The demand from industry for a shared human robot work environment for safe human robot collaboration has increased tremendously in the past years. The most demanding requirement is to ensure the inherent safety of the human in such a work environment and to fulfill the technical specification ISO/TS15066 for collaborative robots in the industrial context. Current research approaches utilize vision based solutions in combination with sensors mounted on the robot manipulator to detect an approaching human. One drawback of these solutions is the occurrence of occlusions (“blind spots”) due to, e.g., robot manipulator movement. In such a situation, the robot needs to go into an intrinsically safe mode, i.e. it has to reduce the speed of the manipulator thus significantly reducing the productivity. Consequently, the lack or rather the major restrictions of the currently available perception sensor technology with respect to measurement speed, range and integrability, etc. prevents high motion speed of collaborative robots.
A central point of investigation in the project is the development of a novel perception sensor system, combining a variety of physical measurement principles (capacitive, ToF, etc.) in order to increase measurement rate, range, accuracy and resolution for position estimation and motion tracking in real time of a worker in the near surrounding of the workplace and robot manipulator. Furthermore, the new perception sensor system is fully integrated in the workplace and the robot manipulator. This new key technology enables the development of a Contactless and Safe Interaction Cell (CSIC), where a human can safely fulfill collaborative tasks jointly with a robot manipulator. Parts of the perception sensor are also utilized for a gesture based human robot interface. This allows for an intuitive interaction of the human with the robot manipulator, which will improve the user experience and increase the user acceptance. The user acceptance will be further fostered through the imitation of a human-human interaction behavior as the robot manipulator will mimic human behavior in the motion planning and control strategy of the robot manipulator. The new perception sensor technology will thus tremendously increase the operational speed of the robot manipulator in the CSIC further increasing the productivity of the collaborative human robot work cell while ensuring the safety of the human throughout the entire time and raising the human acceptance and user experience due to a human like intuitive interaction and control.