Analysis of Coupling Effect in Human-Commanded Stiffness During Bilateral Tele-Impedance

Luuk Maria Doornebosch, David A. Abbink, Luka Peternel

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Tele-impedance augments classic teleoperation by enabling the human operator to actively command remote robot stiffness in real-time, which is an essential ability to successfully interact with the unstructured and unpredictable environment. However, the literature is missing a study on benefits and drawbacks of different types of stiffness command interfaces used in bilateral tele-impedance. In this article, we introduce a term called coupling effect, which pertains to the coupling between human-commanded stiffness going to the remote robot and force feedback coming from the remote robot. We hypothesize that, whenever the operator&#x0027;s commanded stiffness and force feedback are subject to coupling effect (e.g., muscle activity based stiffness command interfaces), force feedback can invoke involuntary changes in the commanded stiffness due to human reflexes. Although the coupling effect takes away some degree of the operator&#x0027;s control over the commanded stiffness, these involuntary changes can be either beneficial (e.g., during position tracking) or detrimental (e.g., during force tracking) to the task performance on the remote robot side. We examined the coupling effect in an experimental study with <formula><tex>$\mathbf {16}$</tex></formula> participants, who performed position and force tracking tasks by using both coupled type (muscle activity based) and decoupled type (external device based) of interface. The results demonstrate a benefit of the coupling effect when the remote robot is operating in presence of unexpected force perturbations, where lower absolute error in position tracking task was observed. On the other hand, the decoupled type of interface is beneficial for force tracking tasks on the remote robot side, such as establishing or maintaining a stable contact with objects. However, the coupling effect negatively influences the commanding of reference stiffness to the remote robot in both position and force tracking tasks for the coupled type of interface, compared to the decoupled type of interface, which is not affected.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1282-1297
JournalIEEE Transactions on Robotics
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2021

Bibliographical note

Accepted Author Manuscript


  • Coupling effect
  • force feedback
  • impedance control
  • stiffness command interface
  • tele-impedance


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