Exoskeleton “Touchy-Feely” Robotics Solutions

Ref-Nr: TD2018-20

Technology abstract

Force-feedback double arm-hand exoskeleton with 7 active degrees of freedom on each arm, from the shoulder to the wrist, and 6 active degrees of freedom for each hand.
Each joint is equipped with electrical motors, position sensors, force/torque sensors and low-level control-power electronics, interconnected through a real-time communication bus.

Technology Description

Force feedback exoskeleton consisting of two arms and two hands exoskeletons, integrated within a semi-seated outpost, and supported by a gravity compensation system. The exoskeletons allow experiencing force feedback in every joints of the arms (7 joints each) and in 3 out of 5 fingers (thumb, index, middle).
Key components included:

  • (2x) The Exoskeleton Arm that implements an exoskeleton for the operator’s arm. The exoskeleton measures the pose of the arm, and the controlled slave robot arm is made to mimick this pose. Forces endured by the slave robot arm are fed back to the operator, to give him a sense of tele-presence. The operator also gets visual feedback in addition.
  • (2x) The Exoskeleton Hand that similarly implements an exoskeleton for the operator’s hand. In the same manner, bi-lateral control is established with the slave robotic hand, conveying both the position information and the force information in the two directions.
  • The Gravity Compensation System: A passive mechanical exoskeleton weight compensation that considerably reduces the fatigue of the user while using the exoskeleton.

The Exoskeleton Controller.

Innovations & Advantages

In mainstream remotely operated inspection and maintenance robotic applications, very few interfaces feature force feedback. Only desktop interfases are used. Users only experience feedback at the end effector of the haptic desktop in his/her hand palm or fingers as a single force information.
The setup is

  • Intuitive
  • Immersive

The arms + hands force feedback exoskeleton interface is the most advanced developed to date. The gravity compensation approach is also unique.

Further Information

The force feedback exoskeleton has been implemented in the DexROV prototype (www.dexrov.eu) presented in London at Oceanology International in March 2018 and is present in the ESA database under the reference TD2018-21.
SpaceApps has also successfully demonstrated the remote control via satellite communication of a robotic vehicle (ROV) equipped with dexterous manipulators. Sea trials were performed from 2017 on (http://www.euronews.com/2017/08/07/how-will-the-new-intelligent-breed-of-rovs-benefit-us)

Current and Potential Domains of Application

  • Control outposts for complex ROV interventions in offshore marine applications: oil and gas (O&G), renewable energy, but also biology, geology and archaeology.
  • Robotic based interventions in harsh conditions: e.g. nuclear plants maintenance, regular operations in nuclear fuel treatment / storage, search and rescue, bomb disposal interventions (EOD), space exploration (which is a key business of Space Applications Services)... These markets however require further investigations in terms of sizing and competition