ESA Telerobotics - Haptics-2

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Second teleoperation with force-feedback from Space done on 14th of August 2015 !

+++ Read our live-blog here!

You can also follow the event on Youtube!

Keep following also our Twitter (@ESATelerobotics) and our live-blog here to receive the lastest up-dates ! First, however, we'll have to do some work to install our software on-board and to check our new system out... Houston, we are ready !


What are the big questions we would like to have answered? Well, so far, no-one has ever conducted bi-lateral control experiments, that is, control of robotic systems on Earth with force-feedback from space! We have measured one crew on ISS w.r.t. his perceptive capabilities under micro-gravity during the pre-cursor and still on-going Haptics-1 experiment. We have found out there, that his capability to sense stiffness and torque seems to be heavily influenced. This means, humans seem to feel forces and combinations of positions and forces through their hands and arms differently in space than on ground! How different? Well, depending on how the force-feedback is used it either seems to improve or to decrease.. We have seen in Haptics-1 that the capability to sense differences in stiffness deterioate if a wall-mounted force reflective joystick is used (..well, at least we have seen indications for this, based on the crew-data that we have so far...). 


In the future, we want to use robotic systems to carry out human-like tasks in places where humans can't, shouldn't or don't want to go (usually if it is unhealthy or inaccessible to go there). In order to do this, we need to find out which computer algorithms and which robotic hardware is required and optimal to do that! In Haptics-2 we are testing a series of such combinations with beyond state-of-the-art technology. Tomorrow, we will conduct a first comparison and first check of providing such force-feedback control to a system that spans the Earth and Space! Two routes are available to send signals back- and forth between the ISS and our test setup at the ESA Telerobotics and Haptics Laboratory. The first route is composed by a signalling system that relays data via a geo-synchronous satellite constellation, the NASA Ku-Fwd system. The seceond is a low-latency direct S-band link provided by our Russian partners through S-band hardware installed on the Russian module of the ISS. The signal is then received by a German groundstation of the DLR (German Aerospace Agency). While the latter link is direct and features little transmission delay it has only very limited bandwdith. The first link, enables large bandwidth, but also requires much longer signal travelling times. First, we will be testing the more challanging link, the new NASA Ku-Forward system. It should allow to transmit signals between the sites in less then 800 milliseconds, that is 0.8 seconds. Do do real-time control with force-feedback over so much delay is a very hard thing to do! So one question that the test tomorrow (on 3 June) addresses is how much delay exactly exists between the sites through this link. After a full characterization of the link, we will do the more fun stuff! Hand-shake from Space, control of a video camera between us, such that Terry Virts can be like an 'avatar' between us, and finally (hopefully - if we still get the time) we'll carry out a remote stiffness discrimination test. There, Terry will have to probe objects of varying stiffness remotely from space and he'll have to rate their relative stiffnesses. This way, we can find out whether the teleoperation system in itself degrades his difference sensing capability. Hopefully not ! He should be able to sense stiffness differences of at least 25% without even a doubt !