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R&D Basic Plan for "Human Friendly and Supportive Robot Systems"


1.Purpose, Themes and Goals of Research and Development


(1) Purpose
Mechanical engineering that has been developed and utilized in a wide rage of fields from industrial machinery to household goods in Japan has recently seen great progress. Combined with developments in electronics and information communications technology, the use of machinery for some tasks and fields that until now have been considered unsuitable has become a possibility. For example, there is a great expectation for introducing machinery in fields where there has been difficulty with automation, such as operation of power generation plants, construction sites and disaster relief operations.


The need for automation of operation is greatest where workers are at risk. On the other hand, Japan's population is aging rapidly and people are having fewer children. This means that efficient and human friendly machinery that can support daily life and the activities of humans, such as attending to the elderly and the handicapped, is also in great demand. Thus, this project aims to develop a safe and reliable human friendly robot system capable of carrying out complicated tasks and supporting humans within the sphere of human lives and activities. Through development of such a system, this project will contribute towards improvement in efficiency and safety in industry, making society and the living environment more convenient and comfortable and towards the creation of new industries in the manufacturing and service sectors.


(2) Themes and goals
This project will be undertaken in two phases. The goal of phase one is to develop a platform (basic research models) for human friendly and supportive robot systems bybringing together the elemental technologies possessed by industry, academia and the government with the latest technologies. To be specific, R&D will be carried out on the following themes as specified in the attached plans.

1) Development of a platform for a human friendly and supportive robot

2) Development of a virtual platform for a human friendly and supportive robot

In phase two, R&D will be carried out towards the application of human friendly and supportive robots with consideration given to the needs of industries in which such robots might be used. Improvement and addition of elemental technologies will be carried out using the platform and the virtual platform developed in phase one. R&D will be carried out on the following theme as specified in the attached plans.

3) Application of a platform for a human friendly and supportive robot


2.Research and Development Implementation Method


(1) System for implementation

1) Phase 1
This R&D aims to be highly efficient by taking full advantage of the research potential of research groups from industry, academia and government. To achieve this, a large-scale and concentrated method of R&D which brings together all researchers under the leadership of a project leader will be used. 

Joint research contracts will be executed between national laboratories chosen by AIST (the Agency of Industrial Science and Technology, MITI) (hereinafter referred to as "national laboratories"), and enterprises, associations, etc. chosen by the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO) (all hereinafter referred to as "entrusted parties," including re-entrusted parties such as universities) and all project participants will work together towards efficient R&D.

NEDO, which has the responsibility for and decision making power over the administration and implementation of R&D by enterprises, shall establish and sustain close connections with AIST and the project leader who will inform NEDO of the progress of each researcher and research group. This will enable NEDO to manage the R&D in an efficient manner.

2) Phase 2
Prior to phase two, NEDO will call for public applications and select participants from research organizations such as enterprises, universities or other organizations and AIST from national laboratories. The researchers will be grouped into research groups and carry out research and development on their themes (domain type of research). Research groups will implement their research and development under commercial circumstances towards achieving their respective goal. Each group shall, in general, be comprised of researchers from a single organization such as an enterprise, university, private research institute or national laboratory. However, a research body comprised of researchers from several organizations with a centralized management system shall also be recognized as a research group.

The maintenance of the platform and the virtual platform developed in phase one will be carried out by the entrusted parties in phase one.


(2) Promotion Committee

In order to ensure unified management of this research and development, a promotion committee consisting of NEDO staff members, project leaders and people with appropriate knowledge will be organized by NEDO.


3.Research and Development Period


The period for the project shall be five years from FY1998 to FY2002. Phase one will be two years from FY1998 to FY1999 and phase two will be three years from FY2000 to 2002.


4.Other Matters of Importance


(1) Evaluation of research and development

The research and development for each theme will be evaluated after it has been completed concerning the following points: importance of the research and development from the technological and industrial policy points of view; level of achievement; technological significance of research results; and influence on future industry.


(2) Treatment of results

(a) Presentation of research results
Announcements of research results should be actively encouraged and pursued both inside and outside of Japan.

