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2019


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Assessing Aesthetics of Generated Abstract Images Using Correlation Structure

Khajehabdollahi, S., Martius, G., Levina, A.

In Proceedings 2019 IEEE Symposium Series on Computational Intelligence (SSCI), pages: 306-313, IEEE, 2019 IEEE Symposium Series on Computational Intelligence (SSCI), December 2019 (inproceedings)

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DOI [BibTex]

2019


DOI [BibTex]


Learning to Explore in Motion and Interaction Tasks
Learning to Explore in Motion and Interaction Tasks

Bogdanovic, M., Righetti, L.

Proceedings 2019 IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS), pages: 2686-2692, IEEE, 2019 IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS), November 2019, ISSN: 2153-0866 (conference)

Abstract
Model free reinforcement learning suffers from the high sampling complexity inherent to robotic manipulation or locomotion tasks. Most successful approaches typically use random sampling strategies which leads to slow policy convergence. In this paper we present a novel approach for efficient exploration that leverages previously learned tasks. We exploit the fact that the same system is used across many tasks and build a generative model for exploration based on data from previously solved tasks to improve learning new tasks. The approach also enables continuous learning of improved exploration strategies as novel tasks are learned. Extensive simulations on a robot manipulator performing a variety of motion and contact interaction tasks demonstrate the capabilities of the approach. In particular, our experiments suggest that the exploration strategy can more than double learning speed, especially when rewards are sparse. Moreover, the algorithm is robust to task variations and parameter tuning, making it beneficial for complex robotic problems.

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


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Robust Humanoid Locomotion Using Trajectory Optimization and Sample-Efficient Learning

Yeganegi, M. H., Khadiv, M., Moosavian, S. A. A., Zhu, J., Prete, A. D., Righetti, L.

Proceedings International Conference on Humanoid Robots, IEEE, 2019 IEEE-RAS International Conference on Humanoid Robots, October 2019 (conference)

Abstract
Trajectory optimization (TO) is one of the most powerful tools for generating feasible motions for humanoid robots. However, including uncertainties and stochasticity in the TO problem to generate robust motions can easily lead to intractable problems. Furthermore, since the models used in TO have always some level of abstraction, it can be hard to find a realistic set of uncertainties in the model space. In this paper we leverage a sample-efficient learning technique (Bayesian optimization) to robustify TO for humanoid locomotion. The main idea is to use data from full-body simulations to make the TO stage robust by tuning the cost weights. To this end, we split the TO problem into two phases. The first phase solves a convex optimization problem for generating center of mass (CoM) trajectories based on simplified linear dynamics. The second stage employs iterative Linear-Quadratic Gaussian (iLQG) as a whole-body controller to generate full body control inputs. Then we use Bayesian optimization to find the cost weights to use in the first stage that yields robust performance in the simulation/experiment, in the presence of different disturbance/uncertainties. The results show that the proposed approach is able to generate robust motions for different sets of disturbances and uncertainties.

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https://arxiv.org/abs/1907.04616 link (url) [BibTex]

https://arxiv.org/abs/1907.04616 link (url) [BibTex]


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Collective Formation and Cooperative Function of a Magnetic Microrobotic Swarm

Xiaoguang Dong, M. S.

IEEE, Robotics: Science and Systems, June 2019 (conference)

Abstract
Untethered magnetically actuated microrobots can access distant, enclosed and small spaces, such as inside microfluidic channels and the human body, making them appealing for minimal invasive tasks. Despite the simplicity of individual magnetic microrobots, a collective of these microrobots that can work closely and cooperatively would significantly enhance their capabilities. However, a challenge of realizing such collective magnetic microrobots is to coordinate their formations and motions with underactuated control signals. Here, we report a method that allows collective magnetic microrobots working closely and cooperatively by controlling their two-dimensional (2D) formations and collective motions in a programmable manner. The actively designed formation and intrinsic adjustable compliance within the group allow bio-inspired collective behaviors, such as navigating through cluttered environments and reconfigurable cooperative manipulation ability. These collective magnetic microrobots thus could enable potential applications in programmable self-assembly, modular robotics, swarm robotics, and biomedicine.

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Collective Formation and Cooperative Function of a Magnetic Microrobotic Swarm DOI [BibTex]


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Variational Autoencoders Pursue PCA Directions (by Accident)

Rolinek, M., Zietlow, D., Martius, G.

