Methodology for creating human-centered robots : design and system integration of a compliant mobile base
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Robots have growing potential to enter the daily lives of people at home, at work, and in cities, for a variety of service, care, and entertainment tasks. However, several challenges currently prevent widespread production and use of such human-centered robots. The goal of this thesis was first to help overcome one of these broad challenges: the lack of basic safety in human-robot physical interactions. Whole-body compliant control algorithms had been previously simulated that could allow safer movement of complex robots, such as humanoids, but no such robots had yet been documented to actually implement these algorithms. Therefore a wheeled humanoid robot "Dreamer" was developed to implement the algorithms and explore additional concepts in human-safe robotics. The lower mobile base part of Dreamer, dubbed "Trikey," is the focus of this work. Trikey was iteratively developed, undergoing cycles of concept generation, design, modeling, fabrication, integration, testing, and refinement. Test results showed that Trikey and Dreamer safely performed movements under whole-body compliant control, which is a novel achievement. Dreamer will be a platform for future research and education in new human-friendly traits and behaviors. Finally, this thesis attempts to address a second broad challenge to advancing the field: the lack of standard design methodology for human-centered robots. Based on the experience of building Trikey and Dreamer, a set of consistent design guidelines and metrics for the field are suggested. They account for the complex nature of such systems, which must address safety, performance, user-friendliness, and the capability for intelligent behavior.