The Useworthiness of Robots for People with Physical Disabilities

University dissertation from Certec, Lund University

Abstract: This thesis deals with robotics and the new possibilities it offers people with physical disabilities. I focus on the user and the use of the technology and, in particular, on what makes robotic aids worth using - useworthiness as distinguished from usability.

User experience of the wheelchair-mounted Manus manipulator shows that robotic arms must meet technical requirements in terms of acceleration, speed, and pattern of movement. Easy horizontal and vertical adjustment of the end-effector is another requirement which must be met to enable a user to carry out the most common movements faster with less concentration.

Experience of the useworthiness of robots was first obtained through the development of page-turning end-effectors for the RAID workstation. The principles of separating pages and the page-turning movements are analyzed and described in this thesis. End-effectors are essential to the functionality and useworthiness of robots. The performance requirements for the automatic grasping function for simplified robot use have been brought out through user trials.

The thesis demonstrates that user trials with robots as assistive devices can result in new knowledge about both the use of the technology itself and the personal characteristics - needs, abilities, wishes, and dreams - of the user.

Parts of the thesis have already been published or will be published in the form of articles and conference papers:

- Robotics in rehabilitation. IEEE Transactions on Rehabilitation Engineering, vol. 3, no 1, pp. 77-83, March 1995.

- The Manus Manipulator as a Tool for Rehabilitation. To be published in the Scandinavian Journal of Rehabilitation Medicine.

- Technical results from Manus user trials. Proceedings of the sixth International Conference on Rehabilitation Robotics (ICORR), pp. 136-141, Stanford, California, USA, July 1999.

- Robot control methods and results from user trials on the RAID workstation. Proceedings of the fourth International Conference on Rehabilitation Robotics (ICORR), pp. 97-101, Wilmington, Delaware, USA, June 1994.

- RAID - A Robotic Workstation for the Disabled. Proceedings of the 2nd European Conference on the Advancement of Rehabilitation Technology (ECART 2), pp. 24.3, Stockholm, Sweden, May 1993.