Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

MIT student dances with robots

05.02.2004


Sommer Gentry with the robotic arm she programmed to "dance" with her
Credit: Dorry Segev


Potential applications in robotic surgery, more

The bubbly clarinet solo that opens a 1940s swing classic begins, setting a pair of dancers in motion. They move in constant rhythm, varying their steps to the song’s changing tempo. Slight pushes and pulls of the dancers’ hands allow seamless transitions between swing-outs, tuck turns and Texas Tommies.

You might call this swing dancing. Or you might call it a highly evolved system of communication and control via haptic (touch-based) signaling. Graduate student Sommer Gentry, an expert swing dancer, sees it both ways.



Gentry, who has appointments in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and in the Laboratory for Information and Decision Systems, is investigating the complex haptic communication behind the often-improvised moves in swing dancing. Her experiments have already shown that pure haptic communication (without visual cues) is sufficient for two humans--or even a human and a robot--to move in coordination. The paper describing the results of Gentry’s human-robot experiments won the Best Student Paper Award at the 2003 IEEE Systems, Man and Cybernetics Conference.

Understanding the effectiveness of haptic communication in swing dancing could lead to broad applications in human-robot collaboration, says Gentry. "This is a research field with important applications," she continued, such as robotic surgery. "There are existing steady-hand robots that [a doctor can] hold onto that will take the tremors out of their movement. Such robots could be improved by research like mine that might imbue the tool with a richer ability to understand and respond to what the user is doing based on a ’vocabulary’ of moves."

"Sommer is entering an exciting area of research which is between engineering, psychology, and human motor-control studies. It could be of importance for sports training or rehabilitation engineering--the study of how to use technology to help humans overcome disability or injuries," said Roderick Murray-Smith, a senior researcher at the National University of Ireland-Maynooth’s Hamilton Institute who collaborated with Gentry on her paper.

Gentry’s husband and dance partner, Dorry Segev (whom she met through dancing), is a chief resident in surgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital. "That’s where my interest in robotic surgery applications comes from," she said. Melding her hobby with her work is great, she added, "because it means that even when I’m out dancing, I’m thinking about my research project."

Gentry and Segev are seriously good at their hobby. They have performed all over the world and excelled in competition; they placed fifth in the 2001 and 2003 national Lindy Hop championships and first in the 2002 U.K. Lindy Hop Open. They also teach swing dancing, specializing in "1930s smooth-style Lindy Hop, collegiate shag and Balboa," according to their web site, http://www.dorryandsommer.com.

Teaching inspired Gentry to view dancing from an engineering point of view. "I realized it was an engineering question: how do you dance well with someone? It would be great to give people mathematical and engineering proofs of why they have to dance the way I say."

While there has been some scientific investigation of dance--on the physics of ballet, for instance--"what’s missing is any sort of partner-dancing aspect," Gentry said. "Partner dancing involves both controlling your own body’s physical properties and communicating information to the other person."

To prove the effectiveness of haptic signaling in swing dancing, Gentry first recruited a pair of fellow Lindy Hoppers and got them to dance while blindfolded. That experiment verified what she already knew from "Jedi" swing contests in which the follower or both dance partners are blindfolded: even without visual information, an experienced follower can correctly interpret the leader’s haptic signal (e.g., a push on the hand) by executing that signal’s corresponding move (e.g., a half-spin). She posited that this is because the dancers, in addition to receiving aural cues from the music, share a vocabulary of known moves.

The next step for Gentry was to program a robot to dance with a human. In 2002, while she was a visiting researcher at the Hamilton Institute, she programmed a PHANToM, an arm-like robotic device, to perform a random sequence of leads in time to "New York, New York."

Human test subjects with varying degrees of dance experience held the "hand" of the PHANToM and managed, for the most part, to successfully follow its unpredictable leads. The key was their familiarity with the moves. It wasn’t exactly Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, but it was a solid first step in Gentry’s far-off goal: to design a truly interactive robot leader "who could signal move changes in advance, who could recognize an error in the follower and execute a different move to compensate for it"--just like an experienced human leader does.

Her motive is not to create a robot substitute for her husband. Rather, "in the process of recreating a partner dancer, I will have occasion to satisfy my overwhelming curiosity about how partner dance works with two people," she said.

