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PerMIS 2008 Plenary Addresses

Prof. Sunil Kumar Agrawal
Department of Mechanical Engineering
University of Delaware, USA

Title: Robotic Exoskeletons for Gait Assistance and Training of the Motor Impaired

Abstract: Robotics is emerging as a promising tool for training of human functional movement. The current research in this area is focused primarily on upper extremity movements. This talk describes novel designs of three lower extremity exoskeletons, intended for gait assistance and training of motor-impaired patients. The design of each of these exoskeletons is novel and different. Force and position sensors on the exoskeleton provide feedback to the user during training. The exoskeletons have undergone tests on healthy and chronic stroke survivors to assess their potential for treadmill training. These results will be presented. GBO is a Gravity Balancing un-motorized Orthosis which can alter the gravity acting at the hip and knee joints during swing. ALEX is an Actively driven Leg Exoskeleton which can modulate the foot trajectory using motors at the joints. SUE is a bilateral Swing-assist Un-motorized Exoskeleton to propel the leg during gait. Videos of the training using theses exoskeletons are available on the website. This research was supported by NIH through a BRP program.

Biography: Sunil K. Agrawal received a Ph.D. degree in Mechanical Engineering from Stanford University in 1990. He is currently the Director of Mechanical Systems Laboratory. He has published close to 200 journal and conference papers and 2 books in the areas of controlled mechanical systems, dynamic optimization, and robotics. Dr. Agrawal is a Fellow of the ASME and his other honors include a Presidential Faculty Fellowship from the White House in 1994, a Bessel Prize from Germany in 2003, and a Humboldt US Senior Scientist Award in 2007. He has served on editorial boards of numerous journals published by ASME and IEEE.

Prof. Alonzo Kelly
Robotics Institute
Carnegie Mellon University, USA

Title: Various Tradeoffs and Metrics of Performance for Field Robots

Abstract: A mature systems engineering discipline is exemplified by aerospace engineering where purpose-built vehicles are designed while regularly consulting system level performance models to help guide the design optimization process. Robotics has not yet identified such rich and universal performance models but useful performance models do arise naturally in the performance of the work. This talk will discuss a large number of field robotic systems in an attempt to identify some system level constraints, tradeoffs and metrics which seem to be valuable in formulating the quest for an optimal system. Examples include the hard constraints of safe real-time replanning, the optimal update rate of a visual servo, the related tradeoff between systematic and random error accumulation in mapping, and the relative completeness of planning search spaces and its affect on winning robot races.

Biography: Dr Alonzo Kelly is an associate professor at the Robotics Institute of Carnegie Mellon University. He has also worked as a member of the technical staff at MD Robotics, Canada and at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. His research typically concerns wheeled mobile robots operating in both structured and unstructured environments. His work spans many sub-specialties of mobile robots including control, position estimation, mapping, motion planning, simulation, and human interfaces. It also spans many application areas including outdoor unmanned ground vehicles, agricultural and mining vehicles, planetary rovers, and indoor automated guided vehicles.

Prof. Allison M. Okamura
The Johns Hopkins University
Department of Mechanical Engineering

Title: Haptics in Medical Robotics: Surgery, Simulation, and Rehabilitation

Abstract: Haptics is the science and technology of experiencing and creating touch sensations. This talk will examine the role of haptics in three types of medical systems: surgical robotics, surgical simulators, and rehabilitation robotics. Robot-assisted surgery can improve the outcomes of medical procedures by enhancing accuracy and minimally invasive access, thereby reducing patient trauma and recovery time. However, the current lack of force and tactile information is hypothesized to compromise system performance. With approaches ranging from psychophysical studies to control systems engineering, we are designing teleoperated robots capable of providing haptic feedback in challenging surgical environments. Haptic information is also needed for accurate surgical simulation. Surgical simulators present a safe and potentially effective method for surgical training, and can also be used in robot-assisted surgery for pre- and intra-operative planning. I will describe experiments to determine the mechanics of interaction between surgical instruments and tissues, as well as techniques for accurate patient-specific modeling. Finally, rehabilitation through robotically enabled orthotics and prosthetics inherently requires understanding and appropriate generation of haptic interactions. Our recent work in this area includes motor control augmentation with an exoskeleton robot, and studies of the role of haptic proprioception in prosthetic limb use.

Biography: Allison M. Okamura received the BS degree from the University of California at Berkeley in 1994, and the MS and PhD degrees from Stanford University in 1996 and 2000, respectively, all in mechanical engineering. She is currently an associate professor of mechanical engineering and the Decker Faculty Scholar at Johns Hopkins University. She is associate director of the Laboratory for Computational Sensing and Robotics and a thrust leader of the NSF Engineering Research Center for Computer-Integrated Surgical Systems and Technology. Her awards include the 2005 IEEE Robotics Automation Society Early Academic Career Award, the 2004 US NSF CAREER Award, the 2004 JHU George E. Owen Teaching Award, and the 2003 JHU Diversity Recognition Award. Her research interests are haptics, teleoperation, medical robotics, virtual environments and simulators, prosthetics, rehabilitation engineering, and engineering education.

