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A Direct Physical Interface for Navigation and Positioning of a Robotic Nursing Assistant

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Abstract:

People often use direct physical contact to guide a person to a desired location (e.g., leading a child by the hand) or to adjust a person's posture for a task (e.g., a dance instructor working with a dancer). When a user is in close proximity to a robot, physical contact becomes a potentially valuable channel for communication. We define a direct physical interface (DPI) as an interface that enables a user to influence a robot's behavior by making contact with its body. We evaluated a DPI in a controlled laboratory setting with 18 nurses and compared its performance with that of a comparable gamepad interface. The DPI significantly outperformed the gamepad according to several objective and subjective measures. Nurses also tended to exert more force at the robot's end-effectors and command higher velocities when using the DPI to perform a navigation task compared with using the DPI to perform a positioning task. Based on user surveys, we identify various nursing tasks where robotic assistance may be useful and provide design recommendations specifically in the area of healthcare.

Keywords: DIRECT PHYSICAL INTERFACE; HEALTHCARE ROBOTICS; HUMAN-ROBOT INTERACTION; NURSING; USER STUDY

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1163/016918611X558243

Affiliations: Healthcare Robotics Laboratory, Georgia Institute of Technology, 828 W. Peachtree Street NW, Suite 204, Atlanta, GA 30308, USA

Publication date: March 1, 2011

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