Enabling Better Grasping Research

They say that every journey begins with a single step, but sometimes that first step is the biggest obstacle. This is particularly true in robotics where researchers have to get a system up and running before proceeding with their work.

Due to the highly interdisciplinary nature of the field, this is a particular problem in grasping. Research in this field draws from perception, planning, and learning. It also requires a wide range of hardware — hands, arms, cameras, tactile sensors, mobile bases, and more.

OSRF has provided a huge support to the field by making it easier to stitch together open source software from different domains so that researchers can focus on their own research rather than system development. Today, users can download and easily integrate supporting packages from other groups.

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Providing a hardware platform for development is another critical piece of the puzzle. There are now low-cost arms such as the Baxter and Universal UR5 that support ROS, and good vision systems. However, many of the recent developments in hand hardware have been restricted to the labs that created them.

The RightHand Robotics team met during the DARPA Autonomous Robotic Manipulation program working on the i-HY hand. The hand was distributed to the teams on the software track and in the DARPA Robotics Challenge. The team wanted to bring it to the broader research community, however, so using the best insights from the design and a few improvements, the team at RightHand created an optimized version called ReFlex.

Compliant fingers adapt to the shape of the object, simplifying the control of the hand and relaxing the requirements on the perception system. Rich sensing data provide the feedback needed for research beyond feedforward grasping. For example, the integrated tactile sensors are important for performing guarded moves, detecting errors, and machine learning.

For the interface hardware and driver, the team collaborated with Morgan Quigley (who was also involved in the ARM-H program on a different team) and OSRF. The ReFlex hand communicates over Ethernet, and naturally supports ROS. Visualization tools make it easier to understand what the hand senses through its sensing suite.

Interface plate designs are provided for a range of standard robot arms. The end result is a hand with hardware and software that are both easy to integrate - and this leaves more time for you to carry out exciting research!

The ReFlex hand is currently in beta at ten top universities on four continents, and orders are being accepted for full systems for 2015. Anyone interested in placing an order or has any questions, please contact moc.scitobordnahthgir|selas#moc.scitobordnahthgir|selas

RightHand Robotics Inc (c) 2014