Simplifying Robot Teleoperation with Constraints

During his internship at Willow Garage, Jonathan Brookshire from MIT developed a set of techniques to assist robot teleoperators with simple manipulation tasks.  

While teleoperating a robot during a manipulation task, a human operator is typically given full control over the robot’s end-effector.  Although full control is generally seen as advantageous, it can often provide too much freedom for the human operator.  When inserting a peg into a hole, for example, the peg can really only be moved up and down (e.g., motions to the left or right impossible).  We create a system where the user can define simple geometries and relationships to restrict certain kinds of motion.

Inspired by 3D modeling techniques, we create an interface where the human operator can define geometries (lines, planes, cylinders) and constraints between these geometries.   For example, the operator might specify a line affixed to a tool held by the robot and a plane affixed to a table top.  A simple perpendicular constraint can then be used to require that the tool always remain vertical to the table.  While the autonomous system constantly maintains the constraint, the user retains control of the remaining freedoms via teleoperation. 

Our goal with these technologies is to simplify teleoperated manipulation.  We enable the user to create simple constraints in real time and autonomously enforce those constraints, allowing them to focus on the relevant degrees of freedom.

For more information on our work on teleoperation please visit here.