The REINS Project
The REINS project is to design and investigate haptic communicational interfaces (reins) between a human agent and a mobile robot guide. The reins will facilitate joint navigation and inspection of a space under conditions of low visibility (occurring frequently in fire fighting). The focus is on haptic and tactile human robot cooperation as it has been found that a limited visual field and obscured cameras adds to the distress of humans working under pressure.
Inspired by the use of a harness for a guide dog and also the rein to ride or drive a horse, the REINS project will investigate and experiment with haptic interfaces for human-robot cooperation. The low/no visibility constraint ensures the focus is on the tactile and haptic aspects only. Currently, robots do not sufficiently enhance human confidence. In human-robot cooperation, the human (by nature) will try to 'read' the situation, and anticipate the movements of the robot companion. The robot is provided with an impedance filter and the rein enables the human to feel the robot's movements and behaviour.
We adapt a semi-autonomous mobile robot for navigation in front of a human. The robot provides rich sensory data and is enabled to try the mechanical impedances of the objects it encounters. We also design and implement a soft rein (rope), a wireless rein and a stiff rein (inspired by the lead for guide dog) enabling the human to use the robot to actively probe objects. The project thus creates the means to explore the haptic Human-Robot Interaction landscape.
In the first phase of the project the robot is adapted and the first prototypes of the reins are implemented; the emphasis in this phase is on providing rich data to the human. The second phase is dedicated to surveying the communicational landscape. The human-robot team will navigate a known environment with low visibility where unknown obstacles may occur. At least two different types of reins are applied: one requires that messages are explicitly coded, while the other propagates the information implicitly.
Based on experiences in the first trials the reins might be adapted to improve usability. Professional fire fighters will be the first group of subjects to try the reins, later on also volunteers experienced with guide dogs may join the experimentations.
- EPSRC grant page (https://gow.epsrc.ac.uk/NGBOViewGrant.aspx?GrantRef=EP/I028757/1)