Engineering highly adaptable robots requires new tools for new rules – Science Nation


Miles O’Brien:
An honest likeness of Honest Abe… This drawing robot is doing a lot more than mechanical doodling. Its engineers are working
to fundamentally change how robots interact with humans. And the “future” looks very
different from the “now.” Todd Murphey:
The classical view of what a robot is is often this large robot that’s very monolithic. It does the same task
over and over and it does it with a great deal
of power at its disposal, and it does it
with incredible precision and accuracy.
Miles O’Brien: With support from
the National Science Foundation, mechanical engineer Todd Murphey and a team at Northwestern University are helping a new generation
of robots interface with the most unpredictable
of partners – people. Todd Murphey:
People have very strong opinions about what is it
they want to do and how it is they want to do it. Miles O’Brien:
He says developing a drawing robot is useful in working out the skill set necessary to deal with human counterparts. It’s all about adaptability and being open to all
the different ways different people go about getting
the same job done. Todd Murphey:
One of the reasons that we started looking at drawing is that the same drawing can be created
lots of different ways, and the order in which you
do things can change, what you focus on can
potentially change, yet each one of them
would be considered a drawing. Miles O’Brien:
Physical therapy is one area ripe for ramped-up robotic/human partnership, and the Murphey team is putting
some muscle into it. Grad student Katie Fitzsimons gave us a demo
of this research robot. She’s trying to balance
a swinging pendulum at the top of an arc – no easy job. Katie Fitzsimmons:
So they want to build sort of a smaller, more compact and like cheaper version of this for rehab uses.
Miles O’Brien: The machine takes
an active role in the task – guiding the operator
through the correct motions, while preventing movements that might cause
further injury. The new mathematical approaches
developed here anticipate all the physical
and mental strategies people might use
to carry out a task, as a result could lead to more capable physical therapy robots. Jules Dewald:
I believe there’s an optimum way to intervene that requires science. Miles O’Brien:
Murphey’s collaborator Jules Dewald runs the Department of Physical Therapy at the Northwestern University
Medical School. He’s pioneered the use of robotics
in stroke rehabilitation and sees promise
in the new approaches. Julius Dewald:
So, does it mean we’re going to heal everybody? No. Does it mean that
we’re going to do considerably better than we do
right now with folks that currently are
having a useless arm? I’m quite convinced we can. Therapist:
All right, lift straight up… Miles O’Brien:
Considerably better sounds good to Ted Waltmire. Therapist:
Fast…all the way out, keep stretching. Miles O’Brien:
Who lost partial function on his left side
after a stroke. He’s rehabbed on this robot
in the Dewald Lab, designed to improve
his ability to reach. He’s optimistic
for the future. Ted Waltmire:
My goal has been to get my life back the way that it was before the stroke. I always wake up every morning
thinking it might be the day that this is going to happen, that more of my control
is going to come back. Therapist:
Same procedure…. Miles O’Brien:
Reaching for new horizons with robots designed to work with us, on our own terms,
doing things our own way. You don’t have to draw me
a picture to get behind that. For Science Nation,
I’m Miles O’Brien.

You may also like...

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *