Tele-Operation of a Mobile Robot Through Haptic

Nicola Diolaiti, Claudio Melchiorri


- Dept. of Electronics, Computer Science and
University of Bologna - Italy


Email: { ndiolniti, oiielchior-ri}@deis.unibo. it

Absmcr- Teleoperation system have been developed in order
to allow a human operator to perform complex tasks in remote
environments. Mobile robots can be considered as a particular
example of tclenianipulation systems, since they can be operated remotely to perform particular tasks. As an example, the
inspection of underwater structures and the removal of mines
are performed by mobile platforms controlled by a remote
operator, which generally takes advantage only of the visual
feedback provided by vision systems. In this sense, the nature
and completeness of the data provided to the operator about the
state of the remote system are of crucial importance for proper
task execution, and it is generally accepted that a more efficient
achievement of the task can be obtained by increasing the number
of data feedback and by using proper MMI. In this paper,
the use of a haptic interface is proposed in order to increase
the user’s perception of the workspace of the mobile robot. In
particular, a virtual interaction force is computed on the basis
of obstacles surrounding the mobile vehicle in order to prevent
dangerous contacts, so that navigation tasks can be carried out
with generally better performances. In addition, passivity of the
overall system is taken into account, so that stability of the virtual
interaction is guaranteed.

Tclcopcratcd mobile robots arc widcly uscd in order to carry
out complex tasks in hazardous cnvironnients: well known
cxamples arc c.g. tlic inspection of undcrwatcr structurcs [ 11,
deminitig operations [2], or cleaning nuclcar plants [3].
In this type of apparatus, often the rciiiote operator can take
advantage only of visual information about the cnviroiimciit
and in the majority of the cases they arc not sufficient to
carry out complex tasks because of the limited visual fields
of cameras. Thereforc, besides the possibility of errors and
failure of the task, remote telcopcrations turn out to be tiring
activities rcquiring a specific training to the human operator.
In [4] it is discussed how more sophisticated man-machine
interfaces can improve the performances of the ovcrall system
by augmenting the number and quality of data fccdback from
the remote environment. In particular, a noticcablc reduction of
operator’s stress and of task errors can bc achieved by means
of a haptic device that allow thc opcrator to perceive forccs

0-7803-7635-8/02/$17.00 02002 IEEE


rclatcd to obstacles surrounding the mobilc robot. Another
application of this concept can be found in [5], whcrc a force
scnsor is mounted on a mobile vchicle in order to measurc
thc contact forcc with objects that have to bc shifted from a
place to another. By means of a suitable MMI, thc uscr can
pcrccivc tlic incasurcd force and therefore he can detect is the
object is blocked by an obstaclc.
In [6], the distancc from obstacles, measured by a laser
scanner mounted on a mobile robot, is used to compute a
repulsive force that is rcndercd to thc human operator by
means of a haptic interface. The haptic device is also used
to control the robot motion. In addition, authors present some
experimcntal rcsults, confirming that the augmented perception
of thc environmcnt surrounding thc vehicle rcduccs the number
of collisions with obstaclcs.
In this papcr, the problem of safely controlling a remote
mobile platform is addressed. Scveral important aspects are
considcrcd: the nonholoiiomic constraitit of the mobile robot,
tlic need to dctcct by means of low-cost sensors the prcscncc
of obstacles, the stability of the ovcrall systcm, thc possible
presence of communication time dclays. For thcsc reasons,
passivity is considcrcd a fundamental aspect in thc proposed
control strategy. In particular, an IPC (Intrinsically Passive
Control) sclicmc is introduccd in order to provide passivity
also during interaction with unknown environments [7], [8].
The stnicturc of this papcr is the following. In Sec. I1
the telcopcration system is briefly described and some details
on the map-building algorithm are illustratcd. In Sec. I11
thc mobilc vchicle is modclled as a virtual mass subject to
forccs exerted by the operator and by the cnviromiicnt. These
interaction forccs arc dcscribcd in dctails in Scc. IV, where
also a model of the complete system is discussed. Simulations
and initial experimental tests are presented in Sec. V, while
Sec. VI concludes with final rcmarks.
11. O V E R V I E W O F T H E S Y S T E M
The teleopcration system considered in this paper is
schcmatically illustratcd in Fig. I . Data acquired by proper

