In recent years, there has been remarkable growth in the field of robotics and automation, offering exciting possibilities that could transform our work processes. Simultaneously, the growing field of human-robot interaction (HRI) has gained widespread interest, driven by continuous breakthroughs in robotics, artificial intelligence, and sensor technologies. These advancements have opened new avenues for the creation of highly capable humanoid robots that can be seamlessly integrated into human environments. HRI enables robots and humans to work together as a team and aims to maximize the strength of both humans and robots, leading the way to improved efficiency and productivity.
Repetition to Innovation: Introducing Robot Lab Assistants
In one of our many interesting integration projects, our team was tasked to create a humanoid robot that is able to operate in a lab environment. The goal was to enable the robot to manipulate a wide range of labware and equipment, ultimately streamlining repetitive experiments through automation.
In traditional lab settings, certain off-the-shelf parts are used for automation. However, this equipment is usually tailored for specific tasks and lacks the flexibility to be applied to diverse lab work. Enter the humanoid robot – an innovative solution that holds the potential of becoming the ideal lab assistant. By reducing reliance on lab technicians for repetitive tasks, the robot can alleviate tedious work, allowing technicians to focus on more critical and specialized tasks.
Building a Versatile Humanoid Robot
For the purpose of this project, we utilized the Ridgeback robot for its exceptional stability and omnidirectional functionality. Ridgeback is an indoor platform that is capable of smooth carrying and powering of heavy manipulators, as well as supporting equipment and sensors that would be required to perform useful lab work.
Our customer chose to incorporate a programmable lift column to the robot that provides vertical height adjustability. A ROS driver can be installed and configured to enable communication to send commands that control movement and provide feedback. This also allows the column to be integrated into the MoveIt! framework for advanced motion planning and manipulation tasks. The lift column enhances the robot’s flexibility allowing it to adjust its height and position when working at workstations or areas in the lab with varying heights.
Additionally, dual Kinova gen3 manipulators were added to the robot. Gen3 manipulators are lightweight yet still have enough payload capacity and maneuverability to manipulate small parts, making it ideal for a lab setting. They also feature RGB-D cameras on each wrist, which greatly help when grasping objects. The lift column provides the Gen3 arms expanded reach when interacting with the world. It gives the torso portion of the robot a height that is equivalent to 90% of the human adult population, giving it an advantage when working in human-centric environments. In addition to the IMU, Hokuyo liDAR and odometry sensors built into the Ridgeback base, an Ouster liDAR and ZED camera were added to navigate through human environments.
Check out the Ridgeback in action:
The robot also has the option to be upgraded with IndoorNav Autonomy Software. IndoorNav provides autonomous navigation in indoor environments with dynamic path planning, simultaneous localization and mapping (SLAM) and obstacle avoidance. IndoorNav can be seamlessly integrated with Ridgeback and other Clearpath mobile platforms.
Robotics for the Real World
This humanoid robot holds the potential to be utilized in various real-world situations including inventory scanning and organization, retrieving and delivering parts as well as simple cleaning operations. Its design makes it suitable to work with humans and in human environments. Furthermore, it can serve as a telepresence robot, bridging the gap between physical distances and remote communication. This design, therefore, provides a versatile solution in applications where a stable, dual-arm humanoid robot is required to perform practical tasks.
If you would like to learn more about Ridgeback, you can visit our website here.
You can learn more about IndoorNav Autonomy Software here.
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