Figuring out how partner dancing works could apply to a wide range of other systems requiring simultaneous communication and control in real time.

"I’m thinking about things such as collaborative, fast and coordinated actions for unmanned systems," said Gentry’s faculty advisor, Professor Eric Feron of aeronautics and astronautics. "Urban warfare, for example, requires people and systems to conduct very closely coordinated actions to detect danger and eliminate it."

More broadly, Gentry’s work "has relevance for how we interact with machines and computers," Murray-Smith said. "In a few years, we might not view interacting with computers as a ’command and control’ scenario, but rather more like a waltz, where sometimes the computer leads the user and other times the user leads the computer, with smooth transfers of who is leading."


Gentry is supported by a U.S. Department of Energy Computational Science Grad-uate Fellowship, awarded from 2001-05.

Elizabeth Thomson | MIT
Further information:
http://web.mit.edu/newsoffice/www/

More articles from Communications Media:

nachricht Arguments, Emotions, and News distribution in social media - Leibniz-WissenschaftsCampus Tübingen
04.05.2018 | Leibniz-Institut für Wissensmedien

nachricht High Number of Science Enthusiasts in Switzerland
05.02.2018 | Universität Zürich

All articles from Communications Media >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Temperature-controlled fiber-optic light source with liquid core

In a recent publication in the renowned journal Optica, scientists of Leibniz-Institute of Photonic Technology (Leibniz IPHT) in Jena showed that they can accurately control the optical properties of liquid-core fiber lasers and therefore their spectral band width by temperature and pressure tuning.

Already last year, the researchers provided experimental proof of a new dynamic of hybrid solitons– temporally and spectrally stationary light waves resulting...

Im Focus: Overdosing on Calcium

Nano crystals impact stem cell fate during bone formation

Scientists from the University of Freiburg and the University of Basel identified a master regulator for bone regeneration. Prasad Shastri, Professor of...

Im Focus: AchemAsia 2019 will take place in Shanghai

Moving into its fourth decade, AchemAsia is setting out for new horizons: The International Expo and Innovation Forum for Sustainable Chemical Production will take place from 21-23 May 2019 in Shanghai, China. With an updated event profile, the eleventh edition focusses on topics that are especially relevant for the Chinese process industry, putting a strong emphasis on sustainability and innovation.

Founded in 1989 as a spin-off of ACHEMA to cater to the needs of China’s then developing industry, AchemAsia has since grown into a platform where the latest...

Im Focus: First real-time test of Li-Fi utilization for the industrial Internet of Things

The BMBF-funded OWICELLS project was successfully completed with a final presentation at the BMW plant in Munich. The presentation demonstrated a Li-Fi communication with a mobile robot, while the robot carried out usual production processes (welding, moving and testing parts) in a 5x5m² production cell. The robust, optical wireless transmission is based on spatial diversity; in other words, data is sent and received simultaneously by several LEDs and several photodiodes. The system can transmit data at more than 100 Mbit/s and five milliseconds latency.

Modern production technologies in the automobile industry must become more flexible in order to fulfil individual customer requirements.

Im Focus: Sharp images with flexible fibers

An international team of scientists has discovered a new way to transfer image information through multimodal fibers with almost no distortion - even if the fiber is bent. The results of the study, to which scientist from the Leibniz-Institute of Photonic Technology Jena (Leibniz IPHT) contributed, were published on 6thJune in the highly-cited journal Physical Review Letters.

Endoscopes allow doctors to see into a patient’s body like through a keyhole. Typically, the images are transmitted via a bundle of several hundreds of optical...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Munich conference on asteroid detection, tracking and defense

13.06.2018 | Event News

2nd International Baltic Earth Conference in Denmark: “The Baltic Sea region in Transition”

08.06.2018 | Event News

ISEKI_Food 2018: Conference with Holistic View of Food Production

05.06.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Graphene assembled film shows higher thermal conductivity than graphite film

22.06.2018 | Materials Sciences

Fast rising bedrock below West Antarctica reveals an extremely fluid Earth mantle

22.06.2018 | Earth Sciences

Zebrafish's near 360 degree UV-vision knocks stripes off Google Street View

22.06.2018 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>