In Proceedings IEEE Conf. on Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition (CVPR), IEEE International Conference on Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition (CVPR) 2019, June 2019 (inproceedings)

Abstract
The Variational Autoencoder (VAE) is a powerful architecture capable of representation learning and generative modeling. When it comes to learning interpretable (disentangled) representations, VAE and its variants show unparalleled performance. However, the reasons for this are unclear, since a very particular alignment of the latent embedding is needed but the design of the VAE does not encourage it in any explicit way. We address this matter and offer the following explanation: the diagonal approximation in the encoder together with the inherent stochasticity force local orthogonality of the decoder. The local behavior of promoting both reconstruction and orthogonality matches closely how the PCA embedding is chosen. Alongside providing an intuitive understanding, we justify the statement with full theoretical analysis as well as with experiments.

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arXiv link (url) Project Page [BibTex]

arXiv link (url) Project Page [BibTex]


A Magnetically-Actuated Untethered Jellyfish-Inspired Soft Milliswimmer
A Magnetically-Actuated Untethered Jellyfish-Inspired Soft Milliswimmer

(Best Paper Award)

Ziyu Ren, T. W., Hu, W.

RSS 2019: Robotics: Science and Systems Conference, June 2019 (conference)

pi

[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Efficient Humanoid Contact Planning using Learned Centroidal Dynamics Prediction

Lin, Y., Ponton, B., Righetti, L., Berenson, D.

International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA), pages: 5280-5286, IEEE, May 2019 (conference)

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


Leveraging Contact Forces for Learning to Grasp
Leveraging Contact Forces for Learning to Grasp

Merzic, H., Bogdanovic, M., Kappler, D., Righetti, L., Bohg, J.

In Proceedings of the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA) 2019, IEEE, International Conference on Robotics and Automation, May 2019 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Grasping objects under uncertainty remains an open problem in robotics research. This uncertainty is often due to noisy or partial observations of the object pose or shape. To enable a robot to react appropriately to unforeseen effects, it is crucial that it continuously takes sensor feedback into account. While visual feedback is important for inferring a grasp pose and reaching for an object, contact feedback offers valuable information during manipulation and grasp acquisition. In this paper, we use model-free deep reinforcement learning to synthesize control policies that exploit contact sensing to generate robust grasping under uncertainty. We demonstrate our approach on a multi-fingered hand that exhibits more complex finger coordination than the commonly used two- fingered grippers. We conduct extensive experiments in order to assess the performance of the learned policies, with and without contact sensing. While it is possible to learn grasping policies without contact sensing, our results suggest that contact feedback allows for a significant improvement of grasping robustness under object pose uncertainty and for objects with a complex shape.

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video arXiv [BibTex]

video arXiv [BibTex]


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Falsification of hybrid systems using symbolic reachability and trajectory splicing

Bogomolov, S., Frehse, G., Gurung, A., Li, D., Martius, G., Ray, R.

In Proceedings International Conference on Hybrid Systems: Computation and Control (HSCC ’19), pages: 1-10, ACM, International Conference on Hybrid Systems: Computation and Control (HSCC '19), April 2019 (inproceedings)

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


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Elastic modulus affects adhesive strength of gecko-inspired synthetics in variable temperature and humidity

Mitchell, CT, Drotlef, D, Dayan, CB, Sitti, M, Stark, AY

In INTEGRATIVE AND COMPARATIVE BIOLOGY, pages: E372-E372, OXFORD UNIV PRESS INC JOURNALS DEPT, 2001 EVANS RD, CARY, NC 27513 USA, March 2019 (inproceedings)

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[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Control What You Can: Intrinsically Motivated Task-Planning Agent

Blaes, S., Vlastelica, M., Zhu, J., Martius, G.

In Advances in Neural Information Processing (NeurIPS’19), pages: 12520-12531, Curran Associates, Inc., NeurIPS'19, 2019 (inproceedings)

Abstract
We present a novel intrinsically motivated agent that learns how to control the environment in the fastest possible manner by optimizing learning progress. It learns what can be controlled, how to allocate time and attention, and the relations between objects using surprise based motivation. The effectiveness of our method is demonstrated in a synthetic as well as a robotic manipulation environment yielding considerably improved performance and smaller sample complexity. In a nutshell, our work combines several task-level planning agent structures (backtracking search on task graph, probabilistic road-maps, allocation of search efforts) with intrinsic motivation to achieve learning from scratch.

