Packbot to gain Haptic Feedback
In October 2009, iRobot announced that they would be receiving additional funding from the US Robotics Technology Consortium. They plan to use much of this money to add haptic feedback technology to their robots.
Starting with their military flagship bot, the Packbot, iRobot plan to use a modified version of the Novint Falcon to give the robot operators a degree of telehaptic feeling from the robot arm.
In principle the idea is simple, but of course PackBot is designed to be hurled through windows ast high speed, thrown down hills and over cliffs - and expected to work perfectly at the other end.
So, they are working on pressure sensors for the robot arm, that can withstand such punishing force, yet return realistic sense of the weight of an object, and whether it is hard or soft, to the operator.
The Novint Falcon has been chosen presumably because it is a 3D haptics unitthat has already seen some commercial success. Essentially, it is a 3D joystick that responds with the full range of force: Weight, shape, texture, dimension, dynamics and force effects.
This allows the home user to experience a full range of realistic touch sensations to the hand that is gripping the falcon. Whilst this is a great step forwards for haptic systems available for general use, it is just going to generate haptics to that control point, not to the whole hand like a glove interface does.
The Novint is intended to translate the feeling of weight and inertia to the grip, so if the player avatar is holding a ball, the Novint will drag downwards with the weight of that ball. If the player if flying a space fighter through a tight corkscrew turn, the Novint will torque against them, mimicking the actual physics involved.