Date of Award

2021

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group

Mechanical Engineering & Applied Mechanics

First Advisor

Mark Yim

Abstract

This thesis proposes an investigation on both behavioral and technical aspects of human-robot interaction (HRI) in elder care settings, in view of an affordable platform capable of executing desired tasks. The behavioral investigation combines a qualitative study with focus groups and surveys from not only the elders’ standpoint, but also from the standpoint of healthcare professionals to investigate suitable tasks to be accomplished by a service robot in such environments. Through multiple deployments of various robot embodiments at actual elder care facilities (such as at a low-income Supportive Apartment Living, SAL, and Program of All-Inclusive Care, PACE Centers) and interaction with older adults, design guidelines are developed to improve on both interaction and usability aspects. This need assessment informed the technical investigation of this work, where we initially propose picking and placing objects using end-effectors without internal mobility (or zero degrees-of-freedom, DOF), considering both quasi-static (tipping and regrasping as in-hand manipulation) and dynamic approaches. Maximizing grasping versatility by allowing robots to grasp multiple objects sequentially using a single end-effector and actuator is also proposed. These novel manipulation techniques and end-effector designs focus on minimizing robot hardware usage and cost, while still performing complex tasks and complying with safety constraints imposed by the elder care facilities.

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