Friday, 2 May 2014

Playing on the RIFT

The CCFE (Culham Centre for Fusion Energy) graduate scheme includes doing a project outside of the normal placements. It allows the graduates to gain skills that otherwise wouldn’t necessarily be accessible. For example, physicists might be able to do some engineering, and engineers might be able to do some programming etc.

The RIFT (Remote Interactive Feedback Technology) project will be one of the most fun graduate projects when it is completed, as it will create a public facing interactive demonstration of the feedback technology used on the remote handling manipulator known as Mascot. Remote handling is used on JET (Joint European Torus) for in-vessel maintenance and upgrade operations because the radioactive vessel poses a risk to humans. Mascot (the Slave) is set-up to work with a controller (the Master), the operator manipulates the Master and the Slave mimics the action. When the Slave reacts against an object the force of that is mirrored back through the Master allowing the operator to feel the object as if they were touching it. This is hugely beneficial for JET because it means the torus can be accessed without exposing any workers to radiation. Any replacements, repairs or adjustments that are required should be possible. One of the training steps for Mascot operators is to use this technology to play Jenga remotely, relying on the high level of touch needed for the game.

The goal of the project is to promote the current remote handling capabilities at CCFE as well as the future remote handling centre of excellence known as RACE which is being developed on site. This goal will be achieved by creating an interactive demonstration of this feedback technology.

To demonstrate the Mascot technology we will be using two relatively low cost haptic devices called Novint Falcons normally used as PC gaming controllers. Haptic devices allow a level of force feedback that creates the feeling of actually interacting with something which you see on a screen. To a certain extent touch screen phones use haptic feedback when a button is pressed and the phone vibrates. The Falcons will be set-up in the same configuration as the Mascot and its controller, in a Master-Slave configuration which is standard for haptic feedback loops.

We will then think of some fun games to play with this set up, which the public will be able to try when they visit CCFE. We might get to play Jenga like the real Mascot or at least move some objects around remotely.

There is a dream team of graduates working on this endeavour from different backgrounds. We have Mechanical and Electrical engineers and general day-dreamers just like the original Italian teams that would have created the first Mascot back in the 60s. The team have interests in programming, electronics, haptic feedback, and remote handling.

The project is still in its early stages but with a little luck and a lot of push this project could be up and running soon. Then we can all play remote Jenga, just like the Mascot operators do in training to develop their coordination in a low risk situation.

Watch this space for future updates...

Project team:
·         Project Manager/Mechanical Engineer – Keelan Keogh
·         Control Engineer – Jibin James
·         Mechanical Engineer – Jason Hess
·         Electrical Engineer – Steven Wray
·         Electrical Engineer – Zain Ul-Abidin

Author: Keelan Keogh


  1. Oh we can Comment on the articles? That's cool

    1. Yes! So have you had any other game ideas other than Jenga?

    2. I was thinking the likes of knitting. By knitting I mean cable handling between dowels. A classic training process for MASCOT

    3. Cool! A wooly hat maybe? :D