VIDEO:  Industrial robots find new safety mechanisms through immersive virtual reality

03/10/2014 - 00:00

We are interested in understanding how virtual reality can be used for robotic systems. This research will attempt to answer that question. Some hypotheses about how virtual reality can be useful for robotics are:
Improved presence: the user can have a similar experience when interacting with the robot as if they were performing tasks in the real world.  This can also involve improved situational awareness.  As well, because the user can now be represented in a first person mapping to the robot, we can utilize the user’s proprioceptive to accomplish tasks in a more natural way. Virtual reality can allow the user to interact with information about the robot or task in a more effective way.  Virtual displays can give situationally appropriate information in a visual location that has meaning; for instance, a message about the robot could be displayed on or near the robot.  Also, virtual objects and tools can provide information.  For instance, a virtual box can identify an object as something the robot can manipulate, or handing the robot a virtual tool now gives the robot information about how that tool works and what the robot should do with it. Safety: Even human-safe robots are often put in environments (such as near heavy machinery) that are themselves dangerous.  This means that though the user is able to physically train a robot, the environment prevents that.  Virtual reality provides the same “grab and move” programming capacity without requiring any physical contact.