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Graphical User Interface Control System
Corde Lane

Description

To keep up with the developmental changes of the Ranger telerobot. A flexible control interface was designed. Over 50 different software processes can work together to effectively control the robot's many subsystems. The operator can use one of many types of input devices (hand controllers, forceballs, master arms, and 6DOF positioners) to directly control Ranger's manipulators. The inputs of these devices are feed to an interface program, shown below, which sends commands to the robot.

The above screenshot shows several independent windows surrounding a graphical simulation display. These windows display the current state of the vehicle. The operator can used this graphical interface to change control modes, update control parameters, run command scripts, or monitor the vehicle's status. Each window focuses on one aspect of the robot. The operator can open, close, and move each window to create control station layout for a specific task. The operator may have one layout when controlling the manipulator, then switch to another layout to analyze a system malfunction. The control station is distributed linking different modules together allowing several operators, using different computers over the internet, to work together and effectively control Ranger. If a operator station crashes, the control system can instantly be reconfigured, allowing any other operator to take over were the previous left off.

The modularity of the system facilitates the modification or addition of new systems on Ranger. If a new control method is developed for the robot, a new control station module with its different windows can easily be dropped into the collective. In fact the control of an entirely different robotic vehicle, SCAMP, was integrated within this system. The operator can control both vehicles simultaneously. Auxiliary programs are able to be absorbed into this system. The addition of new input devices, programs which monitor the communication between the control station and the robot, and graphical simulations are also linked to this system. Therefore the control system is not only used during robotic operations, it is used to test new system designs, analyze system anomalies, and train operators. The control system becomes more of a design tool in Ranger's continual development.

 Related Works:

Lane, J. Corde, Craig Carignan, and David L. Akin. "Reconfigurable Control Station Design For Robotic Operations". IEEE International Conference on Systems, Man, and Cybernetics. 1997.

Lane, J.C., S.P. Kuester, B. Shneiderman. "User Interfaces for a Complex Robotic Task: A Comparison of Tiled vs. Overlapped Windows". Computer Science Technical Report CS-TR-3784, ISR-TR-97-55. University of Maryland. 1997.