This paper proposes a new algorithm, known as the Segmentation Algorithm, which provides model-based, real-time, whole-arm collision avoidance for telerobotic applications. The work presented here is an extension and modification of potential field theory. Novel aspects of the algorithm include the application of a hierarchical segmentation technique to minimize on-line processing and the development of procedures which account for workspace object translation, rotation, and grasping. The'SA outputs torques, which, when applied to the control arm, prevent the teleoperator from driving the remote arm into a collision. The teleoperator actually feels
workspace objects that are spatially close to the remote arm—an experience known as virtual force-reflection. The SA's performance has been analyzed in terms of its speed and efficiency vis a vis various system parameters, including workspace object distribution, size, and number. Simulation results show that the SA succeeds in providing real-time collision avoidance where less elegant brute force algorithms fail.