The goal of this system, called RoboRaise, is to allow robots to work with humans in the same way that humans work together. In factory environments, pairs of humans often perform coordinated work to lift, place, and mount heavy components. For instance, a pair of woodworkers might lift a tabletop together and place it on top of a table frame. Humans are able to coordinate their efforts easily, to the point where it’s almost a subconscious action. We automatically mirror our partner’s actions to ensure we share the load and keep it stable while lifting.
RoboRaise is designed to do the same thing, and does so by monitoring its human partner’s muscle activity. EMG (Electromyography) sensors are placed on a person’s biceps and triceps, which lets the system see how much they’re raising their arm. As they do, the robot lifts its side of the object the appropriate amount to mirror the human. For fine adjustments, like changing the angle of the load, the person can use small up-and-down hand gestures. In testing, RoboRaise performed well with 10 different users. By adding additional EMG sensors, the team hopes to eventually make RoboRaise capable of performing more complex tasks in unison with humans.