Rescue robots could be incredibly useful tools in the future, diving into situations too dangerous for humans. But if you’ve seen current-generation robots try to tackle these sorts of scenarios, you’ll know even the most advanced lack the coordination and flexibility of movement required. To fix this, a group of researchers from Japan are trying a new method of robot-control, letting a human operate a bot essentially like a giant puppet.
This sort of remote control system isn’t new, and usually comes under a branch of research known as “telepresence.” However, scientists from the University of Tokyo say their method (presented last month at the IROS conference) is more advanced than predecessors’. Earlier systems used smaller robots or only controlled the upper half of the bot; theirs controls an entire robot as big as an adult human, using controllers from HTC virtual reality Vive system.
The Vive’s “lighthouse” sensors are used to track its controllers in 3D space using infrared light. By strapping a controller to each foot and hand, the researchers were able to map their movements and send them as commands to their robot. The really clever part, though, is the intermediary software that ensures any motion sent to the robot are tweaked to fit its capabilities.
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