Prof. Dr. Erwin Prassler
B-IT Bonn-Aachen International Center for Information Technology
Applied Science Institute
FB2 Autonomous Systems
Grantham-Allee 20, D-53757 Sankt Augustin, Germany

Title: Incremental Integration, Evaluation, and Harmonization of Components of a Reference Platform for Service Robotics

Abstract: In industrial robotics system integration is a rather common business. Robot manufacturers typically teame up with a number of so-called system integrators, which design robot cells, assembly lines and entire manufacturing plants out of "standardized" components, such as manipulators, sensors, tools, and conveyor systems.

In service robotics the situation is in no way comparable. Service robots are typically considered as mass products, which are designed like dish washers or play stations. System integration is simply part of the regular product design.

It would be rather irrelevant to discuss this issue any further, if the design of a service robot for some specific application was a task like the design of a dish washer. As a matter of fact, the two tasks have not much if anything at all in common.

The design of a service robot is more the result of the ingenuity of an engineer rather of established procedures or methodologies or even technologies. Typically every new service robot is design from scratch. Not too seldom, the service task itself and the operational constraints are not too well understood, neither is the business model under which the automation of a service could become an economic success. A plenitude of components such as sensors, actuators, operating systems, algorithms are available but no common recipe for integrating and compiling them into a competitive product.

Service robotics today is in a situation very much comparable to the situation of the car industry in 1885, when Carl Benz built the first car. The industry is virtually not existing. Potential players and investors are skeptical because not only a realistic market but also a realistic technology assessment gives them a rather fuzzy picture.

This situation has motivated the German Ministry for Education and Research to invest into a so-called technology platform for service robotics. Other funding agencies such as the European Commission are implementing similar initiatives.

In my presentation I will talk about the German Service Robotics Initiative, which as a major activity pushes the development of such a technology platform. The platform is considered as a vehicle for understanding and managing the requirements for system integration in service robotics. I will talk about a first approach of this Initiative to incrementally integrate, evaluate and harmonize available off the shelf components and their interfaces to simplify and accelerate the development of new service robots. I will also talk about the lessons learned in this Initiative and how they are currently being picked up in other initiatives to promote the development of harmonized and/or standardized building blocks for service robots.

Biography: Erwin Prassler received a master's degree in Computer Science from the Technical University of Munich in 1985 and a Ph.D. in Computer Science from the University of Ulm in March 1996. For his doctoral dissertation he received the AKI dissertation award in September 1997. Between 1986 and 1989, Dr. Prassler held positions as a member of the scientific staff at the Technical University of Munich and as a guest researcher in the Computer Science Department at the University of Toronto. In fall 1989, he joined the Research Institute for Applied Knowledge Processing (FAW) in Ulm, where he headed a research group working in the field of mobile robots and service robotics between 1994 and 2003. In 1999, Dr. Prassler entered a joint affiliation with Gesellschaft fur Produktionssysteme (GPS) in Stuttgart, where directed the department for Project Management and Technology Transfer. In this function, Dr. Prassler coordinated the MORPHA project (Interaction and Communication between Humans and Intelligent Robot Assistents, one of six national research projects in the field of Human Machine Interaction funded by the German Ministry for Education and Research. In March 2004, Dr. Prassler was appointed as an Associate Professor at the Bonn-Aachen International Center for Information Technology. Together with Prof. Rolf Dieter Schraft, director of Fraunhofer IPA in Stuttgart, he is currently co-ordinating the German Service Robotice Initiatve DESIRE (, a joint national research project involving 7 academic and 6 industrial partners.

Mr. Alan Schultz
Director, Navy Center for Applied Research in Artificial Intelligence (NCARAI)
Washington, DC, USA

Title: Cognitively enhanced intelligent systems

Abstract: We hypothesize that adding computational cognitive reasoning components to intelligent systems will result in three benefits:
Most if not all intelligent systems must interact with humans, who are the ultimate users of these systems. Giving the system cognitive models can enhance the human-system interface by allowing more common ground in the form of cognitively plausible representations and qualitative reasoning. By using cognitive models, reasoning mechanisms and representations, we believe that we can yield a more effective and efficient interface that accommodates the user.

Since the resulting system in interacting with the human, giving it behaviors that are more natural to the human can also result in more natural interactions between the human and the intelligent system. For example, mobile robots that must work collaboratively with humans can actually result in less effective interactions if its behaviors are alien or non-intuitive to the human. By incorporating cognitive models, we can develop systems whose behavior is more expected and natural.

One key interest is in measuring the performance of intelligent systems. We propose that an intelligent system that is cognitively enhanced can be more directly compared to human level performance. Further, if cognitive models of human performance have been developed in creating the intelligent system, we can directly compare the intelligent systems behavior and performance in the task to the human subject behavior and performance.

In this talk, I will present several instantiations of developing cognitively enhanced intelligent systems.

Biography: Alan C. Schultz is the Director of the Navy Center for Applied Research in Artificial Intelligence at the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, DC. His research is in the areas of human-robot interaction, cognitive robotics, evolutionary robotics, learning in robotic systems, and adaptive systems. He is the recipient of an Alan Berman Research Publication Award, and has published over 90 articles on HRI, machine learning and robotics. Alan is currently the co-chair of the AAAI Symposia Series, and chaired the 1999 and 2000 AAAI Mobil Robot Competition and Exhibitions.