Saturday, November 18, 2017

Oh, patents! Nao's joints

Copyright © Françoise Herrmann

Still a few more state of the art robotics patents! 

Nao’s joints arise as a safety issue in the larger focus on how to prevent unanticipated movement of a humanoid robot, and in particular, injury to a human who might get pinched in the robot’s movements or joints. The anti-pinching system disclosed in WO2015185671, titled Anti-jamming system in a humanoid-type robot, was thus designed to address problems of the prior art focused on solving issues of safety when using humanoid robots, and in particular the risks of pinching.

Indeed, the state of the art had previously explored reducing, or leaving a gap in the movement of a robot’s joints to prevent pinching, which by the same token reduced the sorts of movements that could be performed, and thus limited the anthropomorphism of the humanoid. The state of the art also attempted to limit the force deployed to actuate a joint, but this solution tended to reduce the overall capacity of the humanoid robot, for example, to lift heavy equipment.

In response, this anti-jamming invention thus discloses a passive solution that limits the pinching force of a humanoid joint. It consists in a strategically positioned, soft and flexible membrane, at any area of a humanoid joint (e.g.; hip, elbow, shoulder, knee, wrist) where a risk of pinching might be anticipated. This membrane is able to distort a certain distance (i.e.; the diameter of the round black circle (20) representing a finger in the two included patent drawings), in cases where such a finger might get caught in the humanoid joint, or area between the robot’s trunk and joint.  Thus, while the outer shell of the robot’s limbs and trunk are made of hard plastic, certain researched areas of the robot’s outer shell comprise the contiguous invention areas, made of soft and flexible silicone, or rubber, able to accommodate a finger, that could get caught, and thereby passively limiting the pinching force.

This anti-jamming invention is disclosed in a family of patents. The hyperlinked list of patents in this family appears below. The English abstract of the WIPO member of this patent family, WO2015185671, titled Anti-jamming system in a humanoid-type robot, is also included with two patent figure drawings. The two drawings respectively show a black circle (20) representing a finger potentially pinched in Nao’s elbow joint (below), and a black circle (20) representing a finger potentially caught in the space between Nao’s shoulder joint and trunk (above), with both drawings showing the anti-jamming flexible area designed to accommodates the finger, or to limit the pinching force.

The invention relates to the safety of use of a humanoid-type robot. The humanoid-type robot comprises two elements (2, 3) and an articulation (11) with at least one degree of freedom that connects the two elements, the two elements each comprising a skin (22, 23) delimiting the outer surface thereof, the articulation (11) allowing movement in a given range, a first of the two elements (2, 3) being intended to come substantially into contact with a region (25, 26) of the skin (22, 23) of a second of the two elements at one end of the range. According to the invention, the region (25, 26) is flexible such that it can be deformed by a given distance with a force less than a given force. The first element (3) is coupled to the second element (2) by passing through the flexible region (26).  [Abstract WO2015185671]
Patent Family 
  • WO2015185671 (A1) ― 2015-12-10 - Anti-jamming system in a humanoid-type robot
  • AU2015270477 (A1) ― 2016-12-01 - Anti-jamming system in a humanoid-type robot 
  • CA2950652 (A1) ― 2015-12-10 - Anti-jamming system in a humanoid-type robot 
  • EP3152013 (A1) ― 2017-04-12 - Anti-jamming system in a humanoid-type robot  
  • FR3021573 (A1) ― 2015-12-04 - Système anti coincement dans un robot a caractère humanoide  
  • JP2017516672 (a) ― 2017-06-22 -ヒューマノイド型ロボットにおける噛み込み防止システム
  • KR20170021828 (A) ― 2017-02-28 - Anti-jamming system in a humanoid-type robot
  • MX2016015823 (A) ― 2017-06-28 - Anti-jamming system in a humanoid-type robot 
  • SG11201609419R (A) ― 2016-12-29 - Anti-jamming system in a humanoid-type robot
  • US2017080582 (A1) ― 2017-03-23 - Anti-jamming system in a humanoid-type robot

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