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Series Viscoelastic Actuators Can Match Human Force Perception

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6 Author(s)
Parietti, F. ; Robot. Inst., Carnegie Mellon Univ., Pittsburgh, PA, USA ; Baud-Bovy, G. ; Gatti, E. ; Riener, R.
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Series elastic actuators (SEAs) are frequently used for force control in haptic interaction, because they decouple actuator inertia from the end effector by a compliant element. This element is usually a metal spring or beam, where the static force-deformation relationship offers a cheap force sensor. For high-precision force control, however, the remaining small inertia of this elastic element and of the end effector still limit the sensing performance and rendering transparency. Here, we extend the concept to deformable end effectors manufactured of viscoelastic materials. These materials offer the advantage of extremely low mass at high maximum deformation and applicable load. However, force and deformation are no longer statically related, and history of force and deformation has to be accounted for. We describe an observer-based solution, which allows drift-free force measurement with high accuracy and precision. Although the description of the viscoelastic behavior involves higher-order derivatives, the proposed observer does not require any numerical differentiation. This new integrated concept of sensing and actuation, called series viscoelastic actuator (SVA), is applied to our high-precision haptic device OSVALD, which is targeted at perception experiments that require sensing and rendering of forces in the range of the human tactile threshold. User-device interaction force is controlled using state-of-the-art control strategies of SEAs. Force estimation and force control performance are evaluated experimentally and prove to be compatible with the intended applications, showing that SVAs open up new possibilities for the use of series compliance and damping in high-precision haptic interfaces.

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Mechatronics, IEEE/ASME Transactions on  (Volume:16 ,  Issue: 5 )