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9 May 2006 Interface evaluation for soft robotic manipulators
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The results of two usability experiments evaluating an interface for the operation of OctArm, a biologically inspired robotic arm modeled after an octopus tentacle, are reported. Due to the many degrees-of-freedom (DOF) for the operator to control, such 'continuum' robotic limbs provide unique challenges for human operators because they do not map intuitively. Two modes have been developed to control the arm and reduce the DOF under the explicit direction of the operator. In coupled velocity (CV) mode, a joystick controls changes in arm curvature. In end-effector (EE) mode, a joystick controls the arm by moving the position of an endpoint along a straight line. In Experiment 1, participants used the two modes to grasp objects placed at different locations in a virtual reality modeling language (VRML). Objective measures of performance and subjective preferences were recorded. Results revealed lower grasp times and a subjective preference for the CV mode. Recommendations for improving the interface included providing additional feedback and implementation of an error recovery function. In Experiment 2, only the CV mode was tested with improved training of participants and several changes to the interface. The error recovery function was implemented, allowing participants to reverse through previously attained positions. The mean time to complete the trials in the second usability test was reduced by more than 4 minutes compared with the first usability test, confirming the interface changes improved performance. The results of these tests will be incorporated into future versions of the arm and improve future usability tests.
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Kristin S. Moore, William M. Rodes, Matthew A. Csencsits, Martha J. Kwoka, Joshua A. Gomer, and Christopher C. Pagano "Interface evaluation for soft robotic manipulators", Proc. SPIE 6230, Unmanned Systems Technology VIII, 62301C (9 May 2006);

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