390/robotics9040108 - 14 Dec 2020
Viewed by 503
Abstract
The project presented in this paper develops within the field of automation in the medical-surgical sector. It aims at automating the process for the realization of prosthetic devices for the skull in cranioplasty, following a craniotomy intervention for brain tumor removal. The paper [...] Read more.
The project presented in this paper develops within the field of automation in the medical-surgical sector. It aims at automating the process for the realization of prosthetic devices for the skull in cranioplasty, following a craniotomy intervention for brain tumor removal. The paper puts emphasis on the possibility to create the prosthetic device in run-time during the surgery, in order to ease the work that surgeons have to do during the operation. Generally, a skull prosthesis is realized before the day of the intervention, based on the plan of the medical operation, on the results of computed tomography, and through image processing software. However, after the surgery is performed, a non-negligible geometrical uncertainty can be found between the part of the skull actually removed and the cut planned during the preliminary analysis, so that the realized prosthesis (or even the skull, at worse) may need to be retouched. This paper demonstrates the possibility to introduce a fully automated process in a hospital environment, to manufacture in runtime the prosthetic operculum, relying on the actual geometry of the incision of the skull detected during the intervention. By processing a 3D scan of the skull after the craniectomy, a digital model of the prosthesis can be created and then used as an input to generate the code to be run by a robotic system in charge of the workpiece machining. Focusing on this second step, i.e., the manufacturing process, the work describes the way the dimensions of the raw material block are automatically selected, and the way robot trajectories for milling operation are automatically generated. Experimental validation demonstrates the possibility to complete the prosthesis within the surgery time, thus increasing the accuracy of the produced prosthesis and consequently reducing the time needed to complete the operation. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Kinematics and Robot Design III, KaRD2020)
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Open AccessArticle
Interactive Robot for Playing Russian Checkers
Robotics 2020, 9(4), 107; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/robotics9040107 - 09 Dec 2020
Viewed by 567
Abstract
Human–robot interaction in board games is a rapidly developing field of robotics. This paper presents a robot capable of playing Russian checkers designed for entertaining, training, and research purposes. Its control program is based on a novel unsupervised self-learning algorithm inspired by AlphaZero [...] Read more.
Human–robot interaction in board games is a rapidly developing field of robotics. This paper presents a robot capable of playing Russian checkers designed for entertaining, training, and research purposes. Its control program is based on a novel unsupervised self-learning algorithm inspired by AlphaZero and represents the first successful attempt of using this approach in the checkers game. The main engineering challenge in mechanics is to develop a board state acquisition system non-sensitive to lighting conditions, which is achieved by rejecting computer vision and utilizing magnetic sensors instead. An original robot face is designed to endow the robot an ability to express its attributed emotional state. Testing the robot at open-air multiday exhibitions shows the robustness of the design to difficult exploitation conditions and the high interest of visitors to the robot. Full article
(This article belongs to the Section Intelligent Robots and Mechatronics)
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Open AccessArticle
Bootstrapping Artificial Evolution to Design Robots for Autonomous Fabrication
Robotics 2020, 9(4), 106; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/robotics9040106 - 07 Dec 2020
Viewed by 1308
Abstract
A long-term vision of evolutionary robotics is a technology enabling the evolution of entire autonomous robotic ecosystems that live and work for long periods in challenging and dynamic environments without the need for direct human oversight. Evolutionary robotics has been widely used due [...] Read more.
A long-term vision of evolutionary robotics is a technology enabling the evolution of entire autonomous robotic ecosystems that live and work for long periods in challenging and dynamic environments without the need for direct human oversight. Evolutionary robotics has been widely used due to its capability of creating unique robot designs in simulation. Recent work has shown that it is possible to autonomously construct evolved designs in the physical domain; however, this brings new challenges: the autonomous manufacture and assembly process introduces new constraints that are not apparent in simulation. To tackle this, we introduce a new method for producing a repertoire of diverse but manufacturable robots. This repertoire is used to seed an evolutionary loop that subsequently evolves robot designs and controllers capable of solving a maze-navigation task. We show that compared to random initialisation, seeding with a diverse and manufacturable population speeds up convergence and on some tasks, increases performance, while maintaining manufacturability. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Evolutionary Robotics)
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Open AccessArticle
Design of Soft Grippers with Modular Actuated Embedded Constraints
Robotics 2020, 9(4), 105; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/robotics9040105 - 06 Dec 2020
Viewed by 748
Abstract
Underactuated, modular and compliant hands and grippers are interesting solutions in grasping and manipulation tasks due to their robustness, versatility, and adaptability to uncertainties. However, this type of robotic hand does not usually have enough dexterity in grasping. The implementation of some specific [...] Read more.
