Science Robotics

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EISSN : 2470-9476
Total articles ≅ 385
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Science Robotics, Volume 6; https://doi.org/10.1126/scirobotics.abk3268

Abstract:
Brain-inspired neural network architecture overcomes unsolved classical control theory problem for telerobotics.
Michael P. Silvernagel, Alissa S. Ling, , For The Brain Interfacing Laboratory
Science Robotics, Volume 6; https://doi.org/10.1126/scirobotics.abj7045

Abstract:
Motor systems neuroscience seeks to understand how the brain controls movement. To minimize confounding variables, large-animal studies typically constrain body movement from areas not under observation, ensuring consistent, repeatable behaviors. Such studies have fueled decades of research, but they may be artificially limiting the richness of neural data observed, preventing generalization to more natural movements and settings. Neuroscience studies of unconstrained movement would capture a greater range of behavior and a more complete view of neuronal activity, but instrumenting an experimental rig suitable for large animals presents substantial engineering challenges. Here, we present a markerless, full-body motion tracking and synchronized wireless neural electrophysiology platform for large, ambulatory animals. Composed of four depth (RGB-D) cameras that provide a 360° view of a 4.5-square-meters enclosed area, this system is designed to record a diverse range of neuroethologically relevant behaviors. This platform also allows for the simultaneous acquisition of hundreds of wireless neural recording channels in multiple brain regions. As behavioral and neuronal data are generated at rates below 200 megabytes per second, a single desktop can facilitate hours of continuous recording. This setup is designed for systems neuroscience and neuroengineering research, where synchronized kinematic behavior and neural data are the foundation for investigation. By enabling the study of previously unexplored movement tasks, this system can generate insights into the functioning of the mammalian motor system and provide a platform to develop brain-machine interfaces for unconstrained applications.
E. Roesler, D. Manzey,
Science Robotics, Volume 6; https://doi.org/10.1126/scirobotics.abj5425

Abstract:
The application of anthropomorphic design features is widely assumed to facilitate human-robot interaction (HRI). However, a considerable number of study results point in the opposite direction. There is currently no comprehensive common ground on the circumstances under which anthropomorphism promotes interaction with robots. Our meta-analysis aims to close this gap. A total of 4856 abstracts were scanned. After an extensive evaluation, 78 studies involving around 6000 participants and 187 effect sizes were included in this meta-analysis. The majority of the studies addressed effects on perceptual aspects of robots. In addition, effects on attitudinal, affective, and behavioral aspects were also investigated. Overall, a medium positive effect size was found, indicating a beneficial effect of anthropomorphic design features on human-related outcomes. However, closer scrutiny of the lowest variable level revealed no positive effect for perceived safety, empathy, and task performance. Moreover, the analysis suggests that positive effects of anthropomorphism depend heavily on various moderators. For example, anthropomorphism was in contrast to other fields of application, constantly facilitating social HRI. The results of this analysis provide insights into how design features can be used to improve the quality of HRI. Moreover, they reveal areas in which more research is needed before any clear conclusions about the effects of anthropomorphic robot design can be drawn.
Science Robotics, Volume 6; https://doi.org/10.1126/scirobotics.abf2756

Abstract:
The presence of computation and transmission-variable time delays within a robotic control loop is a major cause of instability, hindering safe human-robot interaction (HRI) under these circumstances. Classical control theory has been adapted to counteract the presence of such variable delays; however, the solutions provided to date cannot cope with HRI robotics inherent features. The highly nonlinear dynamics of HRI cobots (robots intended for human interaction in collaborative tasks), together with the growing use of flexible joints and elastic materials providing passive compliance, prevent traditional control solutions from being applied. Conversely, human motor control natively deals with low power actuators, nonlinear dynamics, and variable transmission time delays. The cerebellum, pivotal to human motor control, is able to predict motor commands by correlating current and past sensorimotor signals, and to ultimately compensate for the existing sensorimotor human delay (tens of milliseconds). This work aims at bridging those inherent features of cerebellar motor control and current robotic challenges—namely, compliant control in the presence of variable sensorimotor delays. We implement a cerebellar-like spiking neural network (SNN) controller that is adaptive, compliant, and robust to variable sensorimotor delays by replicating the cerebellar mechanisms that embrace the presence of biological delays and allow motor learning and adaptation.
, , Davide De Tommaso, Ingrid Zablith,
Science Robotics, Volume 6; https://doi.org/10.1126/scirobotics.abc5044

