Yue Hu, Mechanical and Mechatronics Engineering, University of Waterloo
From Robots and humans to Robots with humans: control and interaction
Science fiction often portrays robots as seamlessly integrated into human society, adeptly navigating complex environments with exceptional capabilities and "human-like" interactions. However, in reality, robots are typically confined to safe distances, enclosures, or isolated environments, separated from meaningful human interaction. Two distinct research directions have emerged in attempts to bridge the gap between humans and robots: physical Human-Robot Interaction (pHRI) and social Human-Robot Interaction (sHRI). Yet, these avenues have evolved independently, with pHRI primarily focusing on controller development for efficiency and safety, and sHRI centered on understanding human perception and mental states.
To achieve genuine coexistence and collaboration between robots and humans, a shift in perspective is necessary - active physical Human-Robot Interaction (active pHRI), which aims to bring from “Robots and humans” to “Robots with Humans”. Active pHRI requires robots to not only perform tasks optimally, efficiently, and safely but also consider the nuanced perceptions and needs of human users. This concept has developed over years of research and observations of robots in diverse situations, complemented by studies of human motion and perceptions. This seminar provides a concise overview of the research journey that led to the conception of active pHRI, its evolution, the challenges it confronts, and its limitations.