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Section: Research Program

Operator / robot coupling

Scientific Context

Thanks to the progress made in recent years in the field of p-HRI (Physical Human-Robot Interaction), robotic systems are beginning to operate in the same workspace as humans, which is profoundly changing industrial issues and allowing a wide variety of human-robot coupling solutions to be considered to perform the same task [14]. Different types of interactions exist. They can be classified in different ways: according to the degree of autonomy of the robot and its proximity to the user [20] with particularities for “wearable” robots” [18], [17], or for collaborative robotics [49], or according to the role of the human being [44]. From a cognitive point of view, classifications are more concerned with autonomy, the complexity of information processing and the type of communication and representation of the human being by the robot [35], [51].

We proposed a classification of cobotic systems according to the configuration of the schema of interactions between humans, robots and the environment [33], [41].

The parameters of the coupling being numerous and complex, the determination of the most appropriate type of coupling for a type of problem is an open problem [38], [34], [29]. The traditional approach consists in trying to identify and classify the various possible options and to select the one that seems most relevant with regard to the feasibility, efficiency, budget envelope and acceptability of the operator. One of the main objectives of our research project is to define a typology of cobots or cobotic systems in order to specify the methodology for developing the best solution: what are the criteria for defining the best robotic architecture, what type of coupling, what autonomy of the robot, what role for the operator, what risks for the human, what overall performance? These are the key issues that need to be addressed. To meet this methodological need, we propose an approach guided by experience on use cases obtained thanks to our industrial partners.

Methodology

Task analysis and human behavior modelling, discussed in the previous sections, should help to characterize the different types of coupling and interaction modalities, their advantages and disadvantages, in order to assist in the decision-making process. One of the ideas we would like to develop is to try to break down the task into a sequence of elementary gestures corresponding to simple motor actions performed in a clearly identified context and to evaluate for each of them the degree of feasibility in automatic mode or in robot assistance mode. The assessment must take into account a large number of parameters that relate to physical interactions, human-robot communication, reliability and human factors, including acceptability and impact on the valuation or devaluation of the operator's work. Concerning the evaluation of human factors, we have already begun to work on the subject within the more general framework of human systems interactions by operating Bayesian networks, drawing inspiration from the work of [16], [42].

The adoption of assessment criteria for a single domain (e. g. robotics or ergonomics) cannot guarantee that the performance of this coupling will be maximized. From design to evaluation, cross-effects must be constantly considered:

  • impact of the cobot design on the user's performance: intuitiveness, adaptation to intra- and inter-individual variations, affordance, stress factors (noise, vibrations,...), fatigue factors (control laws, necessary attention,...) and motivation factors (effectiveness, efficiency, aesthetics,...);

  • impact of user performance on cobot exploitation: risks of human error (attention error, perseveration, circumvention of procedures, syndrome outside the loop) [16].

In addition to purely physical assistance, some cobotic systems are designed to assist the operator in his decision-making. The issues of trust, acceptance, sharing of representations and co-construction of a shared awareness of the situation are then to be addressed [45].