CES 2017: Robotics making life safer and enhancing the human condition

-January 10, 2017

The massive CES show in Las Vegas, NV demonstrated a myriad of consumer electronics content and exhibits with demonstrations and displays at every turn.

I like to look for electronics technology that makes a difference in this world. My first observation from the first day of CES was the wearable robotic exoskeleton that Hyundai Motor Company showed, presented by Dr. Dong Jin Hyun. I will present an in-depth technical view of this design.

Dr. Dong Jin Hyun demonstrated the exoskeleton at NI Week in 2015.

 

This all began with MIT’s HERMES (highly efficient robotic mechanisms and electromechanical system) Project at MIT’s Biomimetic Robotics Lab. And the nuclear reactor meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi Power Plant in March 2011 may have had something to do with this development. If only the reactor cooling system could have somehow been turned back on quickly after the system failure without killing the person tasked with that role, then maybe the disastrous occurrences could have been minimized.


The MIT lab came up with a concept, design, and ultimately a demo of a full-body tele-operation system of a humanoid robot. Not only would this type of system be able to operate in dangerous environments and perform powerful manipulation tasks, but the design also led to the wearable exoskeleton demonstrated by Dr. Dong Jin Hyung.


Balancing HERMES, a robot-humanoid, by divergent component motion dymanics1


Designers are ever trying to reach the ultimate in robotics movement; that is, dynamic behavior movement just like a human. We, as humans, are able to adapt to unusual and unexpected situations that we encounter by using our brains which give us the ability to be very creative at problem-solving. By implementing some form of human intelligence and motor skills into a robot, they may be able to enter highly dangerous and deadly situations and perform tasks to help render an event safe for humans to enter.


By using the divergent component of motion (DCM), an operator and a robot achieve balance synchronization via the dynamics of center of mass (CoM) and center of pressure (CoP). We humans are able to coordinate our complex movements via several joints that are coordinated simultaneously in a beauty of elegant and smooth motion. We need to create a robotic design that mirrors that fluid motion. See the following video.

 

One way this can be done is to capture and emulate human motions via whole-body teleoperation (Figure 1).

 

Figure 1 The MIT robot known as HERMES, a humanoid designed for dynamic power manipulation tasks (Image courtesy of Reference 1)

 

A remote human operator would need to be one with the robot body and senses. That operator would need to feel the forces and disturbances of the robot and thus guide it to successfully perform a task as if they were doing it themselves.

So I got to thinking about how MEMS sensors are an important part of these types of designs. MEMS sensors have evolved to the point now that accelerometers and gyroscopes can be effectively employed in the operation and sensing of a robot humanoid (See Accelerometer and Gyroscopes Sensors: Operation, Sensing, and Applications”).


The Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU) as well as sensor fusion allow for precise control, automation, and positioning in a robot. Analog Devices has their EVAL-ADIS2 evaluation system that will help designer get to market faster.  Bosch Sensortec also has excellent Sensor Fusion software to go along with their broad line of Smart Hubs and Application Specific Sensor Nodes (ASSN) (Figure 2).

 

 

Figure 2 Bosch Sensortec has the full portfolio of solutions for MEMS for designers (Image courtesy of Bosch Sensortec)


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