End-Effector for a Wheelchair-Mounted Robotic Arm (WMRA).

The purpose of this Project was to take a step back from the more “classic” Robotic End-Effector Design Solutions, using the current achievements as a foundation of knowledge, re-approaching the Design Process in a fresh manner in order to expand and enhance the spectrum of functionalities available to the end user.

The Face Of Robin Read.

Robin Read

robin.g.read@gmail.com  

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Upon arriving at Middlesex, I wasn't really sure what area in the Design/Engineering community I wanted to work in. A Heavy exposure to Mechatronics in my second year made me realize where my passion reallylay.

I retain general interests in Design and Engineering, but my real excitement lies is within the rapidly growing Robotics community. My interests within this field are systems that provide Assistance and Rehabilitation in application, however I am still a very firm believer that Robotics has a massive scope of potential within many aspects of the Human Society.

 

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My particular passion and drive stems from knowing that a solution is never perfect, and can always be improved and used as a foundation for further work and exploring new concepts and principals. This effectively makes up the fundamental core of my excitement within Design, analyzing and understanding what has already been achieved in order to progress towards the “ultimate” solution, even though you may never get there, the closer the better!


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Robin’s Exhibition Information.

My Degree Project falls into the field of Rehabilitation Robotics. In short, my brief was to Design and Develop a new Robotic "Gripper" for a Wheelchair Mounted Robotic Arm (WMRA) for use by severely Disabled Individuals with little or no movement or their upper extremities with the aim of increasing their autonomy and personal abilities within our society.
My Initial Research took to to the Netherlands on two occasions. Firstly to visit Exact Dyanamics, manufactures of the Manus ARM and world leader in this specific technology. I later then met with a user of the Manus system in order to gain a high understanding of the their perspective on the system.
The final system has functionalities that allow the user to achieve a much wider range of Activities of Daily Living (ADL) that would previously require assistance from a carer or be impossible for them, such as turning pages of a book, opening bottles/jars and manipulating very small objects .

A Patent has now been applied for and is awaiting results from the UK Intellectual Property Office.

  • Rehabilitation Robotics.
  • The Motivation.
  • Initial Project Directions.

Rehabilitation Robotics is a small, specialized field within the rapidly growing Robotics Industry that fundamentally seeks to improve the overall independence and quality of life of severely disabled individuals by providing suitable technological solutions that allow the user to interact with their surrounding environment with a higher degree of autonomy.

Due to the very intimate relationship between the User and the Robot and demanding requirements, this field provides an extensive and vigorous testing ground for Human-Robot Interaction.

This project has been aimed at tackling the lacking functionality of current WMRA End-Effector Solutions and also the issue of lacking Product Development within this field of Robotics. The world leading system, the Manus ARM has been available since the mid 80’s and as not been replaced or made obsolete by any newer products even though extensive research has been untaken towards developing this field.

The initial research undertaken concluded three potential conceptual directions of focus that the project might take:


  • Gripper Functionality. Current Parallel-Jaw End-Effector solutions tend to lack overall functionality, fundamentally placing to an increased cognitive load upon the user. By increasing the versatility of a Design one hopes that a larger range of ADL tasks can be achieved with greater ease to the user.

  • Feedback via a User Interface. Due to handicap, many disabled people loose an innate ability for their bodies to provide vital data that is processed in order for manipulation tasks to be carried out effectively and efficiently. By introducing a computer system that employs a range of sensors that obtain and communicate this data via a User Interface, the user can build up a greater understanding of how the End-Effector is interacting with an object.

  • Semi-Autonomous Behaviors. This direction follows on from the pervious concept and is aimed at processing data input via a range of sensors within an End-Effector in order to mimic abilities that have been lost through handicap, such as the ability to feel grasp force or slip.

It was decided that the Griper Functionality direction would be pursued; with the reasoning that following a potential mix of two or more of the directions would be impractical choice to make due to the time restrictions.