Intuitive operating concepts

Article of 29 August 2014 

Festo reveals intuitive operating concepts for machines

Intuitive operating concepts are already successfully established in everyday life: mobile phones obey their owner's every word, tablet PCs can be operated with swiping motions and gesture controls are standard with games consoles.

In industry too, the simple handling of appliances is becoming increasingly important. Where buttons are still being pressed today, perhaps thought controls, speech commands or data goggles will already be in use tomorrow. As part of the Bionic Learning Network, Festo has been working for some years already on innovative operating concepts for the automation sector – be it how to control machines by means of speech and image recognition, thoughts or also gestures.

Motion control using speech and image recognition

“Grip the workpiece”, “Open the gripper”, “Go back to the start position”– the Bionic Handling Assistant can implement all these commands by means of integrated image and speech recognition. The flexible gripper arm is therefore able to grip things on its own, without programming or manual operation. A miniaturised camera in the gripper module captures the workspace, recognises target objects and gives the command at the right time to grip them. A simplified interface is used for the speech recognition function: by means of the defined collection of commands, the system grips and moves the objects easily and safely.

Intuitive operation using gesture controls

Making an artificial kangaroo by means of clapping and hand signs was an aim of the BionicKangaroo project completed in 2014. It can be controlled by gestures using a special armband. A position sensor in the armband records the movement of the operator's arm. The armband sends these signals via Bluetooth to the artificial kangaroo's control system, upon which it starts to interact with its operator.

Controlling with thoughts

In the “CogniGame” developed by Festo, controlling with the aid of thoughts is possible. CogniGame is a re-interpretation of a well-know video game from the 70s. During the game, a player controls his bat solely by the power of his thoughts using a Brain-Computer-Interface (BCI). This uses electrodes to measure voltage fluctuations on the surface of the person's head. For the game, Festo developed a software solution with CogniWare, which allows the bat to be controlled by thoughts and biosignals. It produces a communication channel between the brain and the hardware. In this way, the Brain-Computer-Interface and CogniWare are used to record the player's brain patterns, process them and direct them from the software to the hardware.


Operating a complex system made easy

A smartphone is used to control the highly complex flying properties of the “BionicOpter” artificial dragonfly simply and intuitively. Like its natural role model, the ultralight flying object can manoeuvre in all spatial directions, fly on the spot and hover without beating its wings. The wireless real-time communication system and the constant exchange of information control the wing movement – the pilot must only steer the dragonfly itself, without having to coordinate the complex motion sequences.