(b) Treatment of Intellectual Property Rights
All intellectual property rights resulting from industrial technology research and development entrusted by NEDO shall, in principle, belong to the entrusted party (parties) which carried out the research and development according to Article 19 of NEDO's procedure manual for industrial technology research and development.


(3) Review of basic plan
The basic plan will be reviewed after the public call for applications by NEDO prior to the start of phase two. In case research and development themes need to be added or changed from the technical or industrial policy points of view, such additions or changes will be carried out in a flexible manner.


Research Theme (1) :
R&D Plan for "Development of a Platform for a Human Friendly and Supportive Robot"


1.Need for the Research

The development and application of mechanical engineering across a wide range of fields, including industrial machinery, has meant that new functions have been developed and added to machines to adapt them to their respective end use and environment. Therefore, bringing together technologies from various fields will be an effective way of developing human friendly and supportive robots. By combining the latest technologies from mechanical engineering and other industries, a platform for a human friendly and supportive robot will be developed in phase one using the latest technologies. Academia, industry and the government will work together towards this goal.

Of the fields in which expectations for the application of robots are high, a teleoperation system is a vital element in power generation plants, disaster relief, medical services, etc. Because robots have only limited self-control capability, it is a required element in other fields as well. The development of a teleoperation system needs to be carried out along with the development of a platform.


2.Content of the R&D

Human friendly and supportive robots capable of transmitting visual and audio information and having basic motions within human living and working environments will be developed along with a teleoperation system. The robots should have a mechanically and electronically standard structure to enable smooth addition and changes of functions.


3.Targets

The robots must be 160cm or less in height, 60cm or less in width and should weigh no more than 100kg without batteries. They should be able to move on an uneven floor with bumps and dents of 2cm or less by biped walking at a speed of 2km/h or faster. The robots must also be capable of going up and down steps of 20cm or less in height at a speed of 1.5 second/step. They must be able to pick up an object from the floor with dual arms and be able to carry out the two movements noted above at the stated speed when the object weighs around 10kg. The robots must also have functions for inputting three-dimensional visual and audio information and communicating sounds. The main parts of the robots should have a mechanically and electronically modular structure which can be changed to add and/or modify functions, and the connection method for the modules should be such that it can be standardized. Each robot must also be able to operate for more than 30 minutes with batteries.

The teleoperation system must be capable of giving a robot directions concerning positioning and maneuvering of each part and of communicating sounds. It must be possible to operate the robot by radio, and when out of radio range, to use an information communications network for operation. The system must also be able to display real-time three-dimensional images, sounds, forces and contact information transmitted by the robot to an operator.

Research Theme (2) :
R&D Plan for "Development of a Virtual Platform for a Human Friendly and Supportive Robot"


1.Need for the Research

Software program for operating the platform hardware for a human friendly and supportive robot needs to be developed together with the hardware. Also, a simulator capable of predicting and displaying the motions of platform hardware must be developed in order to facilitate elemental research prior to development, thereby reducing the risk of damage in the application of robots and to enable as many parties as possible to participate in the R&D on the application of the robots.


2.Content of the R&D

A virtual platform consisting of a simulator and software for operating platform hardware and the simulator will be developed. The software shall be a basic motion library to enable safe and stable execution of dynamic and constrained motions by the robot. The simulator will possess equal geometric and dynamic parameters as the platform hardware and emulate the motions of the hardware precisely.


3.Target

The above basic motion library must include control software for several basic motions such as "standing motions requiring dynamic compensation" and "motions with geometric constraints to the position of the arm." The simulator must acquire by calculation equal values of forward and inverse kinematics and dynamics (including forward dynamics with contact constraints). It should also be able to cope with open and closed links seamlessly.


Research Theme (3) :
R&D Plan for "Application of a Platform for a Human Friendly and Supportive Robot"


1.Need for the Research

In order to make robots suitable for practical use, functions to be developed and added to the platform developed in phase one need to be investigated. Therefore, public proposals of research themes for the application of the platform in phase one and applications for undertaking that research will be called for. This public call and the actual research into application technology for the platform is expected to boost demand for human friendly and supportive robots by industry and households. By integrating additional functions developed in phase two to the platform, the platform itself will be improved.


2.Content of the R&D and Target

The content of the R&D and target will be decided after the public call for proposals.
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