Robotic Guide Dogs May Displace Fido

Oh, roboticists, is there no limit to your ambition?

(REINS robot 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.The REINS project aims to map the communicational landscape in which humans (fire fighters, but also the visually impaired) might be working with robots, with the emphasis on tactile and haptic interaction. 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. A research question is whether the information should be explicitly encoded as messages or can remain implicit. In the initial 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.

Perhaps if firemen can have helpful robotic "hound" guidance, the disabled will get theirs, too.

Nights when things got dull, which was every night, the men slid down the brass poles, and set the ticking combinations of the olfactory system of the hound and let loose rats in the fire house areaway...


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