Abstract:
In most everyday life situations, the brain needs to engage not only in making decisions but also in anticipating and predicting the behavior of others. In such contexts, gaze can be highly informative about others’ intentions, goals, and upcoming decisions. Here, we investigated whether a humanoid robot’s gaze (mutual or averted) influences the way people strategically reason in a social decision-making context. Specifically, participants played a strategic game with the robot iCub while we measured their behavior and neural activity by means of electroencephalography (EEG). Participants were slower to respond when iCub established mutual gaze before their decision, relative to averted gaze. This was associated with a higher decision threshold in the drift diffusion model and accompanied by more synchronized EEG alpha activity. In addition, we found that participants reasoned about the robot’s actions in both conditions. However, those who mostly experienced the averted gaze were more likely to adopt a self-oriented strategy, and their neural activity showed higher sensitivity to outcomes. Together, these findings suggest that robot gaze acts as a strong social signal for humans, modulating response times, decision threshold, neural synchronization, as well as choice strategies and sensitivity to outcomes. This has strong implications for all contexts involving human-robot interaction, from robotics to clinical applications.
Science Robotics, Volume 6; https://doi.org/10.1126/scirobotics.abk3123

Abstract:
Integrating tactile and kinesthetic feedback in a bionic arm results in performance closer to able-bodied individuals.
, , , Dylan T. Beckler, Zachary C. Thumser, , , Kathleen R. Wilson
Science Robotics, Volume 6; https://doi.org/10.1126/scirobotics.abf3368

Abstract:
Bionic prostheses have restorative potential. However, the complex interplay between intuitive motor control, proprioception, and touch that represents the hallmark of human upper limb function has not been revealed. Here, we show that the neurorobotic fusion of touch, grip kinesthesia, and intuitive motor control promotes levels of behavioral performance that are stratified toward able-bodied function and away from standard-of-care prosthetic users. This was achieved through targeted motor and sensory reinnervation, a closed-loop neural-machine interface, coupled to a noninvasive robotic architecture. Adding touch to motor control improves the ability to reach intended target grasp forces, find target durometers among distractors, and promote prosthetic ownership. Touch, kinesthesia, and motor control restore balanced decision strategies when identifying target durometers and intrinsic visuomotor behaviors that reduce the need to watch the prosthetic hand during object interactions, which frees the eyes to look ahead to the next planned action. The combination of these three modalities also enhances error correction performance. We applied our unified theoretical, functional, and clinical analyses, enabling us to define the relative contributions of the sensory and motor modalities operating simultaneously in this neural-machine interface. This multiperspective framework provides the necessary evidence to show that bionic prostheses attain more human-like function with effective sensory-motor restoration.
Sung-Sik Yun, , ,
Science Robotics, Volume 6; https://doi.org/10.1126/scirobotics.abe1243