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link (url) Project Page [BibTex]

link (url) Project Page [BibTex]


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Soft Sensors for Curvature Estimation under Water in a Soft Robotic Fish

Wright, Brian, Vogt, Daniel M., Wood, Robert J., Jusufi, Ardian

In 2019 2nd IEEE International Conference on Soft Robotics (RoboSoft 2019), pages: 367-371, IEEE, Piscataway, NJ, 2nd IEEE International Conference on Soft Robotics (RoboSoft 2019), 2019 (inproceedings)

bio

DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


Wide Range-Sensitive, Bending-Insensitive Pressure Detection and Application to Wearable Healthcare Device
Wide Range-Sensitive, Bending-Insensitive Pressure Detection and Application to Wearable Healthcare Device

Kim, S., Amjadi, M., Lee, T., Jeong, Y., Kwon, D., Kim, M. S., Kim, K., Kim, T., Oh, Y. S., Park, I.

In 2019 20th International Conference on Solid-State Sensors, Actuators and Microsystems & Eurosensors XXXIII (TRANSDUCERS & EUROSENSORS XXXIII), 2019 (inproceedings)

pi

[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Gecko-inspired composite microfibers for reversible adhesion on smooth and rough surfaces

Drotlef, D., Dayan, C., Sitti, M.

In INTEGRATIVE AND COMPARATIVE BIOLOGY, pages: E58-E58, OXFORD UNIV PRESS INC JOURNALS DEPT, 2001 EVANS RD, CARY, NC 27513 USA, 2019 (inproceedings)

pi

[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Heads or Tails? Cranio-Caudal Mass Distribution for Robust Locomotion with Biorobotic Appendages Composed of 3D-Printed Soft Materials

Siddall, R., Schwab, F., Michel, J., Weaver, J., Jusufi, A.

In Biomimetic and Biohybrid Systems, 11556, pages: 240-253, Lecture Notes in Artificial Intelligence, (Editors: Martinez-Hernandez, Uriel and Vouloutsi, Vasiliki and Mura, Anna and Mangan, Michael and Asada, Minoru and Prescott, Tony J. and Verschure, Paul F. M. J.), Springer, Cham, Living Machines 2019: 8th International Conference on Biomimetic and Biohybrid Systems, 2019 (inproceedings)

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]

2018


Deep Reinforcement Learning for Event-Triggered Control
Deep Reinforcement Learning for Event-Triggered Control

Baumann, D., Zhu, J., Martius, G., Trimpe, S.

In Proceedings of the 57th IEEE International Conference on Decision and Control (CDC), pages: 943-950, 57th IEEE International Conference on Decision and Control (CDC), December 2018 (inproceedings)

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arXiv PDF DOI Project Page Project Page [BibTex]

2018


arXiv PDF DOI Project Page Project Page [BibTex]


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On Time Optimization of Centroidal Momentum Dynamics

Ponton, B., Herzog, A., Del Prete, A., Schaal, S., Righetti, L.

In 2018 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA), pages: 5776-5782, IEEE, Brisbane, Australia, 2018 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Recently, the centroidal momentum dynamics has received substantial attention to plan dynamically consistent motions for robots with arms and legs in multi-contact scenarios. However, it is also non convex which renders any optimization approach difficult and timing is usually kept fixed in most trajectory optimization techniques to not introduce additional non convexities to the problem. But this can limit the versatility of the algorithms. In our previous work, we proposed a convex relaxation of the problem that allowed to efficiently compute momentum trajectories and contact forces. However, our approach could not minimize a desired angular momentum objective which seriously limited its applicability. Noticing that the non-convexity introduced by the time variables is of similar nature as the centroidal dynamics one, we propose two convex relaxations to the problem based on trust regions and soft constraints. The resulting approaches can compute time-optimized dynamically consistent trajectories sufficiently fast to make the approach realtime capable. The performance of the algorithm is demonstrated in several multi-contact scenarios for a humanoid robot. In particular, we show that the proposed convex relaxation of the original problem finds solutions that are consistent with the original non-convex problem and illustrate how timing optimization allows to find motion plans that would be difficult to plan with fixed timing † †Implementation details and demos can be found in the source code available at https://git-amd.tuebingen.mpg.de/bponton/timeoptimization.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Enhanced Non-Steady Gliding Performance of the MultiMo-Bat through Optimal Airfoil Configuration and Control Strategy

Kim, H., Woodward, M. A., Sitti, M.

In 2018 IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS), pages: 1382-1388, 2018 (inproceedings)

pi

[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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L4: Practical loss-based stepsize adaptation for deep learning

Rolinek, M., Martius, G.

In Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 31 (NeurIPS 2018), pages: 6434-6444, (Editors: S. Bengio and H. Wallach and H. Larochelle and K. Grauman and N. Cesa-Bianchi and R. Garnett), Curran Associates, Inc., 2018 (inproceedings)

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Github link (url) Project Page [BibTex]

Github link (url) Project Page [BibTex]


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Collectives of Spinning Mobile Microrobots for Navigation and Object Manipulation at the Air-Water Interface

Wang, W., Kishore, V., Koens, L., Lauga, E., Sitti, M.

In 2018 IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS), pages: 1-9, 2018 (inproceedings)

pi

[BibTex]

[BibTex]


Systematic self-exploration of behaviors for robots in a dynamical systems framework
Systematic self-exploration of behaviors for robots in a dynamical systems framework

Pinneri, C., Martius, G.

In Proc. Artificial Life XI, pages: 319-326, MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, 2018 (inproceedings)

Abstract
One of the challenges of this century is to understand the neural mechanisms behind cognitive control and learning. Recent investigations propose biologically plausible synaptic mechanisms for self-organizing controllers, in the spirit of Hebbian learning. In particular, differential extrinsic plasticity (DEP) [Der and Martius, PNAS 2015], has proven to enable embodied agents to self-organize their individual sensorimotor development, and generate highly coordinated behaviors during their interaction with the environment. These behaviors are attractors of a dynamical system. In this paper, we use the DEP rule to generate attractors and we combine it with a “repelling potential” which allows the system to actively explore all its attractor behaviors in a systematic way. With a view to a self-determined exploration of goal-free behaviors, our framework enables switching between different motion patterns in an autonomous and sequential fashion. Our algorithm is able to recover all the attractor behaviors in a toy system and it is also effective in two simulated environments. A spherical robot discovers all its major rolling modes and a hexapod robot learns to locomote in 50 different ways in 30min.

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link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]

link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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Endo-VMFuseNet: A Deep Visual-Magnetic Sensor Fusion Approach for Endoscopic Capsule Robots

Turan, M., Almalioglu, Y., Gilbert, H. B., Sari, A. E., Soylu, U., Sitti, M.

In 2018 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA), pages: 1-7, 2018 (inproceedings)

pi

[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Endosensorfusion: Particle filtering-based multi-sensory data fusion with switching state-space model for endoscopic capsule robots

Turan, M., Almalioglu, Y., Gilbert, H., Araujo, H., Cemgil, T., Sitti, M.

In 2018 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA), pages: 1-8, 2018 (inproceedings)

pi

[BibTex]

[BibTex]


Learning equations for extrapolation and control
Learning equations for extrapolation and control

Sahoo, S. S., Lampert, C. H., Martius, G.

In Proc. 35th International Conference on Machine Learning, ICML 2018, Stockholm, Sweden, 2018, 80, pages: 4442-4450, http://proceedings.mlr.press/v80/sahoo18a/sahoo18a.pdf, (Editors: Dy, Jennifer and Krause, Andreas), PMLR, 2018 (inproceedings)

Abstract
We present an approach to identify concise equations from data using a shallow neural network approach. In contrast to ordinary black-box regression, this approach allows understanding functional relations and generalizing them from observed data to unseen parts of the parameter space. We show how to extend the class of learnable equations for a recently proposed equation learning network to include divisions, and we improve the learning and model selection strategy to be useful for challenging real-world data. For systems governed by analytical expressions, our method can in many cases identify the true underlying equation and extrapolate to unseen domains. We demonstrate its effectiveness by experiments on a cart-pendulum system, where only 2 random rollouts are required to learn the forward dynamics and successfully achieve the swing-up task.

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Code Arxiv Poster Slides link (url) Project Page [BibTex]

Code Arxiv Poster Slides link (url) Project Page [BibTex]


Robust Affordable 3D Haptic Sensation via Learning Deformation Patterns
Robust Affordable 3D Haptic Sensation via Learning Deformation Patterns

Sun, H., Martius, G.

Proceedings International Conference on Humanoid Robots, pages: 846-853, IEEE, New York, NY, USA, 2018 IEEE-RAS International Conference on Humanoid Robots, 2018, Oral Presentation (conference)

Abstract
Haptic sensation is an important modality for interacting with the real world. This paper proposes a general framework of inferring haptic forces on the surface of a 3D structure from internal deformations using a small number of physical sensors instead of employing dense sensor arrays. Using machine learning techniques, we optimize the sensor number and their placement and are able to obtain high-precision force inference for a robotic limb using as few as 9 sensors. For the optimal and sparse placement of the measurement units (strain gauges), we employ data-driven methods based on data obtained by finite element simulation. We compare data-driven approaches with model-based methods relying on geometric distance and information criteria such as Entropy and Mutual Information. We validate our approach on a modified limb of the “Poppy” robot [1] and obtain 8 mm localization precision.

