In service robotics, safe human-robot interaction (HRI) is still an open research topic, requiring developments both in hardware and in software as well as their integration. In UMAY1 and MEDICARE-C2projects, we addressed both mechanism design and perception aspects of a framework for safe HRI. Our first focus was to design variable stiffness joints for the robotic neck and arm to enable inherent compliance to protect a human collaborator. We demonstrate the advantages of variable stiffness actuators (VSA) in compliancy, safety, and energy efficiency with applications in exoskeleton and rehabilitation robotics. The variable-stiffness robotic neck mechanism was later scaled down and adopted in the robotic endoscope featuring hyper-redundancy. The hyper-redundant structures are more controllable, having efficient actuation and better feedback. Lastly, a smart robotic skin is introduced to explain the safety support via enhancement of tactile perception. Although it is developed for a hyper-redundant endoscopic robotic platform, the artificial skin can also be integrated in service robotics to provide multimodal tactile feedback. This chapter gives an overview of systems and their integration to attain a safer HRI. We follow a holistic approach for inherent compliancy via mechanism design (i.e., variable stiffness), precise control (i.e., hyper-redundancy), and multimodal tactile perception (i.e., smart robotic-skins).
Part of the book: Service Robotics