Underactuated, modular and compliant hands and grippers are interesting solutions in grasping and manipulation tasks due to their robustness, versatility, and adaptability to uncertainties. However, this type of robotic hand does not usually have enough dexterity in grasping. The implementation of some specific features that can be represented as “embedded constraints” allows to reduce uncertainty and to exploit the role of the environment during the grasp. An example that has these characteristics is the Soft ScoopGripper a gripper that has a rigid flat surface in addition to a pair of modular fingers. In this paper, we propose an upgraded version of the Soft ScoopGripper, developed starting from the limits shown by the starting device. The new design exploits a modular structure to increase the adaptability to the shape of the objects that have to be grasped. In the proposed device the embedded constraint is no rigid neither unactuated and is composed of an alternation of rigid and soft modules, which increase versatility. Moreover, the use of soft material such as thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) reduces the risk of damage to the object being grasped. In the paper, the main design choices have been exploited and a finite element method (FEM) analysis through static simulation supports a characterization of the proposed solution. A complete prototype and some preliminary tests have been presented. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Kinematics and Robot Design III, KaRD2020)
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Open AccessArticle
A Planar Parallel Device for Neurorehabilitation
Robotics 2020, 9(4), 104; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/robotics9040104 - 03 Dec 2020
Viewed by 593
Abstract
The patient population needing physical rehabilitation in the upper extremity is constantly increasing. Robotic devices have the potential to address this problem, however most of the rehabilitation robots are technically advanced and mainly designed for clinical use. This paper presents the development of [...] Read more.
The patient population needing physical rehabilitation in the upper extremity is constantly increasing. Robotic devices have the potential to address this problem, however most of the rehabilitation robots are technically advanced and mainly designed for clinical use. This paper presents the development of an affordable device for upper-limb neurorehabilitation designed for home use. The device is based on a 2-DOF five-bar parallel kinematic mechanism. The prototype has been designed so that it can be bound on one side of a table with a clamp. A kinematic optimization was performed on the length of the links of the manipulator in order to provide the optimum kinematic behaviour within the desired workspace. The mechanical structure was developed, and a 3D-printed prototype was assembled. The prototype embeds two single-point load cells to measure the force exchanged with the patient. Rehabilitation-specific control algorithms are described and tested. Finally, an experimental procedure is performed in order to validate the accuracy of the position measurements. The assessment confirms an acceptable level of performance with respect to the requirements of the application under analysis. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Kinematics and Robot Design III, KaRD2020)
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Open AccessArticle
Image Guided Visual Tracking Control System for Unmanned Multirotor Aerial Vehicle with Uncertainty
Robotics 2020, 9(4), 103; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/robotics9040103 - 01 Dec 2020
Viewed by 632
Abstract
This paper presents a wavelet-based image guided tracking control system for unmanned multirotor aerial vehicle system with the presence of uncertainty. The visual signals for the visual tracking process are developed by using wavelet coefficients. The design uses a multiresolution interaction matrix with [...] Read more.
This paper presents a wavelet-based image guided tracking control system for unmanned multirotor aerial vehicle system with the presence of uncertainty. The visual signals for the visual tracking process are developed by using wavelet coefficients. The design uses a multiresolution interaction matrix with half and details images to relate the time-variation of wavelet coefficients with the velocity of the aerial vehicle and controller. The proposed design is evaluated on a virtual quadrotor aerial vehicle system to demonstrate the effectiveness of the wavelet-based visual tracking system without using an image processing unit in the presence of uncertainty. In contrast to the classical visual tracking technique, the wavelet-based method does not require an image processing task. Full article
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Open AccessReview
Human-Like Arm Motion Generation: A Review
Robotics 2020, 9(4), 102; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/robotics9040102 - 01 Dec 2020
Viewed by 626
Abstract
In the last decade, the objectives outlined by the needs of personal robotics have led to the rise of new biologically-inspired techniques for arm motion planning. This paper presents a literature review of the most recent research on the generation of human-like arm [...] Read more.
In the last decade, the objectives outlined by the needs of personal robotics have led to the rise of new biologically-inspired techniques for arm motion planning. This paper presents a literature review of the most recent research on the generation of human-like arm movements in humanoid and manipulation robotic systems. Search methods and inclusion criteria are described. The studies are analyzed taking into consideration the sources of publication, the experimental settings, the type of movements, the technical approach, and the human motor principles that have been used to inspire and assess human-likeness. Results show that there is a strong focus on the generation of single-arm reaching movements and biomimetic-based methods. However, there has been poor attention to manipulation, obstacle-avoidance mechanisms, and dual-arm motion generation. For these reasons, human-like arm motion generation may not fully respect human behavioral and neurological key features and may result restricted to specific tasks of human-robot interaction. Limitations and challenges are discussed to provide meaningful directions for future investigations. Full article
(This article belongs to the Section Intelligent Robots and Mechatronics)
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Open AccessArticle
Multi-Agent Collaborative Path Planning Based on Staying Alive Policy
Robotics 2020, 9(4), 101; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/robotics9040101 - 28 Nov 2020
Viewed by 724
Abstract
Modern mobile robots tend to be used in numerous exploration and search and rescue applications. Essentially they are coordinated by human operators and collaborate with inspection or rescue teams. Over the time, robots became more advanced and capable for various autonomous collaborative scenarios. [...] Read more.