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DOI Project Page [BibTex]

DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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Unsupervised Contact Learning for Humanoid Estimation and Control

Rotella, N., Schaal, S., Righetti, L.

In 2018 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA), pages: 411-417, IEEE, Brisbane, Australia, 2018 (inproceedings)

Abstract
This work presents a method for contact state estimation using fuzzy clustering to learn contact probability for full, six-dimensional humanoid contacts. The data required for training is solely from proprioceptive sensors - endeffector contact wrench sensors and inertial measurement units (IMUs) - and the method is completely unsupervised. The resulting cluster means are used to efficiently compute the probability of contact in each of the six endeffector degrees of freedom (DoFs) independently. This clustering-based contact probability estimator is validated in a kinematics-based base state estimator in a simulation environment with realistic added sensor noise for locomotion over rough, low-friction terrain on which the robot is subject to foot slip and rotation. The proposed base state estimator which utilizes these six DoF contact probability estimates is shown to perform considerably better than that which determines kinematic contact constraints purely based on measured normal force.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Learning Task-Specific Dynamics to Improve Whole-Body Control

Gams, A., Mason, S., Ude, A., Schaal, S., Righetti, L.

In Hua, IEEE, Beijing, China, November 2018 (inproceedings)

Abstract
In task-based inverse dynamics control, reference accelerations used to follow a desired plan can be broken down into feedforward and feedback trajectories. The feedback term accounts for tracking errors that are caused from inaccurate dynamic models or external disturbances. On underactuated, free-floating robots, such as humanoids, high feedback terms can be used to improve tracking accuracy; however, this can lead to very stiff behavior or poor tracking accuracy due to limited control bandwidth. In this paper, we show how to reduce the required contribution of the feedback controller by incorporating learned task-space reference accelerations. Thus, we i) improve the execution of the given specific task, and ii) offer the means to reduce feedback gains, providing for greater compliance of the system. With a systematic approach we also reduce heuristic tuning of the model parameters and feedback gains, often present in real-world experiments. In contrast to learning task-specific joint-torques, which might produce a similar effect but can lead to poor generalization, our approach directly learns the task-space dynamics of the center of mass of a humanoid robot. Simulated and real-world results on the lower part of the Sarcos Hermes humanoid robot demonstrate the applicability of the approach.

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link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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An MPC Walking Framework With External Contact Forces

Mason, S., Rotella, N., Schaal, S., Righetti, L.

In 2018 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA), pages: 1785-1790, IEEE, Brisbane, Australia, May 2018 (inproceedings)

Abstract
In this work, we present an extension to a linear Model Predictive Control (MPC) scheme that plans external contact forces for the robot when given multiple contact locations and their corresponding friction cone. To this end, we set up a two-step optimization problem. In the first optimization, we compute the Center of Mass (CoM) trajectory, foot step locations, and introduce slack variables to account for violating the imposed constraints on the Zero Moment Point (ZMP). We then use the slack variables to trigger the second optimization, in which we calculate the optimal external force that compensates for the ZMP tracking error. This optimization considers multiple contacts positions within the environment by formulating the problem as a Mixed Integer Quadratic Program (MIQP) that can be solved at a speed between 100-300 Hz. Once contact is created, the MIQP reduces to a single Quadratic Program (QP) that can be solved in real-time ({\textless}; 1kHz). Simulations show that the presented walking control scheme can withstand disturbances 2-3× larger with the additional force provided by a hand contact.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

2017


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Swimming in low reynolds numbers using planar and helical flagellar waves

Khalil, I. S. M., Tabak, A. F., Seif, M. A., Klingner, A., Adel, B., Sitti, M.

In International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS) 2017, pages: 1907-1912, International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems, September 2017 (inproceedings)

Abstract
In travelling towards the oviducts, sperm cells undergo transitions between planar to helical flagellar propulsion by a beating tail based on the viscosity of the environment. In this work, we aim to model and mimic this behaviour in low Reynolds number fluids using externally actuated soft robotic sperms. We numerically investigate the effects of transition between planar to helical flagellar propulsion on the swimming characteristics of the robotic sperm using a model based on resistive-force theory to study the role of viscous forces on its flexible tail. Experimental results are obtained using robots that contain magnetic particles within the polymer matrix of its head and an ultra-thin flexible tail. The planar and helical flagellar propulsion are achieved using in-plane and out-of-plane uniform fields with sinusoidally varying components, respectively. We experimentally show that the swimming speed of the robotic sperm increases by a factor of 1.4 (fluid viscosity 5 Pa.s) when it undergoes a controlled transition between planar to helical flagellar propulsion, at relatively low actuation frequencies.

