DigiTOP’s Transfer Potential to the Nuclear Industry

We expect that many of the project results in DigiTOP will be transferable from digital manufacturing to other domains. For example, the Bristol Robotics Laboratory (BRL) is currently involved in two large projects on using robots for nuclear decommissioning, Robotics for Nuclear Environments (RNE, https://nuclearrobots.org/) and the National Centre for Nuclear Robotics (NCNR, https://www.ncnr.org.uk/). One of BRL’s research lines in NCNR is to investigate novel ways for human operators to tele-operate robots, to remotely sort nuclear waste. The challenge in this use case is, on one hand to have a control algorithm that guarantees safe operation of the robot in all circumstances, but on the other hand, BRL is focusing on increasing the immersion for the operator. One of the ways to get to a more immersive tele-operation is using virtual reality (VR) headsets. However, we do not know yet, how the usage of VR influences human factors such as trust, focus of attention, fatigue, or simply the acceptability of operators to wear a VR headset for a prolonged time during a regular shift.

The technologies developed as part of the DigiTOP digital toolkit will enable robot system developers and managers in the nuclear industry to make informed decisions on important questions like the following: Which interface technology should be used to increase safety and human situation awareness when tele-operating a robot in a nuclear environment? What are acceptable usage times of novel interface technologies for application in the nuclear industry? What effects does the prolonged usage of novel interfaces have on workload and mental well-being of a robot operator? DigiTOP has the right mix of project partners to answer these questions not only for the manufacturing domain, but also for domains with similar challenges, as  the nuclear industry.

Manuel Giuliani
Bristol Robotics Lab

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