This talk will focus on three topics of my research at Yale University, which centers on themes of human and robotic manipulation and haptic perception.
My major research undertaking at Yale has involved running a quantitative study of daily upper-limb prosthesis use in unilateral amputees. This work aims to better understand the techniques employed by long-term users of artificial arms and hands in order to inform future prosthetic device design and therapeutic interventions. While past attempts to quantify prosthesis-use have implemented either behavioral questionnaires or observations of specific tasks in a structured laboratory settings, our approach involves participants completing many hours of self-selected household chores in their own homes while wearing a head mounted video camera. I will discuss how we have addressed the processing of such a large and unstructured data set, in addition to our current findings.
Complementary to my work in prosthetics, I will also discuss my work on several novel robotic grippers which aim to enhance the grasping, manipulation and object identification capabilities of robotic systems. These grippers implement underactuated designs, machine learning approaches or variable friction surfaces to provide low-cost, model-free and easily reproducible solutions to what have been traditionally been considered complex problems in robotic manipulation, i.e. stable grasp acquisition, fast tactile object recognition and within-hand object manipulation.
Finally, I will present a brief overview of my efforts designing and testing shape-changing haptic interfaces, a largely unexplored feedback modality that I believe has huge potential for discretely communicating information to people with and without sensory impairments. This technology has been implemented in a pedestrian navigation system and evaluated in a variety of scenarios, including a large scale immersive theatre production with visually impaired artistic collaborators and almost 100 participants.
Biography: Dr. Adam (‘Ad’) Spiers is an Associate Research Scientist at the GRAB Lab (Grasping & Manipulation, Rehabilitation Robotics and Biomechanics) at Yale University, which is led by Prof. Aaron Dollar. He currently works on a variety of research topics related to human and robotic manipulation, haptic perception and assistive technology. Ad’s undergraduate and master’s studies were completed in the department of Cybernetics at the University of Reading (UK). Prior to beginning his PhD, he briefly worked as an industrial mechanical design engineer on tele-operated robots to service the Joint European Torus (JET) experimental fusion reactor. His PhD, which was completed at the University of Bristol and Bristol Robotics Laboratory (UK), investigated non-linear control techniques for synthesizing human-like movement for robot arms. His modified thesis has now been published as a book by Springer. Prior to his post at Yale, he completed a post-doc at the Bristol Robotics Laboratory, where he collaborated with NHS urological surgeons to investigate the use of haptic feedback in robot-assisted and manual laparoscopic surgery, diagnostic palpation and virtual prototyping of novel surgical tools.