In particular. the belief that the cell is occupied or free. 1.. 2. are affected by sevcral drawbacks. by incans of thc haptic dcvice. 111. By nicans of thc so callcd pigtiistic transformation it is possiblc to computc thc occupancy probability po of the cell: A . called castor. data provided by each sensor are filtered and then fused into a map of the environment surrounding the vehicle. Whcncvcr new mcasures are available from sonars. they are filtcrcd in order to reduce the influence of the poor angular resolution and of multiple reflections and thcn they are fused into thc gridmap by incans of the Dcmpster's ntlc of conibination [9]. Overview of the teleoperation system: the virtual interaction force computed on the basis of the local map is sent to the haptic interface. Initially. On the basis of this map and of the kinematic status of the vehicle. the map is represented by a grid of cells. Virtual intcrnction with obstacles virtual intcraction force is sent. to a PHANTOM haptic intcrfacc in ordcr to rcndcr to the operator thc fccling that tlic vchiclc is closc to an obstaclc. even if widely used in mobile robotics. that can be either empty or occupied by an obstacle. an algorithm based on the Transferable Belief Model [9] has been adopted because it is faster than standard probabilistic methods in detecting changes in the environment. all cells are unknown and their status is: s(0) := [O.y u . Note that the sum of the elements of tlic status vcctor has to be 1. indeed. These scnsors. ~lup-bLiildillgulgorilhnl Information about tlie environmcnt surrounding the mobile robot is acquired by mcans of 16 ultrasonic scnsors mounted on the Pioneer platform. whose position is used to compute motion commands sent to the mobile platform.g. Moreover. only cclls whose occupancy probability is greater than a fixcd threshold value are considered occupied and gcnerate a virtual interaction force on the mobile robot. Thercfore. reprcsents tlic position and the orientation of the vehicle with respect to a fixed reference frame. gcricratcs vclocity sct-points that are transmitted to thc mobile robot controllcr. The obstacle F-1 hlabilc Robot is associated to each cell of the grid: where s o and SJ= quantify. about 25 degrees) and multiple reflcctions of the acoustic wavc can occur so that a distance greater than the real one is measured by the sensor. Convcrscly.e. because it has two actuated wheels whose velocity difference gencrates the steering motion. According to these considcrations. CONTROL STRATEGY The Pioneer mobile platfomi used in this paper belongs to the class of two-wheeled robots. the kinematic niodel is expressed by: . 2.o. when e. emulating a physical contact by means of a virtual (repulsive) spring IC. In ordcr to reprcscnt the occupancy status of each cell. thc human opcmtor. is not actuated and is used to provide stability to the vehicle. Indccd. a great amount of contradiction is gcneratcd by the combination of the previously accumulated infomiation with new mcasurcs coming from scnsors. Finally. 1]T Fig. A third wheel. A vcctor s of basic belicf masses 68 Finally. is computed as shown in Fig.J L &IT L J where [x. the speed of sound limits the maximum sampling rate to about 50 ms. respectively. by nicans of a local network using the UDP protocol. while su quantifies the belief that the cell is unknown. o. a virtual interaction force Fe.Haptic interface Haptic control loop Map-Building and Robot Control Mobile robot Fig.e. and quantifies the lack of more detailed information. and a virtual damper b. and this fact can be used to quickly detect changes i n tlie environment [IO]. a previously occupied cell bccomcs frce. sonars) mounted on a Pioneer mobile robot are processed in order to build a local map of the surrounding obstacles. sensors (i. . thc measure of the position of an obstaclc is obtained with a poor angular resolution (i.. SV)represents tlie amount of contradictory information accumulated from sonars.