Modern mobile robots tend to be used in numerous exploration and search and rescue applications. Essentially they are coordinated by human operators and collaborate with inspection or rescue teams. Over the time, robots became more advanced and capable for various autonomous collaborative scenarios. Recent advances in the field of collaborative exploration and coverage provide different approaches to solve this objective. Thus scope of this article is to present a novel collaborative approach for multi-agent coordination in exploration and coverage of unknown complex indoor environments. Fundamentally, the task of collaborative exploration can be divided into two core components. The principal one is a sensor based exploration scheme that aims to guarantee complete area exploration and coverage. The second core component proposed is a staying alive policy that takes under consideration the battery charge level limitation of the agents. From this perspective the path planner assigns feasible tasks to each of the agents, including the capability of providing reachable, collision free paths. The overall efficacy of the proposed approach was extensively evaluated by multiple simulation results in a complex unknown environments. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Optimal Robot Motion Planning)
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Open AccessReview
How Can Physiological Computing Benefit Human-Robot Interaction?
Robotics 2020, 9(4), 100; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/robotics9040100 - 25 Nov 2020
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 674
Abstract
As systems grow more automatized, the human operator is all too often overlooked. Although human-robot interaction (HRI) can be quite demanding in terms of cognitive resources, the mental states (MS) of the operators are not yet taken into account by existing systems. As [...] Read more.
As systems grow more automatized, the human operator is all too often overlooked. Although human-robot interaction (HRI) can be quite demanding in terms of cognitive resources, the mental states (MS) of the operators are not yet taken into account by existing systems. As humans are no providential agents, this lack can lead to hazardous situations. The growing number of neurophysiology and machine learning tools now allows for efficient operators’ MS monitoring. Sending feedback on MS in a closed-loop solution is therefore at hand. Involving a consistent automated planning technique to handle such a process could be a significant asset. This perspective article was meant to provide the reader with a synthesis of the significant literature with a view to implementing systems that adapt to the operator’s MS to improve human-robot operations’ safety and performance. First of all, the need for this approach is detailed regarding remote operation, an example of HRI. Then, several MS identified as crucial for this type of HRI are defined, along with relevant electrophysiological markers. A focus is made on prime degraded MS linked to time-on-task and task demands, as well as collateral MS linked to system outputs (i.e., feedback and alarms). Lastly, the principle of symbiotic HRI is detailed and one solution is proposed to include the operator state vector into the system using a mixed-initiative decisional framework to drive such an interaction. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Functional Design of a 6-DOF Platform for Micro-Positioning
Robotics 2020, 9(4), 99; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/robotics9040099 - 23 Nov 2020
Viewed by 631
Abstract
Parallel kinematic machines (PKMs) have demonstrated their potential in many applications when high stiffness and accuracy are needed, even at micro- and nanoscales. The present paper is focused on the functional design of a parallel platform providing high accuracy and repeatability in full [...] Read more.
Parallel kinematic machines (PKMs) have demonstrated their potential in many applications when high stiffness and accuracy are needed, even at micro- and nanoscales. The present paper is focused on the functional design of a parallel platform providing high accuracy and repeatability in full spatial motion. The hexaglide architecture with 6-PSS kinematics was demonstrated as the best solution according to the specifications provided by an important Italian company active in the field of micro-positioning, particularly in vacuum applications. All the steps needed to prove the applicability of such kinematics at the microscale and their inherent advantages are presented. First, the kinematic model of the manipulator based on the study’s parametrization is provided. A global conditioning index (GCI) is proposed in order to optimize the kinetostatic performance of the robot, so that precise positioning in the required platform workspace is guaranteed avoiding singular configurations. Some numerical simulations demonstrate the effectiveness of the study. Finally, some details about the realization of a physical prototype are given. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Kinematics and Robot Design III, KaRD2020)
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Open AccessArticle
A New Soft RCC Device with Pneumatic Regulation
Robotics 2020, 9(4), 98; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/robotics9040098 - 21 Nov 2020
Viewed by 569
Abstract
The work described in this paper aims at exploiting the characteristic of a special deformable actuator with rolling membranes to realize a device with defined Remote Center of Compliance (RCC). Starting from theoretical approaches to the definition of the RCC, the authors propose [...] Read more.
The work described in this paper aims at exploiting the characteristic of a special deformable actuator with rolling membranes to realize a device with defined Remote Center of Compliance (RCC). Starting from theoretical approaches to the definition of the RCC, the authors propose a novel and simple formulation that can be applied to the soft actuator to determine its RCC. The position of the device’s RCC was determined by creating an asymmetry on the geometry of the device along its axis, i.e., by imposing a longitudinal displacement to the piston with respect to the membranes’ rest condition. FEM simulations of the device behavior were carried out and a first formulation describing the placement of the RCC by varying the operating pressure was found. Finally, a comparison of the theoretical model and FEM results is presented, validating the proposed formulation. Full article
(This article belongs to the Section Soft Robotics)
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Open AccessReview
Localization and Mapping for Robots in Agriculture and Forestry: A Survey
Robotics 2020, 9(4), 97; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/robotics9040097 - 21 Nov 2020
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 876
Abstract
Research and development of autonomous mobile robotic solutions that can perform several active agricultural tasks (pruning, harvesting, mowing) have been growing. Robots are now used for a variety of tasks such as planting, harvesting, environmental monitoring, supply of water and nutrients, and others. [...] Read more.
