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Overall Objectives

The project of the Auctus team is to design the collaborative robotics cells of the future.

The robotics community still tends to separate the cognitive (HRI) and physical (pHRI) aspects of human/robot interaction. One of the main challenges is to characterize the task as well as mechanical, physiological and cognitive capacities of humans in the form of physical constraints or objectives for the design of cobotized workstations. This design is understood in a large sense: the choice of the robot's architecture (cobot, exoskeleton, etc.), the dimensional design (human/robot workspace, trajectory calculation, etc.), the coupling mode (comanipulation, teleoperation, etc.) and control. The approach then requires the contributions of the human and social sciences to be considered in the same way as those of exact sciences. The topics considered are broad, ranging from cognitive sciences, ergonomics, human factors, biomechanics and robotics.

The first challenge is to evaluate the hardship at work, the well-being of the operators and, further upstream, their cognitive state which impacts their sensorimotor strategy for performing a task. In industry, the ergonomic analysis of the task is carried out by an ergonomist based on direct but often ad hoc observations. However, the context is changing: the digitization of factories, through the installation of on-site sensors, allows longitudinal observation of machines and humans. The information available can thus allow us to rethink the way in which the evaluation of activities is carried out. Currently, an emerging subdomain named ergonomic robotics adapts the available ergonomic evaluation criteria (RULA, REBA, etc.). However, they are related to the (quasi-static) posture of the operator, which limits the understanding of human motor strategies over a long period of time. Similarly, kinematic or biomechanical analysis may tend to see humans as a high-performance machine to be optimized. This may make sense for a top-level athlete, but repeating actions in the industry over a day, months or years of work means that a temporary change of posture, possibly poorly rated according to usual ergonomic criteria, can in fact be a good long-term strategy. These questions make a direct link between motor and cognitive aspects that can be reflected in particular strategies as the fatigue or the expertise (manual and cognitive). This approach has not been widely explored in robotics to determine the right criteria to adapt the behavior of a cobot.

The second challenge is to define a methodology to link the analysis of the task and the human movements it induces to the robot design. Indeed, as we have been able to verify on several occasions in the context of industrial projects, between the ergonomist, expert in task analysis and psychology, and the robotician, expert in mechanics, control and computer science, there is a significant conceptual distance that makes it very difficult to analyze needs and define the specifications of the technical solution. To fill these methodological gaps, it is necessary, on the basis of case studies, to better define the notion of tasks in the context of a human/robot coupling and to establish a typology of this type of interaction by taking into account, with as much details as possible, the different physical and cognitive constraints and their potential psychological, organizational or ethical impacts.

The third challenge is related to the need to think about the control laws of collaborative robots in terms of human/robot coupling. The effectiveness of this coupling requires an ability to predict future human actions. This prediction should make the interaction more intuitive but also aims at an optimal coupling from the point of view of “slow” phenomena such as fatigue. The major challenge is therefore to move from reactive to predictive control laws, integrating a human prediction model, both in terms of movement strategies and decision strategies. Beyond the great computational complexity of predictive approaches, obtaining prediction models is an ambitious challenge. It is indeed necessary to learn models that are quite complex in terms of the physical realities they can account for and quite simple from a computational point of view.

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