11 / 2020 – 06 / 2021
Human Computer Interfaces (HCI) are an essential part of the digital life and are presented in many different forms. While traditional 2D interfaces are still the norm there are now many different interfaces based around the reality-virtuality continuum presented by Milgram et al. in
1994 [Mil+94]. An currently researched extension of these interfaces are immersive, headmounted systems. In contrast to traditional virtual reality (VR) interfaces that rely on controllers or mobile applications with touch interfaces, mixed reality (MR) based implementations usually
rely on camera systems that track hand or finger positions. Newer improvements extend these with depth information from time-of-flight(TOF) or stereoscopic sensors, increasing detection stability and precision of distance measurements. Combined with simultaneous localization and
mapping (SLAM) algorithms and visual markers this enables interfaces to overlay digital images over their physical counterparts precisely for mixed reality applications [Bor+09]. Mixed reality systems have applications in many different fields due to their unique advantage to extend the real world with digital information and enable hands-free usage due to the ability to process inputs without needing a physical input device [AAM+13; Alk17]. Their handsfree interaction and head-mounted displays migrate the need to switch between tools, manuals and controllers. These generic gesture-based input styles for immersive interactions and their recognition are already well understood [BKM09; Kol+06] and have already proven themselves in numerous implementations [Car+11; OCN06]. Nevertheless they are still prone to being new, novel approaches with very specific usages and a lack of shared guidelines [BH09]. According to Lee et al. there is not only a need for generic usability studies but especially regarding interfaces for augmented reality systems, as traditional methodologies for knowledge transfer cannot be applied directly to MR-based interfaces [Lee+13].
Research about intuitive usage of these MR-based gesture interfaces becomes even more important when used as spacial robot controllers, because they offer the ability to reason about 3D environments without a lossy reduction to 2D displays. They are not restricted to displaying information, but also need to encompass control of actuators in wildly variying environments. The usage of human robot interfaces (HRI) is an effective addition to classical robotic systems [Gre+07; Wil+19], especially in industrial environments. Their usage as interactive controllers
in contrast to fixed programs enable flexible production lines that keep pace with the upcoming trend for smaller batch sizes [GTK17].
While earlier implementations have been notable for their time [SS00; SJG13; MS13], modern advances in computer vision, wearables and sensors allow for more immersive and less restrictive solutions. Modern mixed reality headsets offer more flexibility and better immersion while being easier to use, giving developers the possibility to improve on old solutions in many ways. MR-based applications give way to improved forms of control by embedding interfaces into real contexts and offering more tightly integrated feedback to the actions of the user. Some forms of input to control robot movements from MR were researched by D. Puljiz et al. using a Hololens 1, where they called out a need for a MR-based control of tool heads and implemented a simple interface [Pul+19a]. They noted the technical limitations of inbuild gestures of their device and their difficulties tracking hands in close proximity to the robot and the need to validate this kind of interface with user studies. An additional paper published by them later described a newer implementation that was able to control tool heads and other joints directly, but still lacked a user study and had only limited modes of interaction due to their continued use of the Hololens 1 [Pul+19b].
The objective of this thesis is to offer insights into MR-based gesture control of robots by developing a reference implementation based on modern hardware. It is based on a physical robot that can be controlled and instructed from a MR headset with gesture-based interaction principles to execute a variety of physical tasks while offering mixed reality overlays to enable the usage of natural gestures with immediate feedback. A user study will then validate the usability assumptions and allow for the derivation of design implications by training and testing usage with participants that have no prior experience with similar systems. A mix of quantitative data measured and a qualitative experience report and interviews are then used as the basis for the subsequent analysis. The results generated enable future implementations to use data-driven
design for immersive interactions.
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