Research and development of autonomous mobile robotic solutions that can perform several active agricultural tasks (pruning, harvesting, mowing) have been growing. Robots are now used for a variety of tasks such as planting, harvesting, environmental monitoring, supply of water and nutrients, and others. To do so, robots need to be able to perform online localization and, if desired, mapping. The most used approach for localization in agricultural applications is based in standalone Global Navigation Satellite System-based systems. However, in many agricultural and forest environments, satellite signals are unavailable or inaccurate, which leads to the need of advanced solutions independent from these signals. Approaches like simultaneous localization and mapping and visual odometry are the most promising solutions to increase localization reliability and availability. This work leads to the main conclusion that, few methods can achieve simultaneously the desired goals of scalability, availability, and accuracy, due to the challenges imposed by these harsh environments. In the near future, novel contributions to this field are expected that will help one to achieve the desired goals, with the development of more advanced techniques, based on 3D localization, and semantic and topological mapping. In this context, this work proposes an analysis of the current state-of-the-art of localization and mapping approaches in agriculture and forest environments. Additionally, an overview about the available datasets to develop and test these approaches is performed. Finally, a critical analysis of this research field is done, with the characterization of the literature using a variety of metrics. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Advances in Agriculture and Forest Robotics)
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Open AccessArticle
A Study on the Relationship between the Design of Aerotrain and Its Stability Based on a Three-Dimensional Dynamic Model
Robotics 2020, 9(4), 96; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/robotics9040096 - 19 Nov 2020
Viewed by 716
Abstract
A new generation electric high-speed train called Aerotrain has levitation wings and levitates under Wing-in-Ground (WIG) effect along a U-shaped guideway. The previous study found that lacking knowledge of the design makes the prototype unable to regain stability when losing control. In this [...] Read more.
A new generation electric high-speed train called Aerotrain has levitation wings and levitates under Wing-in-Ground (WIG) effect along a U-shaped guideway. The previous study found that lacking knowledge of the design makes the prototype unable to regain stability when losing control. In this paper, the nonlinear three-dimensional dynamic model of the Aerotrain based on the rigid body model has been developed to investigate the relationship between the vehicle body design and its stability. Based on the dynamic model, this paper considered an Aerotrain with a horizontal tail and a vertical tail. To evaluate the stability, the location and area of these tails were parameterized. The effects of these parameters on the longitudinal and directional stability have been investigated to show that: the horizontal tail gives its best performance if the tail area is a function of the tail location; the larger vertical tail area and (or) the farther vertical tail location will give better directional stability. As for the lateral stability, a dihedral front levitation wing design was investigated. This design did not show its effectiveness, therefore a control system is needed. The obtained results are useful for the optimization studies on Aerotrain design as well as developing experimental prototypes. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Theory and Practice on Robotics and Mechatronics)
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Open AccessArticle
The Design of Prometheus: A Reconfigurable UAV for Subterranean Mine Inspection
Robotics 2020, 9(4), 95; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/robotics9040095 - 18 Nov 2020
Viewed by 1220
Abstract
The inspection of legacy mine workings is a difficult, time consuming, costly task, as traditional methods require multiple boreholes to be drilled to allow sensors to be placed in the voids. Discrete sampling of the void from static locations also means that full [...] Read more.
The inspection of legacy mine workings is a difficult, time consuming, costly task, as traditional methods require multiple boreholes to be drilled to allow sensors to be placed in the voids. Discrete sampling of the void from static locations also means that full coverage of the area cannot be achieved and occluded areas and side tunnels may not be fully mapped. The aim of the Prometheus project is to develop an autonomous robotic solution that is able to inspect the mine workings from a single borehole. This paper presents the challenges of operating autonomous aerial vehicles in such an environment, as well as physically entering the void with an autonomous robot. The paper address how some of these challenges can be overcome with bespoke design and intelligent controllers. It details the design of a reconfigurable UAV that is able to be deployed through a 150 mm borehole and unfold to a tip-to-tip diameter of 780 mm, allowing it to carry a payload suitable for a full autonomous mission. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Advances in Robots for Hazardous Environments in the UK)
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Open AccessArticle
Robotic Development for the Nuclear Environment: Challenges and Strategy
Robotics 2020, 9(4), 94; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/robotics9040094 - 13 Nov 2020
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 633
Abstract
Improvements in robotics and artificial intelligence have enabled robotics to be developed for use in a nuclear environment. However, the harsh environment and dangerous nature of the tasks pose several challenges in deploying robots. There may be some unique requirements for a nuclear [...] Read more.
