Usability is one of the most important aspects of teleoperation. Ideally, the operator’s experience should be one of complete command over the remote environment, but also be as close as possible to what s/he would have if physically present at the remote end - i.e. transparency in terms of both action and perception. These two aspects may coincide in favorable conditions, where classic approaches such as the four-channel architecture ensures transparency of the control framework. In presence of substantial delays between the user and the slave, however, the stability-performance trade-off inherent to bilateral teleoperation deteriorates not only transparency, but also command. An alternative, unilateral approach is given by tele-impedance, which controls the slave-environment interaction by measuring and remotely replicating the user’s limb endpoint position and impedance. Not including force feedback to the operator, tele-impedance is absolutely robust to delays, while it completely lacks transparency.
This paper introduces a novel control framework which integrates a new, fully transparent, two-channel bilateral architecture with the tele-impedance paradigm. The result is a unified solution that mitigates problems of classical approaches, and provides the user with additional tools to modulate the slave robot’s physical interaction behavior, resulting in a better operator experience in spite of time inconsistencies. The validity and effectiveness of the proposed solution is demonstrated in terms of performance in the interaction tasks, of user fatigue and overall experience.