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Improving the Capabilities of Humanoid Robots in Nuclear Facilities

ECE Associate Professor Taskin Padir, in collaboration with Holly Yanco from University of Massachusetts Lowell, was awarded a $400K NSF grant for the “Cooperative Control of Humanoid Robots for Remote Operations in Nuclear Environments”


Abstract Source: NSF

As the enabling technologies mature, humanoid robots will find numerous practical applications, as personal assistants in the home, first-responders in disaster relief, and as pre-deployed space exploration assets. This project will advance the capabilities of NASA’s humanoid robot, Valkyrie, to replace human hands for safe and risk-averse operations in existing science gloveboxes commonly found in nuclear facilities. The project is motivated by the fact that the dirty, dull and dangerous tasks ideal for human-supervised robots are extensively found in thousands of gloveboxes being used today. The risk-averse control framework for humanoid robots will provide significant contributions to robotics and robot manipulation fields; the resulting technologies will also significantly improve the safety of humans, accuracy of operations, and cost-effectiveness associated with operations in high-consequence material handling applications. Successful completion of this project will not only progress the technological readiness of humanoids for practical applications but also will contribute new knowledge to the field including how to translate human commands to safe robot control methods. The project will create programs and tools to train a workforce with new skills including teleoperation and interface design.

The research goals of the project will make novel contributions to the fields of constrained robot manipulation and human-robot interaction. Specifically, this project will (1) validate a human-supervised control framework for the risk-averse and intuitive operation of NASA’s humanoid robot, Valkyrie, performing common tasks found in science gloveboxes such as pushing and sliding objects to the discharge ports; (2) develop theory and practice for perception based robot manipulation and design novel solutions to handle uncertainty, blend motion/force planning with high-level human input and ambient intelligence to robustly execute practical tasks; (3) introduce and refine the operational principles and evaluate safety significance of deploying humanoids in nuclear operations; (4) develop new paradigms for applicability of humanoid robots in nuclear clean-up by optimizing performance on a task-by-task basis. The project outcomes will create new approaches in addressing multidisciplinary challenges at the intersection of hardware/software co-design, control theory, robotics, and human-robot interaction.

Related Departments:Electrical & Computer Engineering