Haptic Feedback System for Robots in Harsh Environments

To develop a haptic feedback system for robots operating in harsh environments (e.g., space and nuclear)
Description of the Project: 

Space and nuclear robots are exposed to significant amounts of radiation which can lead to errors and system-crippling failures with great losses in economy.

The limited human intervention for safe operation necessitates the need for a remotely connected haptic feedback system to aid human-robot interactions.

Processing data streamed from multiple sensors (including audio and video sensors) in real-time and providing sensory haptic feedback to a remote controller require high performance. Conventional data processors (e.g., CPUs, DSPs, and GPUs) are limited in performance and are in general, more power-hungry compared to reconfigurable hardware devices.

A reconfigurable-hardware-based computation engine would provide higher levels of performance, lower power consumption, flexibility, real-time response, and robustness. As such, the proposed research will involve the use of a dynamic hardware computer architecture for haptic feedback in robotic control.

The proposed haptic feedback system will have components on the robot and on a remote human-operated controller, with remote connection provided by various technologies like Wi-Fi, internet, and custom RF solution, depending on proximity and safety requirements.

Owing to the hazardous nature of space or nuclear environments, the haptic feedback computing device on the robot will have to be radiation-tolerant. In addition, because of the requirement for safe and reliable operation of the robot, and the limited situational awareness of the remotely-located operator, some form of (semi)autonomy would be required on the part of the robot.

Therefore, as errors emerge, the haptic feedback controller in the robot should ideally be able to, in conjunction with the robot’s main processor adapt and make its own decisions on what to do next, preserving the integrity and safe operation of the robot even in the absence of human interaction.

The project will adopt/adapt state-of-the-art techniques for radiation hardening by design (e.g., triple modular redundancy, scrubbing, on-chip circuit relocation) and develop custom fault-tolerant algorithms to improve reliability in the proposed feedback system.

A complete system (including a haptic feedback controller and a robot) will be set up to demonstrate human-robot safe interaction.

Resources required: 
Development boards; RF connectivity modules; IoT modules; Human interface (e.g., joystick with haptic feedback); Robot (or access to an existing robot)
Project number: 
First Supervisor: 
University of Edinburgh
Second Supervisor(s): 
First supervisor university: 
University of Edinburgh
Essential skills and knowledge: 
Proficiency in HDL coding, preferably, in VHDL; Proficiency in C/C++ programming language
Desirable skills and knowledge: 
Familiarity with SoC-based designs and concepts; Prior experience with fault-tolerant designs; Experience with robot/robotic platform development

•  Adetomi, G. Enemali, X. Iturbe, D. Keymeulen, and T. Arslan, ‘R3TOS-Based Integrated Modular Space Avionics for On-Board Real-Time Data Processing’, in 2018 NASA/ESA Conference on Adaptive Hardware and Systems (AHS), 2018, pp. 1–8.

•  X. Iturbe et al., ‘R3TOS: A Novel Reliable Reconfigurable Real-Time Operating System for Highly Adaptive, Efficient, and Dependable Computing on FPGAs’, IEEE Trans. Comput., 2013, vol. 62, no. 8, pp. 1542–1556.