A Subject-Specific Four-Degree-of-Freedom Foot Interface to Control a Robot Arm

Yanpei Huang, Etienne Burdet, Lin Cao, Phuoc Thien Phan, Anthony Meng Huat Tiong, Soo Jay Phee

In robotic surgery, the surgeon controls robotic instruments using dedicated interfaces. One critical limitation of current interfaces is that they are designed to be operated by only the hands. This means that the surgeon can only control at most two robotic instruments at one time while many interventions require three instruments. This paper introduces a novel four-degree-of-freedom foot-machine interface which allows the surgeon to control a third robotic instrument using the foot, giving the surgeon a "third hand". This interface is essentially a parallel-serial hybrid mechanism with springs and force sensors. Unlike existing switch-based interfaces that can only un-intuitively generate motion in discrete directions, this interface allows intuitive control of a slave robotic arm in continuous directions and speeds, naturally matching the foot movements with dynamic force & position feedbacks. An experiment with ten naive subjects was conducted to test the system. In view of the significant variance of motion patterns between subjects, a subject-specific mapping from foot movements to command outputs was developed using Independent Component Analysis (ICA). Results showed that the ICA method could accurately identify subjects' foot motion patterns and significantly improve the prediction accuracy of motion directions from 68% to 88% as compared with the forward kinematics-based approach. This foot-machine interface can be applied for the teleoperation of industrial/surgical robots independently or in coordination with hands in the future.

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