Improvements in robotics and artificial intelligence have enabled robotics to be developed for use in a nuclear environment. However, the harsh environment and dangerous nature of the tasks pose several challenges in deploying robots. There may be some unique requirements for a nuclear application that a commercial system does not meet, such as radiation effects, the needs remote maintenance and deployment constraints. This paper reviews the main challenges that robots need to face to be deployed in a nuclear environment, examines the development and assessment processes required in the nuclear industry, and highlights the assistance that is available for developers. Due to comparable environments and operating restrictions, the development process employed by the nuclear industry has a similar structure as that employed by NASA and the ESA for space exploration. The nuclear industry has introduced a number of development support programs, such as Innovate and Game Changers, to fund and mentor developers through the initial design stages to proving viability in a representative independently assessed test environment. Robust and reliable technologies, which may also have application beyond the original nuclear application, are being successfully developed and tested, enabling robotics in making nuclear operations safer and more efficient. Additional development sources are given in the text. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Advances in Robots for Hazardous Environments in the UK)
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Open AccessArticle
The Effect of the Optimization Selection of Position Analysis Route on the Forward Position Solutions of Parallel Mechanisms
Robotics 2020, 9(4), 93; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/robotics9040093 - 13 Nov 2020
Viewed by 455
Abstract
The forward position solution (FPS) of any complex parallel mechanism (PM) can be solved through solving in sequence all of the independent loops contained in the PM. Therefore, when solving the positions of a PM, all independent loops, especially the first loop, must [...] Read more.
The forward position solution (FPS) of any complex parallel mechanism (PM) can be solved through solving in sequence all of the independent loops contained in the PM. Therefore, when solving the positions of a PM, all independent loops, especially the first loop, must be correctly selected. The optimization selection criterion of the position analysis route (PAR) proposed for the FPS is presented in this paper, which can not only make kinematics modeling and solving efficient but also make it easy to get its symbolic position solutions. Two three-translation PMs are used as the examples to illustrate the optimization selection of their PARs and obtain their symbolic position solutions. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Kinematics and Robot Design III, KaRD2020)
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Open AccessArticle
Differential Facial Articulacy in Robots and Humans Elicit Different Levels of Responsiveness, Empathy, and Projected Feelings
Robotics 2020, 9(4), 92; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/robotics9040092 - 13 Nov 2020
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 536
Abstract
Life-like humanoid robots are on the rise, aiming at communicative purposes that resemble humanlike conversation. In human social interaction, the facial expression serves important communicative functions. We examined whether a robot’s face is similarly important in human-robot communication. Based on emotion research and [...] Read more.
Life-like humanoid robots are on the rise, aiming at communicative purposes that resemble humanlike conversation. In human social interaction, the facial expression serves important communicative functions. We examined whether a robot’s face is similarly important in human-robot communication. Based on emotion research and neuropsychological insights on the parallel processing of emotions, we argue that greater plasticity in the robot’s face elicits higher affective responsivity, more closely resembling human-to-human responsiveness than a more static face. We conducted a between-subjects experiment of 3 (facial plasticity: human vs. facially flexible robot vs. facially static robot) × 2 (treatment: affectionate vs. maltreated). Participants (N = 265; Mage = 31.5) were measured for their emotional responsiveness, empathy, and attribution of feelings to the robot. Results showed empathically and emotionally less intensive responsivity toward the robots than toward the human but followed similar patterns. Significantly different intensities of feelings and attributions (e.g., pain upon maltreatment) followed facial articulacy. Theoretical implications for underlying processes in human-robot communication are discussed. We theorize that precedence of emotion and affect over cognitive reflection, which are processed in parallel, triggers the experience of ‘because I feel, I believe it’s real,’ despite being aware of communicating with a robot. By evoking emotional responsiveness, the cognitive awareness of ‘it is just a robot’ fades into the background and appears not relevant anymore. Full article
(This article belongs to the Section Medical Robotics and Service Robotics)
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Open AccessArticle
Identifying Potential Mosquito Breeding Grounds: Assessing the Efficiency of UAV Technology in Public Health
Robotics 2020, 9(4), 91; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/robotics9040091 - 11 Nov 2020
Viewed by 625
Abstract
Human ecology has played an essential role in the spread of mosquito-borne diseases. With standing water as a significant factor contributing to mosquito breeding, artificial containers disposed of as trash—which are capable of holding standing water—provide suitable environments for mosquito larvae to develop. [...] Read more.