which is 8’ x [0. In the hypothesis that the two actuated wheels arc constrained to roll without slip over a horizontal plane. IV. Equations ( 5 ) and (6) lcad to the following conditions on tlie conversion constants: IG = (7) J$ In addition. In order to guarantee stability of the overall system and to consider the nonholonomic constraint of the mobile base. it can be easily concluded [ 1 I ] that the overall system is passive and therefore stable. 3). along the translation axis of tlie robot. Fig. i. mobile robot velocity set-points and tlie mobile robot is passive. 4. In the proposed control scheme.] [Vd. -sine. scc Fig. and the orthogonal componcnt U . ( t ) ]represents * the translational and rotational velocities. it cannot gcncratc energy.1j]’ bc thc vclocity of the mass expressed with respect to a fixed reference frame. accepts as input a velocity vector [u... Conversion of the mass velocity x b<f(t)>4 f ( t ) l T IO . the virtual mass m is assumed equal to the real mass M. Therefore. interaction forces exerted by the environment and the human operator are assumed to be applied onto thc virtual mass m. Therefore.e. if the interconnection between the virtual mass f ..In conclusion... this velocity vector is computed considering the planar velocity 2 of a virtual mass ‘rn subject to two forces: the interaction force F.Interaction FE operator Mobile Huplic Inferface Mass Conversion of velocities Fig.27r]. of the robot is equal to the kinctic energy E. = m. and the virtual force FE computed on the basis of tlie distance of the robot from the cnvironment (see Fig. the nonholonomic constraint has to be considered when modclling tlic virtual interaction with the environment. The robot low-level control .. In particular. 3 Scheme of the proposed control strategy and [ v ( t )~. . Let 2 = [ k . This goal can be achieved if the power supplied to the virtual mass is equal to the power supplied to the mobile robot. feasible trajectory for tlie mobile robots have to be tangent with its translation axis. I n a second step. ut can be interpreted as a translation command.. by supposing that the initial velocities both of the robot and of the mass m are null. 4. because obstacles located i n front of tlic robot arc more “dangerous” than the lateral ones. Indeed.. . without rcducing the set of possible configurations of the vehicle. this leads to Kt = 1 and I(. the mass mass velocity 2 is converted into tlic vector [u({(t)..f . velocity set-points are obtained as: (5) Assuming that the system is passive with respect to the virtual mass. .. the kinetic energy E. VIRTUALINTERACTION On the basis of the previous discussion. cxcrtcd by tlic human operator. wd(t)lT that is sent to tlic robot low-level controller. I n this manner. a passivity-based approach has been adopted in the design of the overall control strategy. Therefore. sin 0..that expresses the interconnection between the virtual mass and the real robot. 5 illustrates the forces applied to the virtual mass when a single obstacle is located near the mobile robot: Fe is the virtual interaction force gcnerated by the obstacle. of the mass ‘/I/ : wlicrc A l is the mass of the vehicle and J its inertia about tlie 2 axis. F o k is the . while ur can be interpreted as a request of rotation i n order to align the robot with the vector 2. the constraint of rolling without slipping is nonholonomic and implies that the translational velocity u ( t ) of the mobile robot is always orthogonal to the axis of tlie actuated wheels.w C l ( t ) l T representing tlie translational and rotational velocity to be actuated by tlie robot.I(t). are expressed by: [:I=[ cost?. a liolonomic motion of the virtual i n a horizontal planc is dcfincd. Fig. the stability of the overall system can be guaranteed if passivity is prcscrved by (9. 4. cost?. then its componcnt u t . WdlT [i] (4) As shown in Fig. in order to allow the human operator to perceive the correct inertia of the robot.

