Jake Abbott’s group publishes two new research papers, one on how humans interact with robots designed for precision tasks such as microsurgery and another on localizing magnetic capsule endoscopes inside the human body.

In their new paper “Human Velocity Control of Admittance-Type Robotic Devices With Scaled Visual Feedback of Device Motion,” published in the IEEE Transactions on Human-Machine Systems, Dr. Abbott’s group describes the control of a class of robots uses for very precise tasks. These robots are heavily geared, so that they only move in a very controlled way, and the human operator interacts directly with a force sensor on the robot to command movement in a given direction. The traditional wisdom with these robots is “If I push harder, it means I want the robot to move faster.” Abbott’s group shows this way of thinking can be counterproductive, if the goal is to make the system as precise as possible. The lead author of the study is Troy Arbuckle, who received an MS degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Utah. Troy is now working as an engineer at Parker Hannifin.

Over the years, Dr. Abbott’s group as demonstrated a number of important results on the topic of magnetic capsule endoscopy (MCE). In the MCE concept, a tiny camera pill containing an internal magnet, a microprocessor, and a wireless transmitter is driven through the intestines of a patient by a robotically controlled magnet located outside of the patient’s body. The pill will identify cancer and other disease, and may completely change the way our society thinks about getting a colonoscopy. To date, all of Abbott’s results on how to magnetically control the capsules have used cameras to track the capsule, which is a strategy that won’t work inside the human body. In their new paper, “Six-degree-of-freedom Localization of an Untethered Capsule Using a Single Rotating Magnetic Dipole,” published in IEEE Robotics and Automation Letters, they show how the same magnet being used to propel the capsule through the intestines can also be used to localize the capsule inside the patient’s body. This result paves the way for more realistic experiments on the way to a clinical prototype. The lead author of the study is Katie Popek, who is working toward a PhD degree in Computing from the University of Utah in the Robotics Track.