Human ecology has played an essential role in the spread of mosquito-borne diseases. With standing water as a significant factor contributing to mosquito breeding, artificial containers disposed of as trash—which are capable of holding standing water—provide suitable environments for mosquito larvae to develop. The development of these larvae further contributes to the possibility for local transmission of mosquito-borne diseases in urban areas such as Zika virus. One potential solution to address this issue involves leveraging unmanned aerial vehicles that are already systematically becoming more utilized in the field of geospatial technology. With higher pixel resolution in comparison to satellite imagery, as well as having the ability to update spatial data more frequently, we are interested in investigating the feasibility of unmanned aerial vehicles as a potential technology for efficiently mapping potential breeding grounds. Therefore, we conducted a comparative study that evaluated the performance of an unmanned aerial vehicle for identifying artificial containers to that of conventionally utilized GPS receivers. The study was designed to better inform researchers on the current viability of such devices for locating a potential factor (i.e., small form factor artificial containers that can host mosquito breeding grounds) in the local transmission of mosquito-borne diseases. By assessing the performance of an unmanned aerial vehicle against ground-truth global position system technology, we can determine the effectiveness of unmanned aerial vehicles on this problem through our selected metrics of: timeliness, sensitivity, and specificity. For the study, we investigated these effectiveness metrics between the two technologies of interest in surveying a study area: unmanned aerial vehicles (i.e., DJI Phantom 3 Standard) and global position system-based receivers (i.e., Garmin GPSMAP 76Cx and the Garmin GPSMAP 78). We first conducted a design study with nine external participants, who collected 678 waypoint data and 214 aerial images from commercial GPS receivers and UAV, respectively. The participants then processed these data with professional mapping software for visually identifying and spatially marking artificial containers between the aerial imagery and the ground truth GPS data, respectively. From applying statistical methods (i.e., two-tailed, paired t-test) on the participants’ data for comparing how the two technologies performed against each other, our data analysis revealed that the GPS method performed better than the UAV method for the study task of identifying the target small form factor artificial containers. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Navigation and Control of UAVs)
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Open AccessArticle
One-Step Deadbeat Control of a 5-Link Biped Using Data-Driven Nonlinear Approximation of the Step-to-Step Dynamics
Robotics 2020, 9(4), 90; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/robotics9040090 - 04 Nov 2020
Viewed by 607
Abstract
For bipedal robots to walk over complex and constrained environments (e.g., narrow walkways, stepping stones), they have to meet precise control objectives of speed and foot placement at every single step. This control that achieves the objectives precisely at every step is known [...] Read more.
For bipedal robots to walk over complex and constrained environments (e.g., narrow walkways, stepping stones), they have to meet precise control objectives of speed and foot placement at every single step. This control that achieves the objectives precisely at every step is known as one-step deadbeat control. The high dimensionality of bipedal systems and the under-actuation (number of joint exceeds the actuators) presents a formidable computational challenge to achieve real-time control. In this paper, we present a computationally efficient method for one-step deadbeat control and demonstrate it on a 5-link planar bipedal model with 1 degree of under-actuation. Our method uses computed torque control using the 4 actuated degrees of freedom to decouple and reduce the dimensionality of the stance phase dynamics to a single degree of freedom. This simplification ensures that the step-to-step dynamics are a single equation. Then using Monte Carlo sampling, we generate data for approximating the step-to-step dynamics followed by curve fitting using a control affine model and a Gaussian process error model. We use the control affine model to compute control inputs using feedback linearization and fine tune these using iterative learning control using the Gaussian process error enabling one-step deadbeat control. We demonstrate the approach in simulation in scenarios involving stabilization against perturbations, following a changing velocity reference, and precise foot placement. We conclude that computed torque control-based model reduction and sampling-based approximation of the step-to-step dynamics provides a computationally efficient approach for real-time one-step deadbeat control of complex bipedal systems. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
On the Trajectory Planning for Energy Efficiency in Industrial Robotic Systems
Robotics 2020, 9(4), 89; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/robotics9040089 - 26 Oct 2020
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 794
Abstract
In this paper, we present an approach for the minimum-energy trajectory planning in industrial robotic systems. The method is based on the dynamic and electro-mechanical modeling of one-degree-of-freedom systems and the derivation of the energy formulation for standard point-to-point trajectories, as, for instance, [...] Read more.
In this paper, we present an approach for the minimum-energy trajectory planning in industrial robotic systems. The method is based on the dynamic and electro-mechanical modeling of one-degree-of-freedom systems and the derivation of the energy formulation for standard point-to-point trajectories, as, for instance, trapezoidal and cycloidal speed profiles. The proposed approach is experimentally validated on two robotic systems, namely a linear axis of a Cartesian manipulator built in the 1990’s, and a test bench composed of two servomotors directly connected or coupled by means of a planetary gear. During the tests, the electrical power expended by the systems is measured and integrated over time to compute the energy consumption for each trajectory. Despite the limitations of the energy measurement systems, the results reveal a trend in agreement with the theoretical calculations, showing the possibility of applying the method for enhancing the performance of industrial robotic systems in terms of energy consumption in point-to-point motions. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Advances in European Robotics)
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Open AccessArticle
Real-Time Vertical Ground Reaction Force Estimation in a Unified Simulation Framework Using Inertial Measurement Unit Sensors
Robotics 2020, 9(4), 88; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/robotics9040088 - 25 Oct 2020
Viewed by 704
Abstract
Recent advances in computational technology have enabled the use of model-based simulation with real-time motion tracking to estimate ground reaction forces during gait. We show here that a biomechanical-based model including a foot-ground contact can reproduce measured ground reaction forces using inertial measurement [...] Read more.
