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MEAM Ph.D. Thesis Defense: “From Deployments of Elder Care Service Robots to the Design of Affordable Low-Complexity End-Effectors and Novel Manipulation Techniques”

July 13 at 11:00 AM - 12:00 PM

Older adults are forming a much larger percentage of the population leading to a strain in the healthcare sector. It is expected that the population aged 65 and over in the United States alone will double in the next 30 years, and similarly worldwide. Despite the abundance of facilities to accommodate the growing older adult population, there is a shortage of caregivers to staff these facilities. With the scarcity of care options available, and necessity aggravated by the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on the elderly, low-cost robots may be a creative and vastly accessible solution for mobile and manipulation tasks that would normally be handled by a caregiver.

This thesis proposes an investigation on both behavioral and technical aspects of human-robot interaction (HRI) in elder care settings, in view of an affordable platform capable of executing desired tasks. The behavioral investigation combines a qualitative study with focus groups and surveys from not only the elders’ standpoint, but also from the standpoint of healthcare professionals to investigate suitable tasks to be accomplished by a service robot in such environments. Through multiple deployments of various robot embodiments at actual elder care facilities (such as at a low-income Supportive Apartment Living, SAL, and Program of All-Inclusive Care, PACE Centers) and interaction with older adults, design guidelines are developed to improve on both interaction and usability aspects. This need assessment informed the technical investigation of this work, where we initially propose picking and placing objects using end-effectors without internal mobility (or zero degrees-of-freedom, DOF), considering both quasi-static (tipping and regrasping as in-hand manipulation) and dynamic approaches. Maximizing grasping versatility by allowing robots to grasp multiple objects sequentially using a single end-effector and DOF is also proposed. These novel manipulation techniques and end-effector designs focus on minimizing robot hardware usage and cost, while still performing complex tasks and complying with safety constraints imposed by the elder care facilities.

Caio Mucchiani

Ph.D. Candidate, Department of Mechanical Engineering and Applied Mechanics, University of Pennsylvania

Advisor: Mark Yim


July 13
11:00 AM - 12:00 PM
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Mechanical Engineering and Applied Mechanics