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2018


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Instrumentation, Data, and Algorithms for Visually Understanding Haptic Surface Properties

Burka, A. L.

University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, USA, August 2018, Department of Electrical and Systems Engineering (phdthesis)

Abstract
Autonomous robots need to efficiently walk over varied surfaces and grasp diverse objects. We hypothesize that the association between how such surfaces look and how they physically feel during contact can be learned from a database of matched haptic and visual data recorded from various end-effectors' interactions with hundreds of real-world surfaces. Testing this hypothesis required the creation of a new multimodal sensing apparatus, the collection of a large multimodal dataset, and development of a machine-learning pipeline. This thesis begins by describing the design and construction of the Portable Robotic Optical/Tactile ObservatioN PACKage (PROTONPACK, or Proton for short), an untethered handheld sensing device that emulates the capabilities of the human senses of vision and touch. Its sensory modalities include RGBD vision, egomotion, contact force, and contact vibration. Three interchangeable end-effectors (a steel tooling ball, an OptoForce three-axis force sensor, and a SynTouch BioTac artificial fingertip) allow for different material properties at the contact point and provide additional tactile data. We then detail the calibration process for the motion and force sensing systems, as well as several proof-of-concept surface discrimination experiments that demonstrate the reliability of the device and the utility of the data it collects. This thesis then presents a large-scale dataset of multimodal surface interaction recordings, including 357 unique surfaces such as furniture, fabrics, outdoor fixtures, and items from several private and public material sample collections. Each surface was touched with one, two, or three end-effectors, comprising approximately one minute per end-effector of tapping and dragging at various forces and speeds. We hope that the larger community of robotics researchers will find broad applications for the published dataset. Lastly, we demonstrate an algorithm that learns to estimate haptic surface properties given visual input. Surfaces were rated on hardness, roughness, stickiness, and temperature by the human experimenter and by a pool of purely visual observers. Then we trained an algorithm to perform the same task as well as infer quantitative properties calculated from the haptic data. Overall, the task of predicting haptic properties from vision alone proved difficult for both humans and computers, but a hybrid algorithm using a deep neural network and a support vector machine achieved a correlation between expected and actual regression output between approximately ρ = 0.3 and ρ = 0.5 on previously unseen surfaces.

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Project Page [BibTex]

2018


Project Page [BibTex]


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Robust Visual Augmented Reality in Robot-Assisted Surgery

Forte, M. P.

Politecnico di Milano, Milan, Italy, July 2018, Department of Electronic, Information, and Biomedical Engineering (mastersthesis)

Abstract
The broader research objective of this line of research is to test the hypothesis that real-time stereo video analysis and augmented reality can increase safety and task efficiency in robot-assisted surgery. This master’s thesis aims to solve the first step needed to achieve this goal: the creation of a robust system that delivers the envisioned feedback to a surgeon while he or she controls a surgical robot that is identical to those used on human patients. Several approaches for applying augmented reality to da Vinci Surgical Systems have been proposed, but none of them entirely rely on a clinical robot; specifically, they require additional sensors, depend on access to the da Vinci API, are designed for a very specific task, or were tested on systems that are starkly different from those in clinical use. There has also been prior work that presents the real-world camera view and the computer graphics on separate screens, or not in real time. In other scenarios, the digital information is overlaid manually by the surgeons themselves or by computer scientists, rather than being generated automatically in response to the surgeon’s actions. We attempted to overcome the aforementioned constraints by acquiring input signals from the da Vinci stereo endoscope and providing augmented reality to the console in real time (less than 150 ms delay, including the 62 ms of inherent latency of the da Vinci). The potential benefits of the resulting system are broad because it was built to be general, rather than customized for any specific task. The entire platform is compatible with any generation of the da Vinci System and does not require a dVRK (da Vinci Research Kit) or access to the API. Thus, it can be applied to existing da Vinci Systems in operating rooms around the world.

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Project Page [BibTex]

Project Page [BibTex]

2017


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Mobile Microrobotics

Sitti, M.

Mobile Microrobotics, The MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, 2017 (book)

Abstract
Progress in micro- and nano-scale science and technology has created a demand for new microsystems for high-impact applications in healthcare, biotechnology, manufacturing, and mobile sensor networks. The new robotics field of microrobotics has emerged to extend our interactions and explorations to sub-millimeter scales. This is the first textbook on micron-scale mobile robotics, introducing the fundamentals of design, analysis, fabrication, and control, and drawing on case studies of existing approaches. The book covers the scaling laws that can be used to determine the dominant forces and effects at the micron scale; models forces acting on microrobots, including surface forces, friction, and viscous drag; and describes such possible microfabrication techniques as photo-lithography, bulk micromachining, and deep reactive ion etching. It presents on-board and remote sensing methods, noting that remote sensors are currently more feasible; studies possible on-board microactuators; discusses self-propulsion methods that use self-generated local gradients and fields or biological cells in liquid environments; and describes remote microrobot actuation methods for use in limited spaces such as inside the human body. It covers possible on-board powering methods, indispensable in future medical and other applications; locomotion methods for robots on surfaces, in liquids, in air, and on fluid-air interfaces; and the challenges of microrobot localization and control, in particular multi-robot control methods for magnetic microrobots. Finally, the book addresses current and future applications, including noninvasive medical diagnosis and treatment, environmental remediation, and scientific tools.

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Mobile Microrobotics By Metin Sitti - Chapter 1 (PDF) link (url) [BibTex]

2017


Mobile Microrobotics By Metin Sitti - Chapter 1 (PDF) link (url) [BibTex]

2012


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The Playful Machine - Theoretical Foundation and Practical Realization of Self-Organizing Robots

Der, R., Martius, G.

Springer, Berlin Heidelberg, 2012 (book)

Abstract
Autonomous robots may become our closest companions in the near future. While the technology for physically building such machines is already available today, a problem lies in the generation of the behavior for such complex machines. Nature proposes a solution: young children and higher animals learn to master their complex brain-body systems by playing. Can this be an option for robots? How can a machine be playful? The book provides answers by developing a general principle---homeokinesis, the dynamical symbiosis between brain, body, and environment---that is shown to drive robots to self-determined, individual development in a playful and obviously embodiment-related way: a dog-like robot starts playing with a barrier, eventually jumping or climbing over it; a snakebot develops coiling and jumping modes; humanoids develop climbing behaviors when fallen into a pit, or engage in wrestling-like scenarios when encountering an opponent. The book also develops guided self-organization, a new method that helps to make the playful machines fit for fulfilling tasks in the real world.

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link (url) [BibTex]

2010


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Goal-Oriented Control of Self-Organizing Behavior in Autonomous Robots

Martius, G.

Georg-August-Universität Göttingen, 2010 (phdthesis)

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link (url) [BibTex]

2010