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Author Topic: Thesis suggestions in robotics for electromechanical engineer  (Read 3907 times)
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Overijse, VL
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Hello everybody,

Don't know if it is the right play to look for but here is my question:

At the end of this academic year I need to hand in a thesis subject for my masters degree in electromechanic engineer at GroupT Leuven College university. The school has some suggestions but they are open for new suggestions so your ideas are more than welcome. First of all I'm interested in the tele-operation of humanoid robots (more the mechanical side) but that is not the college's focus. The college is currently working on robot/human interaction topics and robot/environment interactions (together with another university). I would like to build something and than program it but it seems they use platforms that are already built and that need some complex code to do cool stuff (in robotics you can't have one without th other I guess!). So I will probably suggest something that I will build and then let it do something.

So if you got some (good) ideas please let them come. Something concerning robotics of course! If I know more info about what I can suggest and what not I will let you know.

Thanks
« Last Edit: March 21, 2011, 05:02:38 pm by Fons1302 » Logged

Phoenix, Arizona USA
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One area that is often neglected, and could probably use more study, in the area of "robot/human interaction" is that of "face to face" issues. Note that this could tread into the "uncanny valley" arena. There are many questions that could be asked and pursued in this; you could, for instance build a robot head that had a repertoire of facial expressions - perhaps you could figure out a way to have such a device mimic your own expressions (or the expressions of others?). Maybe you could study how humans perceive machines with such expressions, and how to make it easier for humans to interact with such machines? Why and how can a machine cause an emotional response in a human (we know this is possible), and can this make interaction better, or more intuitive (or easier) in some manner?

Think about how people perceive robots - note how both R2D2 and C3PO from Star Wars fame elicit emotional responses from the audience, in such different manners. Also - to an extent, iRobot has embodied similar traits into its Roomba (use of sound alone to elicit emotional responses?). What about Johnny 5 from the movie "Short Circuit", or Wall-E?

This is all fairly "virgin" territory; there has been some exploration in it, but not nearly enough...

smiley
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The obvious, and most likely stupid, suggestion that comes to mind is to create an algorithm that limits the said robot actions towards humans... ok, let me rephrase it.

Imagine that scene in Robocop, where he and one of the project managers shake hands, Robocop has no idea of how much is too much and nearly crushes the guy's hand. Ok, but this is simple (or it looks like it). But, what about adding some uncertainty to it. Imagine our Robocop would have to hold a child's hand. How would he know how much is enough and how to use touch and grip to give feedback to others of his "emotions" (this goes a bit into the first reply).

The other situation that comes to mind is, if by 2050 people are actually playing soccer against robots, how will they know what strength to use when tackling a human so it resembles another human and not a robot assuring the human doesn't get killed or maimed.

I know this isn't exactly mechanical... but it is a somewhat interesting subject. 
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I had the exact same issue as you about 6 months ago. I like robotics, but couldn't narrow it down to a particular project. I did in the end and it's been a blast.

I'd suggest you try and narrow down your interest even further. The "tele-operation of humanoid robots" involves a rediculous number of things - mechanical, electrical, psycological!

I get a lot of inspiration from robotics blogs and news sites - they'll often report on some cutting-edge stuff and you'll think 'Hey, that would be useful in [xyz]', or 'What if you combine that [widget] with a [gizmo]...'

Here's the few I frequent;

http://spectrum.ieee.org/blog/automaton [has a massive lost of blogs in the bottom right - the 'blog roll']
http://www.robots-dreams.com/
http://www.neurdon.com/
http://robots.net/
http://blog.trossenrobotics.com/
http://www.hizook.com/

I suggest you read through those and see if they give you any ideas.

Once you've found something, try going to IEEExplore and searching for it. If you're doing a degree then I'm sure your university has some subscription you can utilise. A lot of the papers may at first seem intimidating, but they're often very accessable. They can give you further inspiration.

If you want any more info, try being a bit more specific and I'll see if I can think of anything.
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Overijse, VL
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Ok thank you guys!

