Back Massage Example Application – Following Complex Moving Surfaces

The Barrett WAM™ arm

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The job of conventional robots is to repeat predetermined paths over and over. No task could be farther from the repertoire of conventional robots than giving back massages. Not only is every person unique in size and shape, but the shape itself is dynamic and ever changing.

Back massages require you to allow a person, usually a total stranger to touch you intimately. Most people would have back massages frequently for the therapeutic effect if it were not for this absolute invasion of personal space by a stranger.

The concept of a robotic massage, even while it is adapting to you in realtime, removes the feeling of invasion of privacy.

In this example, the robot gently slides along the client’s sides and back measuring the client’s shape and body softness while registering the client’s position and orientation. The absence of cameras for machine vision may also help relax the client.

Next a parallel set of vertical planes are established just outside of the back muscles lining either side of the spine so that any robot trajectories will be contained. The arm is free to move laterally between these planes. Next a gentle but firm vertical force is applied to the client and then the arm tip is commanded simply to move up and down between the neck and the waist of the client. The massage tool will naturally follow the valleys between the back muscles and the spine. The client can even guide the trajectories of the massage through subtle back movements.

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The New Barrett WAM Arm.