On 18th September, the European Commission took the historic step of signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the newly-formed EU Robotics AISBL. STIFF-FLOP partners Shadow Robot Company were there, and able to demonstrate the first prototypes of the STIFF-FLOP integration platform.
STIFF-FLOP attends EU Robotics PPP MoU signing
The neurophysiological basis of motor function in the octopus
An analysis of the neurobiology of motor control in the octopus must consider the octopus' special morphology.
Integration Platform Hardware Overview
The STIFF-FLOP hardware integration platform is a universal system for connecting input and output components to a PC running the Robot Operating System (ROS).
The connection is made via EtherCAT which allows for fast, high bandwidth, real time communication between the ROS software components and the attached hardware.
Real progress through virtual worlds
In the context of robotics, simulation brings the possibility of starting considering, implementing and validating control law even if the physical robotic system is not ready to be used. It is also considered as a convenient tool for development and validation, as a first stage before real deployment onto physical prototypes.
These aspects have motivated the Stiff-Flop project to consider the modeling of the robotic arm in a simulated environment. We are indeed considering the use of the SOFA framework (Simulation Open Framework Architecture) to realize this simulation. SOFA is an open source environment developed by INRIA, and dedicated to the real-time simulation of physical interaction in between elements, principally for medical applications.
Good progress in design of Octopus arm
A range of animal species with soft bodies, such as octopuses, or soft body parts (e.g. vertebrate tongue, elephant trunk) are capable to selectively control the stiffness of various parts of their body and thus, can exert stable forces on the environment. A soft manipulator mimicking the octopus arm is being developed in the framework of the OCTOPUS project at the BioRobotics Institute of Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna.
In the framework of the STIFF-FLOP project, the SSSA team is developing a highly dexterous soft manipulator able to locally control its stiffness, taking inspiration from biological “manipulators”, like the octopus arm and the elephant trunk. Many advantages can be introduced by the STIFF-FLOP manipulator in MIS, such as the ability to squeeze through narrow gaps and openings, inherent compliance leading to increased safety especially when in contact with humans, hyper-redundancy for improved reachability in an obstacle-cluttered environment and increased adaptability and stability in a possibly unpredictable environment.
The STIFF-FLOP arm structure, actuation strategy and stiffening mechanisms have been defined. It will be composed of three modules able to provide multidirectional bending and elongation, and to be stiffened in a controllable and selective way. Some prototypes have been fabricated and tested and are currently being characterized.
Seminar “Haptics for Education and Training in Dentistry”
A seminar in the field of “Haptics” was held at King’s College London on May 29th, 2012. The purpose was to exchange experience between the Centre of Flexible Learning in Dentistry who is involved in the project hapTEL™ and Prof. Kaspar Althoefer’s research team which is with the Centre for Robotics Research.
ROS-Workshop at the King's College London
The ROS workshop on 21st - 23rd May at the King's College London was successfully held by the Shadow Robot Company who introduced ROS as plattform for STIFF-FLOP. Hereby modular communication possibilities in ROS were presented. The integration of Hardware was demonstrated by embedding a wireless controller, that was used to control a first virtual model of a flexible manipulator.
The first part of the workshop was really dedicated to ROS itself, with lots of hand-on practice on how to write ROS code, interact with a ROS system, debug a running ROS system etc. The second part was specific to the Stiff-Flop project. Furthermore the Software System Map was discussed in more details, to make sure it matched as closely as possible the expectation of the system.
This was a very fruitful event where all participants collaborated toward a better understanding of the system as a whole. Videos for this workshop are available at: TODO insert link to videos.
The Shadow Robot Company is available to arrange ROS training workshops elsewhere.
Further information about ROS can be found at http://www.ros.org/wiki/.
Seminar “da Vinci based Surgery and da Vinci Try-out”
The workshop took place on 12th March 2012 at King’s College London and Guy’s Hospital, London.
Prof. Prokar Dasgupta kindly arranged a visit for the STIFF-FLOP consortium so that researchers were able to watch a live surgery based on the da Vinci robot and have some hands-on two days after the visit at his theatre. During the surgery, Prof. Dasgupta explained the procedure of the prostate surgery. He indicated the weakness of the da Vinci system and emphasised the challenges of STIFF-FLOP how to improve surgical robots in MIS.