PROMOTING RELIABLE HUMAN-ROBOT INTERACTIONS VIA AN INTERACTION MANAGER APPLICATION.
Human-Robot Interactions (HRI) have a leading role in hybrid human-robot collaborative environments (i.e recycling plants for Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment, WEEE. See https://www.hr-recycler.eu/), where qualified human workers need to interact with their robotic co-workers reliably and effectively. However, in this type of hybrid environment, HRI becomes challenging given the complexity of the agents involved, the work to be done, and the environment where the interactions occur.
To assure effective and safe interactions in the context of HR-Recycler, at IBEC (https://specs-lab.com/) we are developing a control module able to orchestrate bidirectional interactions between human workers and their robotic counterparts. For this purpose, an Interaction Manager has been designed to inform the human worker about the state of its workplace.
The Interaction Manager is integrated within a ROS infrastructure from which has access to other cognitive modules’ information, such as the Worker Model, the Moral Engine or the Task Planner. Additionally, the Interaction Manager provides a visual interface that allows the humans in the working environment (the recycling plant) to interact with the non-human agents via a tablet device (Figure 1).
Figure 1. Tablet with the HR-Recycler Interaction Manager App displaying information regarding worker’s demographics, moral preferences and status of the Task Planner.
This application visualizes the worker’s information when detected by SADAKO’s computer-based vision modules. Specifically, the worker’s ID, role, language, and trust level is provided by the Worker Model. Moreover, once the worker is identified and the Moral Engine adjusts the robot’s actuation speed and the safety distance, these personalized parameters are shown in the tablet, allowing the worker to better understand the robot’s performance.
The workflow status of the a-cell has been divided into two disassembling parts allowing the agents involved to work in parallel. In the “Disassembling Process A”, the robot’s workflow state is displayed by querying the Task Planner current status. Moreover, a progress bar reports how far is the robot to complete its disassembling process. The “Disassembling Process B” panel will enable the worker to notify when the device has been fully disassembled.
Importantly, the HR-Recycler’s Interaction Manager anticipates that human-robot interactions will not always occur in trouble-free situations. Given the complexity of disassembling tasks that robots must perform, some additional difficulties may arise, which will be notified by an alert panel reporting the error code and its source (Figure 2). Then it is time for the human worker to decide how the problem will be solved. To that end, relevant options are displayed and the selected solution will be sent back to the Task Planner.
Figure 2. Task Planner alert message providing information of the problem source and offering options to proceed.
Another source of exceptions in the normal workflow is the violation of personalized safety measures. In the case that the human worker surpasses the Human-Robot safety distance, another alert panel is dedicated to reporting such an event (Figure 3). In this case, the robot normal functioning will not be resumed until the current distance to the robot exceeds the safety threshold. Both distances are displayed in real-time.
Figure 3. Moral Engine test at Sadako’s WEEE reproduced recycling plant. The moral alert message reports that the safety threshold has been crossed.
Future developments on the Interaction Manager visual interface will include the automatic personalization of language settings and feedback provision from other Interaction Manager functionalities, such as the recognition of gesture-based HRI. Altogether, this Interaction Manager application and its tablet interface will serve as an additional communication channel ensuring reliable and effective Human-Robot Interaction, considering real-time environmental demands and being adaptive to each worker’s preferences.