Recent advances in computational technology have enabled the use of model-based simulation with real-time motion tracking to estimate ground reaction forces during gait. We show here that a biomechanical-based model including a foot-ground contact can reproduce measured ground reaction forces using inertial measurement unit data during single-leg support, single-support jump, side to side jump, jogging, and skipping. The framework is based on our previous work on integrating the OpenSim musculoskeletal models with the Unity environment. The validation was performed on a single subject performing several tasks that involve the lower extremity. The novelty of this paper includes the integration and real-time tracking of inertial measurement unit data in the current framework, as well as the estimation of contact forces using biologically based musculoskeletal models. The RMS errors of tracking the vertical ground reaction forces are 0.027 bodyweight, 0.174 bodyweight, 0.173 bodyweight, 0.095 bodyweight, and 0.10 bodyweight for single-leg support, single-support jump, side to side jump, jogging, and skipping, respectively. The average RMS error for all tasks and trials is 0.112 bodyweight. This paper provides a computational framework for further applications in whole-body human motion analysis. Full article
(This article belongs to the Section Sensors and Control in Robotics)
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Open AccessArticle
Finite-Time State Estimation for an Inverted Pendulum under Input-Multiplicative Uncertainty
Robotics 2020, 9(4), 87; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/robotics9040087 - 19 Oct 2020
Viewed by 649
Abstract
A sliding mode observer is presented, which is rigorously proven to achieve finite-time state estimation of a dual-parallel underactuated (i.e., single-input multi-output) cart inverted pendulum system in the presence of parametric uncertainty. A salient feature of the proposed sliding mode observer design is [...] Read more.
A sliding mode observer is presented, which is rigorously proven to achieve finite-time state estimation of a dual-parallel underactuated (i.e., single-input multi-output) cart inverted pendulum system in the presence of parametric uncertainty. A salient feature of the proposed sliding mode observer design is that a rigorous analysis is provided, which proves finite-time estimation of the complete system state in the presence of input-multiplicative parametric uncertainty. The performance of the proposed observer design is demonstrated through numerical case studies using both sliding mode control (SMC)- and linear quadratic regulator (LQR)-based closed-loop control systems. The main contribution presented here is the rigorous analysis of the finite-time state estimator under input-multiplicative parametric uncertainty in addition to a comparative numerical study that quantifies the performance improvement that is achieved by formally incorporating the proposed compensator for input-multiplicative parametric uncertainty in the observer. In summary, our results show performance improvements when applied to both SMC- and LQR-based control systems, with results that include a reduction in the root-mean square error of up to 39% in translational regulation control and a reduction of up to 29% in pendulum angular control. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Parallel Manipulation Based on Stick-Slip Motion of Vibrating Platform
Robotics 2020, 9(4), 86; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/robotics9040086 - 18 Oct 2020
Viewed by 637
Abstract
The majority of the industrial material handling mechanisms used in the manipulation or assembly of mesoscale objects are slow and require precision programming and tooling, mainly because they are based on sequential robotic pick-n-place operations. This paper presents problem formation, modeling, and analysis [...] Read more.
The majority of the industrial material handling mechanisms used in the manipulation or assembly of mesoscale objects are slow and require precision programming and tooling, mainly because they are based on sequential robotic pick-n-place operations. This paper presents problem formation, modeling, and analysis of a sensorless parallel manipulation technique for mimicking real-systems that transfer mesoscale objects based on the vibration of inline-feeder machines. Unlike common stick-slip models that utilize a “mass-on-moving-belt” and avoid totality of the motion, the research obtains differential equations in order to describe the combined physics of stick-slip dynamics of an object traveling along an oscillating platform under smooth and dry friction conditions. The nonlinear dynamics are solved numerically to explain the effect of system parameters on the stick-slip motion. The research provides empirical models based on frequency-analysis identification to describe the total linear speed of an object to an input force. The results are illustrated and tested by time–response, phase plots, and amplitude response diagrams, which compare very favorably with results obtained by numerical simulation of the equation of motion, and this suggests that the vibration of the platform is independent of stick-slip motion when the mass of the object being transported is small relative to the mass of the system. Full article
(This article belongs to the Section Industrial Robots & Automation)
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Open AccessArticle
On the Benefits of Color Information for Feature Matching in Outdoor Environments
Robotics 2020, 9(4), 85; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/robotics9040085 - 11 Oct 2020
Viewed by 646
Abstract
The detection and description of features is one basic technique for many visual robot navigation systems in both indoor and outdoor environments. Matched features from two or more images are used to solve navigation problems, e.g., by establishing spatial relationships between different poses [...] Read more.
The detection and description of features is one basic technique for many visual robot navigation systems in both indoor and outdoor environments. Matched features from two or more images are used to solve navigation problems, e.g., by establishing spatial relationships between different poses in which the robot captured the images. Feature detection and description is particularly challenging in outdoor environments, and widely used grayscale methods lead to high numbers of outliers. In this paper, we analyze the use of color information for keypoint detection and description. We consider grayscale and color-based detectors and descriptors, as well as combinations of them, and evaluate their matching performance. We demonstrate that the use of color information for feature detection and description markedly increases the matching performance. Full article
(This article belongs to the Section Intelligent Robots and Mechatronics)
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Open AccessArticle
The Effect of the FIRST Robotics Program on Its Graduates
Robotics 2020, 9(4), 84; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/robotics9040084 - 09 Oct 2020
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1103
Abstract
The program For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST) for young students incorporates project-based learning (PBL) with designing and building wireless-controlled robots. The students are guided by experts, mostly engineers. The FIRST organization determines the theme of the robot annual competition. [...] Read more.
