Journal article Open Access
In this article, we present an online scalable tele-impedance framework, which enables the individual and collaborative control of multiple different robotic platforms. The framework provides an intuitive low-cost interface with visual feedback and a SpaceMouse, through which the operator can define the desired task-level trajectories and impedance profiles. With a simple mouse click, the user can switch between the robots and the collaborative operation mode. The control, subsequently, manages the distribution of the required parameters into the involved robots. Thanks to the introduced virtual hand concept, where each robot is defined as a finger, new robots can be easily added or removed via their kinodynamic parameters. The proposed framework was evaluated with three different experiments: a simulated auscultation on a mock-up patient, a cooperative task where a robot drives the patient on a wheelchair and a different robot performs the auscultation, and a collaborative task where two robots relocate a container. The results demonstrate the capabilities of the framework in terms of adaptability to different robotic platforms, the number of robots involved, and the task requirements. Additionally, quantitative and subjective analysis of 12 subjects showed how the developed interface, even in the presence of inaccurate visual feedback, allowed a smooth and accurate execution of the tasks.