I. A . sec Fig. a repulsive potential is associated to each occupied cell surrounding tlie mobile robot. (see Fig. and hence of the robot.a larger damping action is exerted by frontal obstacles. = I(ILXh (13) where I<tL is determined as the ratio between the maximum velocity of the mobile robot and the maximum distance of the haptic device from tlie origin of its reference frame. the total force FE cxcited by the cnvil-onmcnt on . In this way. Note that the workspace of the mass (and of the robot) is a plane. Similarly to what happens for the elastic potential. no influence is exerted by obstacles located at a distance greater than re and the increase on damping force is a linear function of the distance JIx-xeII. 5. is defined by: where be is the damping coefficient. I n order to compute the total force FE exerted by the environment on thc virtual mass. is represented by: l o V&:= IC. 5 . shown in Fig. the superposition of forces produced by each ccll e E E has to be taken into account. modulated by a factor depending on the distance between the robot and the obstacle. has to depend on the angular position of the obstacle with respect to the translation axis of the vehicle. 111. exerted by a single occupied cell e E E . so that obstacles from the robot do not exert located at distmccs greater than I-. virtual mass and Fig. Elastic potential energy of an occupied cell On the other side. and therefore theoretically unlimited. environment force exerted by the human operator while F o b is a dissipative force used to inject damping into tlie overall system. a displacement of tlie haptic interface from the origin indicates a motion request for the mobile robot in that . As mcntioned in Sec. is: the virtual mass when (/x e€& B. The point x.k and a viscous friction Feb that dissipates energy in order to stabilizc tlie virtual interaction. we consider displacements of the tip of the interface with respect to an initial configuration as proportional to the desired velocity ko of the virtual mass. the total elastic potential energy stored in virtual springs. the instantaneous velocity of the mobile robot is aligned with its translation axis. in Fig.This means that the damping force Fel. so that a larger amount of damping is needed to prevent contact with obstacles located in front of the robot.In addition. represents the angle between the robot translation axis and tlie occupied cell so that. is generated by the superposition of an elastic rcpulsivc force F. a. is specified by tlie operator by means of the haptic interface. be respectively tlie position of the virtual mass rcprcscnting the mobile robot and of the occupicd ccll./I < T . On tlie other hand. Ititet~crc/iot~ \t. any repulsion force and their prescnce is not perceived by the operator. whose position x h is obviously limited by the geometric constraints of the device. 6. Let € be the set of all the occupied cells around tlie mobile robot. First of all it is possible to define a total damping coefficient that suiiimarizes the dissipation provided by each occupied cell e E €. firttial Force Generated by the Environtiient As described in Sec.i/h the Opemtot. a damping element is necessary in order to stabilizc the virtual interaction and to take into account the nonholonomic constraint. otherwise K(X.x. Therefore. The clastic potential energy associated to the cell. 11. F e b is defined as: IModel of the interaction between operator. According to these considerations. 70 k. has thc meaning of maximum distancc of influcncc. 6.Xe) (1 1) e€& where I(. In a similar way. by means of the factor Icosc~. 5 rcprcsents tlie dcsircd position of tlie virtual mass. The virtual force F.. Let x and x. I n this way. 7): h Fig. is tlie stiffness of the virtual spring and r . the desired position x.

