D3. Mobile Manipulator Robot

Principal Investigator: Charles Kemp, Ph.D.
Project Collaborator: Willow Garage; Henry and Jane Evans

Specific Aims
The progression of chronic and secondary conditions (e.g., ALS, Parkinson’s, arthritis) can severely limit the ability of an older adult with disability to manipulate tools and products, such as holding a spoon, glass or toothbrush, that are necessary to perform routine activities of daily living (e.g., eating or drinking). Moreover, because functional abilities among individuals with these conditions vary from day to day, they are more or less limited in their ability to perform these activities at any given time. In partnership with Willow Garage and building on our prior work, this project will develop and evaluate an intelligent interactive robotic system that reacts and responds to specific situational needs, thus enabling an individual to perform a wide variety of everyday tasks for him/herself.

Specific aims of this project are to:

  1. create a body map with semantic labels, such as “cheek”, “hand”, and “arm”, that when selected result in a robot holding an object near the requested location on a person’s body;
  2. develop a database of common actions for the robot to perform with its hand (closing it, moving back and forth), and specialized tools (spoon or scratcher);
  3. enable the robot to learn about a user’s capabilities and preferences to provide better assistance and adapt to changes in functional abilities;
  4. conduct a longitudinal evaluation of the robot under actual use conditions in the home of a person with quadriplegia and his caregiver;
  5. refine the robotic system in preparation for formal evaluation;
  6. conduct a formal evaluation of the robot with older adults with disability to evaluate the semantic body map and database of actions;
  7. refine the robotic system; and
  8. conduct a second formal evaluation of the robot with older adults with disability to evaluate the entire system with a focus on learning and adaptation.

By the end of the project, we will have prototype open-source code and open hardware that will enable Willow Garage to commercialize a general-purpose robot. In the long term, the adoption of such a robotic assistant will enable older adults who have progressive chronic conditions to successfully perform a variety of critical activities of daily living for themselves.