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DOI [BibTex]

2017


DOI [BibTex]


An XY ϴz flexure mechanism with optimal stiffness properties
An XY ϴz flexure mechanism with optimal stiffness properties

Lum, G. Z., Pham, M. T., Teo, T. J., Yang, G., Yeo, S. H., Sitti, M.

In 2017 IEEE International Conference on Advanced Intelligent Mechatronics (AIM), pages: 1103-1110, July 2017 (inproceedings)

Abstract
The development of optimal XY θz flexure mechanisms, which can deliver high precision motion about the z-axis, and along the x- and y-axes is highly desirable for a wide range of micro/nano-positioning tasks pertaining to biomedical research, microscopy technologies and various industrial applications. Although maximizing the stiffness ratios is a very critical design requirement, the achievable translational and rotational stiffness ratios of existing XY θz flexure mechanisms are still restricted between 0.5 and 130. As a result, these XY θz flexure mechanisms are unable to fully optimize their workspace and capabilities to reject disturbances. Here, we present an optimal XY θz flexure mechanism, which is designed to have maximum stiffness ratios. Based on finite element analysis (FEA), it has translational stiffness ratio of 248, rotational stiffness ratio of 238 and a large workspace of 2.50 mm × 2.50 mm × 10°. Despite having such a large workspace, FEA also predicts that the proposed mechanism can still achieve a high bandwidth of 70 Hz. In comparison, the bandwidth of similar existing flexure mechanisms that can deflect more than 0.5 mm or 0.5° is typically less than 45 Hz. Hence, the high stiffness ratios of the proposed mechanism are achieved without compromising its dynamic performance. Preliminary experimental results pertaining to the mechanism's translational actuating stiffness and bandwidth were in agreement with the FEA predictions as the deviation was within 10%. In conclusion, the proposed flexure mechanism exhibits superior performance and can be used across a wide range of applications.

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


Positioning of drug carriers using permanent magnet-based robotic system in three-dimensional space
Positioning of drug carriers using permanent magnet-based robotic system in three-dimensional space

Khalil, I. S. M., Alfar, A., Tabak, A. F., Klingner, A., Stramigioli, S., Sitti, M.

In 2017 IEEE International Conference on Advanced Intelligent Mechatronics (AIM), pages: 1117-1122, July 2017 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Magnetic control of drug carriers using systems with open-configurations is essential to enable scaling to the size of in vivo applications. In this study, we demonstrate motion control of paramagnetic microparticles in a low Reynolds number fluid, using a permanent magnet-based robotic system with an open-configuration. The microparticles are controlled in three-dimensional (3D) space using a cylindrical NdFeB magnet that is fixed to the end-effector of a robotic arm. We develop a kinematic map between the position of the microparticles and the configuration of the robotic arm, and use this map as a basis of a closed-loop control system based on the position of the microparticles. Our experimental results show the ability of the robot configuration to control the exerted field gradient on the dipole of the microparticles, and achieve positioning in 3D space with maximum error of 300 µm and 600 µm in the steady-state during setpoint and trajectory tracking, respectively.

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


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Self-assembly of micro/nanosystems across scales and interfaces

Mastrangeli, M.

In 2017 19th International Conference on Solid-State Sensors, Actuators and Microsystems (TRANSDUCERS), pages: 676 - 681, IEEE, July 2017 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Steady progress in understanding and implementation are establishing self-assembly as a versatile, parallel and scalable approach to the fabrication of transducers. In this contribution, I illustrate the principles and reach of self-assembly with three applications at different scales - namely, the capillary self-alignment of millimetric components, the sealing of liquid-filled polymeric microcapsules, and the accurate capillary assembly of single nanoparticles - and propose foreseeable directions for further developments.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


Dynamic analysis on hexapedal water-running robot with compliant joints
Dynamic analysis on hexapedal water-running robot with compliant joints

Kim, H., Liu, Y., Jeong, K., Sitti, M., Seo, T.

