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Seamless and safe human - centred robotic applications for novel collaborative workplaces

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - SHERLOCK (Seamless and safe human - centred robotic applications for novel collaborative workplaces)

Reporting period: 2018-10-01 to 2020-03-31

Over the last years both Research and Industry have tried to address the requirement for flexible production by introducing technologies that allow humans and robots to coexist and share production tasks. The focus has been to ensure the safety of humans while interacting with robots.
Results from previous research activities on the same topic, revealed that Human Robot Collaborative (HRC) applications present drawbacks that limit industrial adoption:
- Diversified needs for robotics by the production tasks. Robot arms are not able to cover all applications scenarios (rigidity, adaptability, payload, working envelope etc.) and soft robotics may seem preferable .
- Low performance of collaborative operations. In the scenarios demonstrated so far, humans can perform tasks faster when working on their own as are robots when they function independently. This is due to:
i) Complexity of safety systems that create more separation: Resolution, response time and robustness in uncertain conditions cannot be handled by existing safety/sensing/perception and hardware/software.
ii) Inefficient design of the system as HRC hazards are not systematically evaluated in the design process.
iii) Operator acceptance and efficient integration in the workflow: People are not used to work cooperatively with robots as they would with other humans.
- Lack of cognition for autonomy: the robot cannot adjust its behaviour to shape its operation around the human behaviour. There are no structured methods to validate implementations of autonomous behaviour.
- Programming of the robots is not user friendly, requiring programming skills knowledge and is detached from the method of interacting with it during execution.

SHERLOCK aims to build on the lessons learnt from previous HRC research activities introducting the latest safe robotic technologies including high payload collaborative arms, exoskeletons and mobile manipulators in diverse production environments, enhancing them with smart mechatronics and AI based cognition, creating efficient HRC stations that are designed to be safe and guarantee the acceptance and wellbeing of operators.

The excellence of the proposed developments is strengthened by the fact that they originate from industrial requirements coming from the project’s end users and are summarized at the following four (4) objectives:
- Development of soft robotics collaborative Production Station
- Novel human – centred interaction, collaboration and awareness
- AI enabled cognition for autonomous HR collaborative applications
- SHERLOCK modules for the design and certification of Safe HRC applications
During the first reporting period (M01-M18), the work carried out focused around three main pillars:
i) Definition of use case scenarios and KPIs, requirements extraction and documentation, hardware and software specifications, definition of SHERLOCK reference architecture
ii) Development of first prototype of the SHERLOCK enabling technologies
iii) Enstablishment of the dissemination and exploitation strategy of the project

Thus, consortium managed to achieve three Milestones (MS1, MS2, MS7), defined during the proposal writing, by the submission of the relevant deliverables.

The technical work carried out has led to the development of a first prototype of the following modules, divided in four enabling technologies categories:
i) Soft robotics collaborative production station design:
- High Payload Collaborative Manipulator (HPCM)
- Low Payload Collaborative Manipulator (LPCM)
- Mobile Dual Arm Manipulator (MDAM)
- Production Orchestration Module (POM)
- Knowledge Repository (KR)
ii) Human centered interaction and awareness modules:
- Physical Human-Robot Interaction Module (PHRIM)
- Operator Support Module (OSM)
- Robot-Human Communication Module (RHCM)
iii) Artificial Intelligence enabled HRC modules:
- Process Perception Module (PPM)
- Workspace Monitoring Module (WMM)
- Shopfloor Digital Representation (SDR)
- Task and Action Planning Software (TAPS)
iv) Design of Safe HRC and Certification modules:
- Automated Risk Assessment Module (ARAM)
- HRC Validation Module (HVM)
- Online Safety Assessment Module (OSAM)
SHERLOCK aims to build upon state-of-the-art products and prototypes, progressing beyond them by advancing and generating a ready to use safety system for human centred collaborative robotic applications.
More specifically, SHERLOCK uses the high payload collaborative robot AURA from COMAU, a low payload collaborative solution as well as an exoskeleton proposed by the same company and a dual arm mobile manipulator that is partially developed in the project. These resources are further being enhanced with sensors allowing the awareness of both the operating environment and the operator status (biometric readings, intention recognition etc.) and actions being performed and thus a more intuitive collaboration/communication between the resources (human-robot). Machine learning algorithms and AI enabled libraries will be used to process the sensor data and provide more robust instructions to the robots, enhancing their adaptability in the unexpected situation of a dynamic environment.
Natural means of communication is achieved by utilizing the latest advancements in “smart” wearable devices. Highly intuitive ways of real time information concerning the process and support provision to human operators are being provided through AR apps interfacing the wearable devices.
Applicable and affordable industrial robots programming system pertinent for SMEs is being developed, by further evolving technologies, such as task-oriented and interactive robot programming based on novel multi-robot C++ language. Assessment methods are also being included, to evaluate the acceptance by the operators of the proposed HRI mechanisms as well as the psychological impact the SHERLOCK HRC developments have.
SHERLOCK modular safety controller will provide a robust safety control system aligned with EU safety standards and legislations coupling the latest trends in certified safety equipment with low level robot controller. Finally, SHERLOCK also develops a new on-line safety and trust assessment monitoring system that simultaneously prevents unintended physical contacts and increases humans’ acceptance.

SHERLOCK aims to demonstrate the potential to bring back production to Europe, by increasing the OECD Job Quality index by 15% through work environment and safety, reducing the production reconfiguration time and cost by 20%, increasing competitiveness of robotic system integrators, contributing to the European innovation capacity by impacting the European Research Institutes, SMEs and European End Users and last but not least have positive impact on social objectives of European Union by:
• Production of goods of higher quality, since the project will seek to introduce robotised solutions for manual applications.
• The use of robots can lead to new, improved products thanks to the reduction in geometry constraints that are associated with the use of templates.
• The prices of EU manufactured products will be kept low, considering that the assembly costs will be reduced by enhancing the design and the operational phase of the assembly process.
• Positive contribution in Health and Safety areas
• Positive contribution in worker satisfaction and employment
SHERLOCK Genuine Human-Robot Collaboration