EL-E: An Assistive Mobile Manipulator that Autonomously Fetches Objects from Flat Surfaces

By Advait Jain, Charles C. Kemp
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Abstract: Assistive mobile robots that autonomously manipulate objects within everyday settings have the potential to improve the lives of the elderly, injured, and disabled. Within this paper, we present the most recent version of the assistive mobile manipulator EL-E with a focus on the subsystem that enables the robot to retrieve objects from and deliver objects to flat surfaces.

Once provided with a 3D location via brief illumination with a laser pointer, the robot autonomously approaches the location and then either grasps the nearest object or places an object. We describe our implementation in detail, while highlighting design principles and themes, including the use of specialized behaviors, task-relevant features, and low-dimensional representations. We also present evaluations of EL-E's performance relative to common forms of variation. We tested EL-E's ability to approach and grasp objects from the 25 object categories that were ranked most important for robotic retrieval by motor-impaired patients from the Emory ALS Center. Although reliability varied, EL-E succeeded at least once with objects from 21 out of 25 of these categories. EL-E also approached and grasped a cordless telephone on 12 different surfaces including floors, tables, and counter tops with 100% success. The same test using a vitamin pill (ca. 15mm X 5mm X 5mm) resulted in 58% success.


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