Assuring Safety for Physically Assistive Robots

Praminda Caleb-solly1, Sanja Dogramadzi, Jee-hwan Ryu2, Aghil Jafari1, Filippo Cavallo3, Ibrahim Habli4

  • 1University of the West of England
  • 2Korea Univ. of Tech. and Education
  • 3Scuola Superiore Sant'Anna
  • 4University of York

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Robotics and autonomous systems (RAS) are emerging as disruptive technologies with the potential to provide personalised and cost-effective support for a range of care-related tasks for people with disabilities. These include the provision of physical and social assistance and physiotherapy. In Human-Robot Interaction, safe and reliable operation is crucially dependent on integration of physical and cognitive aspects of the user(s) involved in the interaction as well as upon the sensing hardware, software, and artificial intelligence platform. Ensuring operational safety of a physically assistive robot, in a range of real-world contexts, therefore represents the major barrier limiting the commercial deployment of the assistive robots in care facilities and individual homes. In order to ensure real-world deployment and commercialisation, application-focused research into safe and transparent Human-Robot Interaction, Hazard Analysis and Risk Assessment, in a range of dynamic environments and scenarios of use, is needed. There are a few technical, regulatory and care standards, such as BS EN ISO 13482:2014 and BS EN 12182-2012. While these standards include considerations relating to safety-related control systems governance, physical motion, operational space, environmental sensing, stability, force control, untoward events and the design of the user interface, there are key gaps from end-user and environmental perspectives. There needs to be more discussion and development as to how changes in the environment, as well as changing needs of a user with a progressive condition where their physical and cognitive ability changes, will affect system safety and behaviour. As such, there is opportunity to also consider performance criteria, test methods and hazard analyses approaches that can apply to a range of pragmatic, assistive tasks in real-world environments and situations. The research is particularly significant given the vulnerability of the end-users interacting with these systems – giving rise to a range of very complex safety-related issues and ethical concerns. It is necessary to therefore carefully and deeply consider the safety and use of physically assistive robots at not just an operational and functional level, but also from human factors and clinical efficacy perspectives. The objectives of this workshop will include: 1.Reviewing the state of the art in physically assistive robots which are already deployed, as well as those being currently developed. 2. Reviewing the existing methods and approaches for safety assurance for these systems 3. Reviewing the requirements for real-world use of physically assistive robots by disabled people with different accessibility needs 4. Identifying critical barriers to assurance and regulation 5. Analysing the adequacy of existing guidelines and standards for physically assistive robots and identify gaps in the current standards using a set of real-world use cases

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