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In aging societies, there is a strong demand for robotics to tackle problems resulting from the aging population. We have developed a prototype nursing-care assistant robot, RIBA, which was designed to come in direct contact with patients and conduct physically challenging tasks. RIBA interacts with its object, typically a human, through multiple and distributed contact regions on its arms and body. To obtain information on such whole-body contact, RIBA has tactile sensors on a wide area of its arms. The regions where hard contact with the manipulated person may occur have almost flat surfaces, leading to surface contact involving a finite area, in order to reduce contact pressure and not to cause the person's pain. When controlling the position and orientation of the person, the relative positions and orientations of the distributed contacting surfaces should be preserved as far as possible to maintain stable contact and not to graze the person's skin. Preserving the force and the pressure pattern of each contact region using tactile feedback is also important to provide stable and comfortable human-robot physical interaction. In this paper, we propose a whole-body contact manipulation method using tactile information to meet these requirements.
Date of Conference: 25-30 Sept. 2011