Indexed on: 10 Jan '17Published on: 26 Dec '16Published in: Journal of Field Robotics
This paper describes Team THOR's approach to human-in-the-loop disaster response robotics for the 2015 DARPA Robotics Challenge (DRC) Finals. Under the duress of unpredictable networking and terrain, fluid operator interactions and dynamic disturbance rejection become major concerns for effective teleoperation. We present a humanoid robot designed to effectively traverse a disaster environment while allowing for a wide range of manipulation abilities. To complement the robot hardware, a hierarchical software foundation implements network strategies that provide real-time feedback to an operator under restricted bandwidth using layered user interfaces. Our strategy for humanoid locomotion includes a backward-facing knee configuration paired with specialized toe and heel lifting strategies that allow the robot to traverse difficult surfaces while rejecting external perturbations. With an upper body planner that encodes operator preferences, predictable motion plans are executed in unforeseen circumstances. These plans are critical for manipulation in unknown environments. Our approach was validated during the DRC Finals competition, where Team THOR scored three points in 18 min of operation time, and the results are presented along with an analysis of each task.