||The goal of the project
is to develop an inexpensive, aural method
of providing sensory information for the operation of a remote manipulator
||Tactile feedback is expensive
and difficult, and not always suited to the task. By providing auditory
clues, it will be possible to inform the operator of conditions at the
remote location, including but not limited to proximity, pressure, position,
orientation, torque, and perhaps vibratory sensation and electrical activity.
||Using a standard computer
mouse to decouple actions from results, and a MIDI
instrument to generate familiar musical tones, preliminary tests indicated
that it is possible to locate a cursor position
by auditory clues alone. In the two-dimensional configuration, the computer
screen shows an ordinary cursor (a cross-shaped icon) which moves in response
to input from a standard computer mouse, just as it would in any common
application such as word processing. In the research program, however,
the operator is presented with a rectangular area in the center of the
screen as a target, and auditory information corresponding to the mouse
position. In one form of the demonstration program, for example,
an Organ tone represents mouse movement from side to side, and the Strings
voice indicates movement forward and back. As the mouse moves, the
pitch of the musical notes changes. By comparing the pitch of the
computer-calculated tones to a reference pitch available with a right mouse
click, it is possible for the operator to move the cursor into the target
area -- without looking at the screen.
Logitech flying mouse makes it possible for the user
to operate in three dimensions, with six
degrees of freedom, using audible information generated by the
computer, based on input from multiple sensors. By using a proximity
sensor based on the NASA Capaciflector
principle, for instance, with a device mounted on the robotic gripper,
nearness to an object can be detected. Grip force detectors, and
light sensors also provide input. In the current configuration, output
is provided by a common sound board and by a MIDI synthesizer.
||The results from this research
can be used to develop less expensive remote manipulators for hostile environments,
to improve the performance of human-guided, robotically-ganged machine
tools, to provide target information to physicians who use robotic surgical
assistants, to extend the abilities of devices used in space, and to produce
inexpensive, portable devices for handling hazardous and explosive materials.
Aural representation could also be used to create reasonably priced instruments
to sense the vibrations of blood vessels, the hollowness of ducts, the
rigidity of bone, or the electrical environment created by nerve activity,
as a guide for surgeons who use robotic aids to perform microsurgery.
Application of the principles to aircraft, especially fighter jets, can
be used to reduce pilot information overload by moving some of the inputs
which now require his attention, to the subliminal plane.
||Whatever the application,
the auditory scene created by the device does not require interpretation
-- it is merely understood -- and the operator
uses the information, not as a tool, but as another sense.