It is a wonderfull world (robotics) to play in and yes there are so many thinks you can do...
Emotions/human interaction is a hard nut to crack but it has a lot of potential.

This weekend I will hunt down the internet and look at those links. They surely look cool at first sight. I should indeed be more specific.

Fons
« Last Edit: April 03, 2011, 11:51:10 am by Fons1302 » Logged

Overijse, VL
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After some discussions with the responsible people and after knowing more about the university's interrests I made a decision for my thesis subject. I stayed away from the artificial intelligence side of robotics (that is for later!) and sticked to the mechanical stuff. It was a subject they proposed and I think it is a good start for me in the field of robotics.

It is about engineering and building a robotic gripper using universal grippers (from scratch). The goal is to pick up as many things possible with a 2 or 3 fingered gripper design making use of the universal gripper system (http://www.gizmag.com/universal-robotic-gripper/16729/) in each finger and/or palm. It must be able to hold all kinds of objects from the environment. I should also think about a way of controlling it as user-friendly as possible (with a glove, buttons, joysticks,...).

I'm already looking forward to it and I hope I can use the Arduino platform for this 'project'. Of course I hope to get some useful results but first I should think about finishing this year with no problems smiley.

@ TND,
What did you choose for your endwork? Thanks for the news sites links, I added them to my 'daily check' list.
« Last Edit: May 02, 2011, 12:10:18 pm by Fons1302 » Logged

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After some discussions with the responsible people and after knowing more about the university's interrests I made a decision for my thesis subject. I stayed away from the artificial intelligence side of robotics (that is for later!) and sticked to the mechanical stuff. It was a subject they proposed and I think it is a good start for me in the field of robotics.

It is about engineering and building a robotic gripper using universal grippers (from scratch). The goal is to pick up as many things possible with a 2 or 3 fingered gripper design making use of the universal gripper system (http://www.gizmag.com/universal-robotic-gripper/16729/) in each finger and/or palm. It must be able to hold all kinds of objects from the environment. I should also think about a way of controlling it as user-friendly as possible (with a glove, buttons, joysticks,...).

I'm already looking forward to it and I hope I can use the Arduino platform for this 'project'. Of course I hope to get some useful results but first I should think about finishing this year with no problems smiley.

@ TND,
What did you choose for your endwork? Thanks for the news sites links, I added them to my 'daily check' list.

I thought the whole point of the "universal gripper" was to make it as simple as possible, and eliminate the need for a multi-fingered gripper? That doesn't mean you shouldn't pursue it - maybe you'll make a new discovery (perhaps the dexterity of the human hand relies more than we thought on the pliability and conformability of the skin/muscle/fatty padding of the palm/fingers?)...

Good luck with it!

smiley
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Overijse, VL
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Yeah they wanted to simplify the complex human hand design but combining the universal's gripper strength with human fingers/palm should be a combination worth investigating. In fact the idea of the subject is nicely written in the comments section of the link I posted above (the first reactions). Making a robotic human hand is so complex but I hope I can achieve some acceptable results (and like you say I will probably encounter many 'unknowns' but that is the challenge)!

Thanks
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Congrats on narrowing it down!

Although I must say, you've set an extremely high goal. Make sure you decide exactly what it is you want to achieve, and talk it through with someone who can confirm its a reasonable set of goals.

Not to put a dampener on what you're doing, but creating this gripper AND some nice interface sounds like its would be too much, especially if you have classes to attend! Even making the arm may take you a lot long er than you expect... on top of that you have to make it controllable, then integrate the control with some user interface... Each of these is a project on its own! As long as you're sure what you're getting into. It does sounds really cool.

My project was a completely modular robotic arm. The arm can be any number of segments long, and each segment was it's own computer (which is quite cool :3 ). The whole thing is controlled by sending the x,y coords of where you want the end to be, so it can be controlled by anything with a serial (RS232) output, which is also cool. Oh, and it self-corrects for servo errors, which is another cool thing. All programmed with Arduino, of course. It got me a job a a robotics lab this summer, which is awesome.
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Tom

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