In order for robots to expand into new applications, especially in small- and medium-sized enterprises, it will be necessary to reduce the space and cost taken up by the safety interlocks required on current manipulators to ensure safety of human workers. A major enabler will be the use of sensors to take the place of such barriers. We are interested in sensors that can be positioned in the environment surrounding a manipulator, or within the manipulator itself, and algorithms that process the sensor data to determine situations when the robot needs to alter its behavior. Applications are not only as a means of ensuring safety, but also to allow humans and robots to share the workspace while jointly carrying out a task. We are also working on developing performance measures that will guarantee the safety of the sensory system and new standards for robot safety in this more flexible environment.
Available resources include robot manipulators and actuators within a full-scale industrial robotic test bed, and video cameras, range cameras, laser-, and stereo-based range sensors. Also available is a high precision laser tracker that can measure six degree of freedom pose ([x,y,z] and yaw, pitch, roll) of static or moving components.