In this paper we report on analysis toward identifying design requirements for an Adaptive Robotic Nursing Assistant (ARNA). Specifically, the paper focuses on application requirements for ARNA, envisioned as a mobile assistive robot that can navigate hospital environments to perform chores in roles such as patient sitter and patient walker. The role of a sitter is primarily related to patient observation from a distance, and fetching objects at the patient’s request, while a walker provides physical assistance for ambulation and rehabilitation. The robot will be expected to not only understand nurse and patient intent but also close the decision loop by automating several routine tasks. As a result, the robot will be equipped with sensors such as distributed pressure sensitive skins, 3D range sensors, and so on. Modular sensor and actuator hardware configured in the form of several multi-degree-of-freedom manipulators, and a mobile base are expected to be deployed in reconfigurable platforms for physical assistance tasks. Furthermore, adaptive human-machine interfaces are expected to play a key role, as they directly impact the ability of robots to assist nurses in a dynamic and unstructured environment. This paper discusses required tasks for the ARNA robot, as well as sensors and software infrastructure to carry out those tasks in the aspects of technical resource availability, gaps, and needed experimental studies.
Human-robot interaction can be made more sophisticated and intuitive if the entire body of a robot is covered with multimodal sensors embedded in artificial skin. In order to efficiently interact with humans in unstructured environments, robotic skin may require sensors such as touch, impact, and proximity. Integration of various types of sensors into robotic skin is challenging due to the topographical nature of skin. Printing is a promising technology that can be explored for sensor integration as it may allow both sensors and interconnects to be directly printed into the skin. We are developing Electrohydrodynamic (EHD) inkjet printing technology in order to co-fabricate various devices onto a single substrate. Using strong applied electrostatic forces, EHD allows the printing of microscale features from a wide array of materials with viscosities ranging from 100 to 1000cP, highly beneficial for multilateral integration. Thus far we have demonstrated EHD’s capability at printing patterns of Poly(2,3-dihydrothieno-1,4-dioxin)-poly(styrenesulfonate) for pressure sensor applications, generating patterns with modified commercial photoresist for mask-less lithography, and obtaining ZnO microstructures for direct device printing. Printed geometries range from a few tens of microns to millimeters. We have used inks with viscosities ranging from 230 to 520cp and from non-conductive to 135μS/cm. These results clearly show that the EHD is a promising multi-material printing platform and would be an enabling technology that can be used to co-fabricate various devices into robotic skin.