Assistive Mobile Manipulation for Self-Care Tasks Around the Head

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Hawkins, Kelsey P.
Grice, Phillip M.
Chen, Tiffany L.
King, Chih-Hung
Kemp, Charles C.
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Human-scale mobile robots with arms have the potential to assist people with a variety of tasks. We present a proof-of-concept system that has enabled a person with severe quadriplegia named Henry Evans to shave himself in his own home using a general purpose mobile manipulator (PR2 from Willow Garage). The robot primarily provides assistance by holding a tool (e.g., an electric shaver) at user-specified locations around the user’s head, while he/she moves his/her head against it. If the robot detects forces inappropriate for the task (e.g., shaving), it withdraws the tool. The robot also holds a mirror with its other arm, so that the user can see what he/she is doing. For all aspects of the task, the robot and the human work together. The robot uses a series of distinct semi-autonomous subsystems during the task to navigate to poses next to the wheelchair, attain initial arm configurations, register a 3D model of the person’s head, move the tool to coarse semantically-labeled tool poses (e.g, “Cheek”), and finely position the tool via incremental movements. Notably, while moving the tool near the user’s head, the robot uses an ellipsoidal coordinate system attached to the 3D head model. In addition to describing the complete robotic system, we report results from Henry Evans using it to shave both sides of his face while sitting in his wheelchair at home. He found the process to be long (54 minutes) and the interface unintuitive. Yet, he also found the system to be comfortable to use, felt safe while using it, was satisfied with it, and preferred it to a human caregiver.
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