the equation of motion of thc virtual mass is: rrix + ( b + B&)k . a small force is perceived by the human operator related to the tracking error due to tlie nonholonomic motion of tlie mobile robot.I. shown in Fig. it is clear that. 71 Fig. Initially. in case that an obstacle is on tlie desircd path (bj or near the desired path (c. Note that steps 2) and 3) are passive (the computations are madc on the basis of physical passive elements) and that 5) is also passive. cxccpt for what concerns angles CY.F u k + OV.!. there is no need to estimate the position and the velocity of thc mobile robot in ordcr to calculate the virtual interaction with the cnvironmcnt. the overall control strategy. = 0 (16) eCE Notice that the position and tlic velocity of thc virtual mass are pcrfcctly known because its motion is computed inside tlie control loop by integrating (16).F o k rendered to the operator is also shown.L 2) computation of the force generated by the operator and Fob. The force .2 mlsec.q l T . When tlie cnvironmcnt is completely free (a). 5) transformation of [ 3. Fig.IT in [vd. tlie translation axis of the mobile robot tcnds to be aligned with the vector k. can be summarized as follows: 1) computation of the virtual interaction force FE on the basis of the map obtained from the sonars. tlie effcct . 1. by considering the instantaneous velocity of the virtual mass.k of interaction with the virtual mass. since eq. illustrated in Fig. a dcad zone around tlie origin of the rcfcrencc frame of tlic haptic devicc is considcrcd to filter trcmors of tlic hand of the user. (velocity k). Finally. 8. This is done by mcans of thc dissipative force F. Motion is counter-clockwise. I n addition.v . Howevcr. Finally. 4) transformation of li: in [wt. 7.k 3) computation of the holonomic motion of the virtual mass m subject to the forces FE and F. SIMULATIONS AND EXPERIMENTAL RESULTS The applicability of tlie proposed algorithm has been tested at a simulation level and by means of the experimental sctup shown i n Fig. while -FOk is the force perccived by the operator. so that it is possible to compute a . simulations have bccn performcd in ordcr to cvaluate tlic bcliavior of the system i n a free environmcnt and to test the tracking properties with rcspect to a rcfcrcncc trajcctory rcquested by tlic opcrator. thc force F. after an initial transient. In conclusion. excrtcd by tlie damper b: Fob(k) -bk (15) v. + mobile robot . First of all. Model of the Overall Interaction Notc that tlie overall system is passive bccausc tlie virtual springs storc conscrvativc cncrgy whilc the virtual dampcrs ( 5 ) docs not inject provide dissipation and the int~rconn~ction additional cncrgy in the mobile robot. that rcndcrs the cnvironmcnt around thc niobilc robot. since trajectories followed by tlie human opcrator arc necessarily continuous. the vehicle is locatcd in the origin with its translation axis horizontal. rcprescnts tlic force cxcrtcd by the human opcrator onto tlie virtual mass 711. in such a way that passivity is preserved. When an obstacle is located on the reference path. is computed as: where KO is tlic stiffness of the linear spring. it is neccssary to inject an adequate damping in ordcr to stabilize the motion of tlic virtual mass [7]..w. Fig. ] ~ . by damping injection F. four situations in which tlie desired motion is circular path to be trackcd with constant velocity of 0. 5. (6) holds. Thercforc. 8 rcports C. 7) rendering of . Circular reference trajectory and rendered force in a free environment (a). = F. Notc that F. 6) transmission of [ w d r ~ d l Tto the low-level robot controller. Finally. Position of the haptic device and computation of xo particular direction and the rcquested velocity is proportional to the size llxhII of the displacement.F o k to the operator by means of the haptic interface.

” in Joiirn. rcpulsivc force F.” i n S f / E Telemun@rrlufor. pp. NO. USA. Spain. 100136. K.4 &sec (left) and of 0. Vendittelli. and passivity is guaranteed also for the mobile robot. rcscnrch REFERENCES Q. .fireapproach.Gain and passivity fechiqiies in nonlinear confrol. Barcelona. = 900 N/m. D.QsIeirn. Fig. Oriolo. Lce.” in Prucwdings ofl5th ITAC World Congress. cor^ on Advanced lntelligenf Mechafmnics. pp. 1992. and S. “Real-time map-building and navigation for autonomous robots in unknown environments. S. = 19. A. A sitnplc wall-following task i n a frec room has been chosen i n order to evaluate the improvement of perfornianccs providcd by forcc fccdback. October 2002. Roth. P. L2 . Schilling. G. 2. C O N C L U S I O N S AND FUTURE W O R K In this paper. Fig. K. The assumed distancc of influcnce is re = 1. Trajectory of the mobile robot in a wall following task. At the niomcnt. 5 . S.2 m. Lin and C. b = 30 Ns/m. 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I O (left) shows how this task is carried out by taking advantage only of visual infomiation providcd by thc map built with sonars: dimensions of the cells are 4 x 4 cm. ‘Telerobotic manipulalor for hazardous environments. and M.03 in-’ and IC. Stramigioli.” in IEEE Eansuctiuns 011 S~atcrns. 1999. However. NM. vol. Kt = 1.” in I’roceetlings of IEEE ln/ernafional Coiference on Robotics and Airtonrufiori. of the repulsive force Fe related to the obstacle is illustrated in (b). transmission delays are negligiblc bccause data arc exchanged over a local network.