In 2017 14th International Conference on Ubiquitous Robots and Ambient Intelligence (URAI), pages: 250-251, June 2017 (inproceedings)

Abstract
The dynamic analysis has been considered as one of the important design methods to design robots. In this research, we derive dynamic equation of hexapedal water-running robot to design compliant joints. The compliant joints that connect three bodies will be used to improve mobility and stability of water-running motion's pitch behavior. We considered all of parts as rigid body including links of six Klann mechanisms and three main frames. And then, we derived dynamic equation by using the Lagrangian method with external force of the water. We are expecting that the dynamic analysis is going to be used to design parts of the water running robot.

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


Design and actuation of a magnetic millirobot under a constant unidirectional magnetic field
Design and actuation of a magnetic millirobot under a constant unidirectional magnetic field

Erin, O., Giltinan, J., Tsai, L., Sitti, M.

In Proceedings 2017 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA), pages: 3404-3410, IEEE, Piscataway, NJ, USA, IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA), May 2017 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Magnetic untethered millirobots, which are actuated and controlled by remote magnetic fields, have been proposed for medical applications due to their ability to safely pass through tissues at long ranges. For example, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) systems with a 3-7 T constant unidirectional magnetic field and 3D gradient coils have been used to actuate magnetic robots. Such magnetically constrained systems place limits on the degrees of freedom that can be actuated for untethered devices. This paper presents a design and actuation methodology for a magnetic millirobot that exhibits both position and orientation control in 2D under a magnetic field, dominated by a constant unidirectional magnetic field as found in MRI systems. Placing a spherical permanent magnet, which is free to rotate inside the millirobot and located away from the center of mass, allows the generation of net forces and torques with applied 3D magnetic field gradients. We model this system in a 3D planar case and experimentally demonstrate open-loop control of both position and orientation by the applied 2D field gradients. The actuation performance is characterized across the most important design variables, and we experimentally demonstrate that the proposed approach is feasible.

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


Magnetically actuated soft capsule endoscope for fine-needle aspiration biopsy
Magnetically actuated soft capsule endoscope for fine-needle aspiration biopsy

Son, D., Dogan, M. D., Sitti, M.

In Proceedings 2017 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA), pages: 1132-1139, IEEE, Piscataway, NJ, USA, IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA), May 2017 (inproceedings)

Abstract
This paper presents a magnetically actuated soft capsule endoscope for fine-needle aspiration biopsy (B-MASCE) in the upper gastrointestinal tract. A thin and hollow needle is attached to the capsule, which can penetrate deeply into tissues to obtain subsurface biopsy sample. The design utilizes a soft elastomer body as a compliant mechanism to guide the needle. An internal permanent magnet provides a means for both actuation and tracking. The capsule is designed to roll towards its target and then deploy the biopsy needle in a precise location selected as the target area. B-MASCE is controlled by multiple custom-designed electromagnets while its position and orientation are tracked by a magnetic sensor array. In in vitro trials, B-MASCE demonstrated rolling locomotion and biopsy of a swine tissue model positioned inside an anatomical human stomach model. It was confirmed after the experiment that a tissue sample was retained inside the needle.

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DOI Project Page [BibTex]

DOI Project Page [BibTex]


The use of clamping grips and friction pads by tree frogs for climbing curved surfaces
The use of clamping grips and friction pads by tree frogs for climbing curved surfaces

Endlein, T., Ji, A., Yuan, S., Hill, I., Wang, H., Barnes, W. J. P., Dai, Z., Sitti, M.

In Proc. R. Soc. B, 284(1849):20162867, Febuary 2017 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Most studies on the adhesive mechanisms of climbing animals have addressed attachment against flat surfaces, yet many animals can climb highly curved surfaces, like twigs and small branches. Here we investigated whether tree frogs use a clamping grip by recording the ground reaction forces on a cylindrical object with either a smooth or anti-adhesive, rough surface. Furthermore, we measured the contact area of fore and hindlimbs against differently sized transparent cylinders and the forces of individual pads and subarticular tubercles in restrained animals. Our study revealed that frogs use friction and normal forces of roughly a similar magnitude for holding on to cylindrical objects. When challenged with climbing a non-adhesive surface, the compressive forces between opposite legs nearly doubled, indicating a stronger clamping grip. In contrast to climbing flat surfaces, frogs increased the contact area on all limbs by engaging not just adhesive pads but also subarticular tubercles on curved surfaces. Our force measurements showed that tubercles can withstand larger shear stresses than pads. SEM images of tubercles revealed a similar structure to that of toe pads including the presence of nanopillars, though channels surrounding epithelial cells were less pronounced. The tubercles' smaller size, proximal location on the toes and shallow cells make them probably less prone to buckling and thus ideal for gripping curved surfaces.