Abstract:
The movement patterns appropriate for exercise and manual labor do not always correspond to what people instinctively choose for better comfort. Without expert guidance, people can even increase the risk of injury by choosing a comfortable posture rather than the appropriate one, notably when lifting objects. Even in situations where squatting is accepted as a desirable lifting strategy, people tend to choose the more comfortable strategy of stooping or semisquatting. The common approach to correcting lifting posture, immobilizing vulnerable joints via fixation, is insufficient for preventing back injuries sustained from repetitive lifting. Instead, when lifting small but heavy objects, the entire kinetic chain should cooperate to achieve a series of squat-lifting patterns. Inspired by the observation that force fields affect the coordination of voluntary human motion, we devised a passive exosuit embedded with a body-powered variable-impedance mechanism. The exosuit adds impedance to the human joints according to how far the wearer’s movement is from the squat-lifting trajectories so that it hinders stooping but facilitates squatting. In an experiment that entailed lifting a small 10-kg box, 10 first-time users changed their voluntary lifting motion closer to squatting on average. Simulation results based on recorded kinematic and kinetic data showed that this postural change reduced the compression force, shear force, and moment on the lumbosacral joint. Our work demonstrates the potential of using an exosuit to help people move in a desirable manner without requiring a complicated, bulky mechanical system.
Qiguang He, Zhijian Wang, Yang Wang, Zijun Wang, Chenghai Li, Raja Annapooranan, Jian Zeng, , Shengqiang Cai
Science Robotics, Volume 6; https://doi.org/10.1126/scirobotics.abi9704

Abstract:
Fibers capable of generating axial contraction are commonly seen in nature and engineering applications. Despite the broad applications of fiber actuators, it is still very challenging to fabricate fiber actuators with combined large actuation strain, fast response speed, and high power density. Here, we report the fabrication of a liquid crystal elastomer (LCE) microfiber actuators using a facile electrospinning technique. Owing to the extremely small size of the LCE microfibers, they can generate large actuation strain (~60 percent) with a fast response speed (<0.2 second) and a high power density (400 watts per kilogram), resulting from the nematic-isotropic phase transition of liquid crystal mesogens. Moreover, no performance degradation is detected in the LCE microfibers after 106 cycles of loading and unloading with the maximum strain of 20 percent at high temperature (90 degree Celsius). The small diameter of the LCE microfiber also results in a self-oscillatory behavior in a steady temperature field. In addition, with a polydopamine coating layer, the actuation of the electrospun LCE microfiber can be precisely and remotely controlled by a near-infrared laser through photothermal effect. Using the electrospun LCE microfiber actuator, we have successfully constructed a microtweezer, a microrobot, and a light-powered microfluidic pump.
, Marco C. K. Chow, Justin D. L. Ho, , Kui Wang, T. C. Ng, , Po-Ling Chan, , Danny Tat-Ming Chan, et al.
Science Robotics, Volume 6; https://doi.org/10.1126/scirobotics.abg5575

Abstract:
Magnetic resonance (MR) imaging (MRI) provides compelling features for the guidance of interventional procedures, including high-contrast soft tissue imaging, detailed visualization of physiological changes, and thermometry. Laser-based tumor ablation stands to benefit greatly from MRI guidance because 3D resection margins alongside thermal distributions can be evaluated in real time to protect critical structures while ensuring adequate resection margins. However, few studies have investigated the use of projection-based lasers like those for transoral laser microsurgery, potentially because dexterous laser steering is required at the ablation site, raising substantial challenges in the confined MRI bore and its strong magnetic field. Here, we propose an MR-safe soft robotic system for MRI-guided transoral laser microsurgery. Owing to its miniature size (Ø12 × 100 mm), inherent compliance, and five degrees of freedom, the soft robot ensures zero electromagnetic interference with MRI and enables safe and dexterous operation within the confined oral and pharyngeal cavities. The laser manipulator is rapidly fabricated with hybrid soft and hard structures and is powered by microvolume (<0.004 milliter) fluid flow to enable laser steering with enhanced stiffness and lowered hysteresis. A learning-based controller accommodates the inherent nonlinear robot actuation, which was validated with laser path–following tests. Submillimeter laser steering accuracy was demonstrated with a mean error < 0.20 mm. MRI compatibility testing demonstrated zero observable image artifacts during robot operation. Ex vivo tissue ablation and a cadaveric head-and-neck trial were carried out under MRI, where we employed MR thermometry to monitor the tissue ablation margin and thermal diffusion intraoperatively.
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