MIT robot helps you lift by watching your arm muscles

Shane McGlaun - May 23, 2019, 7:36 am CDT
MIT robot helps you lift by watching your arm muscles

People instinctively know how to work together when it comes time to lift something that takes two people. People coordinate their motions and work to be sure that each side of whatever is being carried is at the same height. While tasks like that are natural for a human, for robots, it’s not natural at all.

Robots have to be trained to work well with a human and usually that means teaching the robot voice commands similar to how a voice assistant like Siri works. MIT researchers have developed a robot that can collaborate with humans without needing to use spoken commands. The robotic system can coordinate motions by monitoring their muscle movements.

The MIT system is called RoboRaise, and the system requires sensors to be applied to the user’s biceps and triceps to monitor their muscle activity. When algorithms detect changes to the person’s arm level along with discrete up and down hand gestures the user might make for finer movements.

The team was able to use their system for tasks involving picking things up and assembling mock airplane components. The team says that when the user and the robot worked on these tasks, it was able to control the robot within a few inches of the desired height. The system was more accurate when used with gestures responding correctly to about 70% of all gestures.

One of the students on the project says that he can see people using RoboRaise for manufacturing, construction, and help around the house. The new tech builds off previous tech developed at MIT that allows users to correct robot mistakes with brain wave and hand gestures.

The team wants to develop a robotic assistance system where the robot adjusts to the human, not the other way around. The user can start using the robot quickly with minimal calibration after sensors are in place.

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