Robots are increasingly becoming safer and more capable. In the past, the main applications for robots have been in manufacturing, where they perform repetitive, highly accurate tasks with physical barriers that separate them from people. They have also been used in space exploration where people are not around. Due to improvements in sensors, algorithms, and design, robots are beginning to be used in other applications like materials handling, healthcare, and agriculture and will one day be ubiquitous. For this to be possible, they will need to be able to function safely in unmodelled and dynamic environments. This is especially true when working in a shared space with people. We desire for robots to interact with people in a way that is helpful and intuitive. This requires that the robots both act predictably and be able to predict short-term human intent. We create a model for predicting short-term human intent in a collaborative furniture carrying task that a robot could use to be a more responsive and intuitive teammate. For robots to perform collaborative manipulation tasks with people naturally and efficiently, understanding and predicting human intent is necessary. We completed an exploratory study recording motion and force for 21 human dyads moving an object in tandem in a variety of tasks to better understand how they move and how their movement can be predicted. Using the previous 0.75 seconds of data, the human intent can be predicted for the next 0.25 seconds. This can then be used with a robot in real applications. We also show that force data is not required to predict human intent. We show how the prediction data works in real-time, demonstrating that past motion alone can be used to predict short-term human intent. We show this with human-human dyads and a human-robot dyad. Finally, we imagine that soft robots will be common in human-robot interaction. We present work on controlling soft, pneumatically-actuated, inflatable robots. These soft robots have less inertia than traditional robots but a high power density which allows them to operate in proximity to people. They can, however, be difficult to control. We developed a neural net model to use for control of our soft robot. We have shown that we can predict human intent in a human-robot dyad which is an important goal in physical human-robot interaction and will allow robots to co-manipulate objects with humans in an intelligent way.



College and Department

Ira A. Fulton College of Engineering and Technology; Mechanical Engineering



Date Submitted


Document Type





Physical Human Robot Interaction, Machine Learning, Short-Term Human Intent Estimation