A soft actuator using electrically controllable membranes could pave the way for machines that are no danger to humans
In interacting with humans, robots must first and foremost be safe. If a household robot, for example, encounters a human, it should not continue its movements regardless, but rather give way in case of doubt. Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems in Stuttgart are now presenting a motion system – a so-called elastic actuator – that is compliant and can be integrated in robots thanks to its space-saving design.
The actuator works with hyperelastic membranes that surround air-filled chambers. The volume of the chambers can be controlled by means of an electric field at the membrane. To date, elastic actuators that exert a force by stretching air-filled chambers have always required connection to pumps and compressors to work. A soft actuator such as the one developed by the Stuttgart-based team means that such bulky payloads or tethers may now be superfluous.
Many robots have become indispensable, and it is accepted that they may be dangerous to humans in their workspace. In the automotive industry, for example, they assemble cars with speed and reliability, but are well shielded from direct contact with humans. These robots go through their motions precisely and relentlessly, and anyone who gets in the way could be seriously injured.
Robots with soft actuators that cannot harm humans, on the other hand, are tethered by pneumatic hoses and so their radius of motion is restricted. This may be about to change. “We have developed an actuator that makes large changes in form possible without an external supply of compressed air”, says Metin Sitti, Director at the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems.
The new device consists of a dielectric elastomer actuator (DEA): a membrane made of hyperelastic material like a latex balloon, with flexible (or ‘compliant’) electrodes attached to each side. The stretching of the membrane is regulated by means of an electric field between the electrodes, as the electrodes attract each other and squeeze the membrane when voltage is applied. By attaching multiple such membranes, the place of deformation can be shifted controllably in the system.
Air is displaced between two chambers
The researchers are helped in this by the fact that their membrane material knows two stable states. In other words, it can have two different volume configurations at a given pressure without the need to minimize the larger volume. This is a little like letting the air out of an inflated balloon; it does not shrink back to its original size, but remains significantly larger. Thanks to this bi-stable state, the researchers are able to move air between a more highly inflated chamber and a less inflated one. They do this by applying an electric current to the membrane of the smaller chamber which responds by stretching and sucking air out of the other bubble. When the power supply is switched off the membrane contracts, but not to its original volume; it remains larger, corresponding to its stretched state.
“It is important to find suitable hyperelastic polymers that will enable strong and fast deformation and be durable,” points out Metin Sitti. With this in mind, the team has tested different membrane materials and also used models to systematically record the behaviour of the elastomer in the actuator.
Thus far, the elastomers tested by Sitti’s team have each had a mix of advantages and disadvantages. Some show strong deformation, but at a slow rate. Others work fast, but their deformation is more limited. “We will combine different materials with a view to combining different properties in a single membrane,” says Sitti. This is, however, just one of the next steps he and his team have in mind. They also plan to integrate their actuator in a robot so that it can, for instance, move its legs but still give way if it happens to come across a human. Only then can machine-human interactions be risk-free.
Learn more: Gentle strength for robots
The Latest on: Machine-human interactions
via Google News
The Latest on: Machine-human interactions
- Microsoft Research: Machine Teaching, Optical Computing, Machine-Human Interaction, and Moreon November 13, 2019 at 10:05 am
He acknowledged that practical work in this area was still "some years away." The third area that Azizirad discussed was "machine-human interaction." She said that natural user interfaces such as ...
- How Ratan Tata-backed Niki.ai aims to generate $1B online business from Bharaton October 28, 2019 at 7:12 pm
[App Fridays] Are machine-human interactions the future of online-commerce? Here is Niki.ai’s a... He explains that Niki.ai is on a quest to build a conversational platform that understands the needs ...
- Machine detection of human-object interaction in images and videoson July 1, 2019 at 9:57 am
Jia-Bin Huang, assistant professor in the Bradley Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and a faculty member at the Discovery Analytics Center, has received a Google Faculty Research Award ...
- Fintech regions to watch out for in 2019on December 17, 2018 at 4:00 pm
Headlining in 2018, the price volatility of bitcoin, cloud computing, and challenger banks stole the show. Funding in the UK from the government in East London Tech City and tech partnerships in ...
- The soft touch of robotson May 25, 2018 at 2:39 am
Materials and technologies used to make soft robots that can safely interact with humans are avidly explored. A wealth of applications are in reach for soft robots but a number of challenges remain.
- noHold Advances Machine to Human Interaction by Creating a More Conversational Experienceon April 30, 2018 at 3:29 pm
To accomplish this goal, noHold enabled Virtual Assistants to be able to handle multi-turn interactions with expansions. Multi-turn interactions mean the back and forth that happens within a ...
- SoftBank Robotics Europe Selects Cognizant for Quality Assurance of Artificial Intelligence Systems in Pepper and NAO Humanoid Robotson February 27, 2018 at 2:11 am
Cognizant's expertise ensures high quality machine-human interactions and will enable SoftBank Robotics Europe to scale production to meet rising global demand in sectors such as retail, healthcare, ...
- Why chatbots are somewhere between overhyped and overblownon August 18, 2017 at 12:34 am
Here's why they're on the verge of becoming a bigger part of brand strategy. Chatbots have been hyped as a "revolution" in machine/human interaction, but anyone who has been forced to plod through a ...
- ST MEMS micro-mirrors to improve machine-human interactionon March 9, 2015 at 5:00 pm
This will be critical to creating new and more natural interactions between people and technology, which is one of the aims of Perceptual Computing. MEMS meld mechanical and electrical principles in ...
- Intel Capital Leads $5M Series A In Spain’s Indisys: Maker Of Machine-Human Interaction Natural Language Virtual Assistantson November 28, 2012 at 4:00 pm
Manchón told TechCrunch the company has raised around $7 million ... “The company is at the forefront in the field of machine-human interactions, and we are very well placed to assist the company, by ...
via Bing News