Military: operations in the air, undersea, and on land.

Medical: patient transport, disability aids, surgery, monitoring, remote treatment.

Construction: earth moving, building construction, building and structure inspection, cleaning and maintenance.

Civil security: protection and security, firefighting, police work, bomb disposal.

This chapter is divided into five sections, which represent one way of categorizing past developments in telerobotics:

  1. Remote manipulators

  2. Remote vehicles

  3. Low-level control

  4. Supervisory control

  5. Real-time computing

A recent survey including these and other topics is provided by Sheridan (1992a).

Relation to Robotics

Telerobots may be remotely controlled manipulators or vehicles. The distinction between robots and telerobots is fuzzy and a matter of degree. Although the hardware is the same or is similar, robots require less human involvement for instruction and guidance than do telerobots. There is a continuum of human involvement, from direct control of every aspect of motion, to shared or traded control, to nearly complete robot autonomy.

Any robot manipulator can be hooked up to a haptic interface and hence become a telerobot. Similarly, any vehicle can be turned into a teleoperated mobile robot. There are many examples in the literature of different industrial robots that have been used as telerobots, even though that was not the original intended use. For example, a common laboratory robot, the PUMA 560, has frequently been teleoperated (Funda et al., 1992; Hayati et al., 1990; Kan et al., 1990; Lee et al., 1990; Salcudean et al., 1992). There have also been a number of telerobots specifically designed as such, often with a preferred haptic interface. The design issues for robots, telerobots, and haptic interfaces are essentially the same (although Pennington, 1986, seeks to identify differences). Often telerobots have to be designed for hazardous environments, which require special characteristics in the design. Industrial robots have most often been designed for benign indoor environments.

Why don't we do everything with robots, rather than involve humans in telerobotic control? We can't, because robots are not that capable. Often there is no substitute for human cognitive capabilities for planning

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