The program For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST) for young students incorporates project-based learning (PBL) with designing and building wireless-controlled robots. The students are guided by experts, mostly engineers. The FIRST organization determines the theme of the robot annual competition. The goal of this research is to characterize and evaluate the effect of the FIRST program on graduates’ self-efficacy, interpersonal skills, and career choices in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). The research participants included 297 FIRST graduates, mostly high schoolers, who responded to questionnaires, and five of them were interviewed. Analysis of the data showed that the FIRST program improved graduates’ interpersonal skills such as time management, teamwork skills, and self-efficacy, as well as had an impact on the graduates’ STEM career choices. The main factors impacting the graduates’ career choice was their exposure to robotics and to experts from the industry. The theoretical contribution is to the social cognitive theory (SCT) in the context of the FIRST program. Our study explains students’ career choice through correlations among students’ aspirations for choosing a career, their self-efficacy, their interpersonal skills, and their actual choice. The practical contribution lies in better understanding the robotic PBL program and expanding the STEM work force. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Advances and Challenges in Educational Robotics)
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Open AccessArticle
Mapping Three Electromyography Signals Generated by Human Elbow and Shoulder Movements to Two Degree of Freedom Upper-Limb Robot Control
Robotics 2020, 9(4), 83; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/robotics9040083 - 09 Oct 2020
Viewed by 728
Abstract
This article sought to address issues related to human-robot cooperation tasks focusing especially on robotic operation using bio-signals. In particular, we propose to develop a control scheme for a robot arm based on electromyography (EMG) signal that allows a cooperative task between humans [...] Read more.
This article sought to address issues related to human-robot cooperation tasks focusing especially on robotic operation using bio-signals. In particular, we propose to develop a control scheme for a robot arm based on electromyography (EMG) signal that allows a cooperative task between humans and robots that would enable teleoperations. A basic framework for achieving the task and conducting EMG signals analysis of the motion of upper limb muscles for mapping the hand motion is presented. The objective of this work is to investigate the application of a wearable EMG device to control a robot arm in real-time. Three EMG sensors are attached to the brachioradialis, biceps brachii, and anterior deltoid muscles as targeted muscles. Three motions were conducted by moving the arm about the elbow joint, shoulder joint, and a combination of the two joints giving a two degree of freedom. Five subjects were used for the experiments. The results indicated that the performance of the system had an overall accuracy varying from 50% to 100% for the three motions for all subjects. This study has further shown that upper-limb motion discrimination can be used to control the robotic manipulator arm with its simplicity and low computational cost. Full article
(This article belongs to the Section Sensors and Control in Robotics)
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Open AccessArticle
Directional-Sensor Network Deployment Planning for Mobile-Target Search
Robotics 2020, 9(4), 82; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/robotics9040082 - 09 Oct 2020
Viewed by 638
Abstract
In this paper, a novel time-phased directional-sensor network deployment strategy is presented for the mobile-target search problem, e.g., wilderness search and rescue (WiSAR). The proposed strategy uses probabilistic target-motion models combined with a variation of a standard direct search algorithm to plan the [...] Read more.
In this paper, a novel time-phased directional-sensor network deployment strategy is presented for the mobile-target search problem, e.g., wilderness search and rescue (WiSAR). The proposed strategy uses probabilistic target-motion models combined with a variation of a standard direct search algorithm to plan the optimal locations of directional-sensors which maximize the likelihood of target detection. A linear sensing model is employed as a simplification for directional-sensor network deployment planning, while considering physical constraints, such as on-time sensor deliverability. Extensive statistical simulations validated our method. One such illustrative experiment is included herein to demonstrate the method’s operation. A comparative study was also carried out, whose summary is included in this paper, to highlight the tangible improvement of our approach versus three traditional deployment strategies: a uniform, a random, and a ring-of-fire type deployment, respectively. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Preliminary Work on a Virtual Reality Interface for the Guidance of Underwater Robots
Robotics 2020, 9(4), 81; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/robotics9040081 - 02 Oct 2020
Viewed by 886
Abstract
The need for intervention in underwater environments has increased in recent years but there is still a long way to go before AUVs (Autonomous Underwater Vehicleswill be able to cope with really challenging missions. Nowadays, the solution adopted is mainly based on remote [...] Read more.
The need for intervention in underwater environments has increased in recent years but there is still a long way to go before AUVs (Autonomous Underwater Vehicleswill be able to cope with really challenging missions. Nowadays, the solution adopted is mainly based on remote operated vehicle (ROV) technology. These ROVs are controlled from support vessels by using unnecessarily complex human–robot interfaces (HRI). Therefore, it is necessary to reduce the complexity of these systems to make them easier to use and to reduce the stress on the operator. In this paper, and as part of the TWIN roBOTs for the cooperative underwater intervention missions (TWINBOT) project, we present an HRI (Human-Robot Interface) module which includes virtual reality (VR) technology. In fact, this contribution is an improvement on a preliminary study in this field also carried out, by our laboratory. Hence, having made a concerted effort to improve usability, the HRI system designed for robot control tasks presented in this paper is substantially easier to use. In summary, reliability and feasibility of this HRI module have been demonstrated thanks to the usability tests, which include a very complete pilot study, and guarantee much more friendly and intuitive properties in the final HRI-developed module presented here. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Advances in Underwater Robotics)
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