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


Planning spin-walking locomotion for automatic grasping of microobjects by an untethered magnetic microgripper
Planning spin-walking locomotion for automatic grasping of microobjects by an untethered magnetic microgripper

Dong, X., Sitti, M.

In 2017 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA), pages: 6612-6618, 2017 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Most demonstrated mobile microrobot tasks so far have been achieved via pick-and-placing and dynamic trapping with teleoperation or simple path following algorithms. In our previous work, an untethered magnetic microgripper has been developed which has advanced functions, such as gripping objects. Both teleoperated manipulation in 2D and 3D have been demonstrated. However, it is challenging to control the magnetic microgripper to carry out manipulation tasks, because the grasping of objects so far in the literature relies heavily on teleoperation, which takes several minutes with even a skilled human expert. Here, we propose a new spin-walking locomotion and an automated 2D grasping motion planner for the microgripper, which enables time-efficient automatic grasping of microobjects that has not been achieved yet for untethered microrobots. In its locomotion, the microgripper repeatedly rotates about two principal axes to regulate its pose and move precisely on a surface. The motion planner could plan different motion primitives for grasping and compensate the uncertainties in the motion by learning the uncertainties and planning accordingly. We experimentally demonstrated that, using the proposed method, the microgripper could align to the target pose with error less than 0.1 body length and grip the objects within 40 seconds. Our method could significantly improve the time efficiency of micro-scale manipulation and have potential applications in microassembly and biomedical engineering.

pi

DOI Project Page [BibTex]

DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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Pattern Generation for Walking on Slippery Terrains

Khadiv, M., Moosavian, S. A. A., Herzog, A., Righetti, L.

In 2017 5th International Conference on Robotics and Mechatronics (ICROM), Iran, August 2017 (inproceedings)

Abstract
In this paper, we extend state of the art Model Predictive Control (MPC) approaches to generate safe bipedal walking on slippery surfaces. In this setting, we formulate walking as a trade off between realizing a desired walking velocity and preserving robust foot-ground contact. Exploiting this for- mulation inside MPC, we show that safe walking on various flat terrains can be achieved by compromising three main attributes, i. e. walking velocity tracking, the Zero Moment Point (ZMP) modulation, and the Required Coefficient of Friction (RCoF) regulation. Simulation results show that increasing the walking velocity increases the possibility of slippage, while reducing the slippage possibility conflicts with reducing the tip-over possibility of the contact and vice versa.

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link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]

2016


Steering control of a water-running robot using an active tail
Steering control of a water-running robot using an active tail

Kim, H., Jeong, K., Sitti, M., Seo, T.

In Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS), 2016 IEEE/RSJ International Conference on, pages: 4945-4950, October 2016 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Many highly dynamic novel mobile robots have been developed being inspired by animals. In this study, we are inspired by a basilisk lizard's ability to run and steer on water surface for a hexapedal robot. The robot has an active tail with a circular plate, which the robot rotates to steer on water. We dynamically modeled the platform and conducted simulations and experiments on steering locomotion with a bang-bang controller. The robot can steer on water by rotating the tail, and the controlled steering locomotion is stable. The dynamic modelling approximates the robot's steering locomotion and the trends of the simulations and experiments are similar, although there are errors between the desired and actual angles. The robot's maneuverability on water can be improved through further research.

pi

DOI [BibTex]

2016


DOI [BibTex]


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Dynamical self-consistency leads to behavioral development and emergent social interactions in robots.

Der, R., Martius, G.

In Proc. IEEE Int. Conf. on Development and Learning and Epigenetic Robotics, pages: 49-56, IEEE, September 2016, in press (inproceedings)

al

DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


Targeting of cell mockups using sperm-shaped microrobots in vitro
Targeting of cell mockups using sperm-shaped microrobots in vitro

Khalil, I. S., Tabak, A. F., Hosney, A., Klingner, A., Shalaby, M., Abdel-Kader, R. M., Serry, M., Sitti, M.

In Biomedical Robotics and Biomechatronics (BioRob), 2016 6th IEEE International Conference on, pages: 495-501, July 2016 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Sperm-shaped microrobots are controlled under the influence of weak oscillating magnetic fields (milliTesla range) to selectively target cell mockups (i.e., gas bubbles with average diameter of 200 μm). The sperm-shaped microrobots are fabricated by electrospinning using a solution of polystyrene, dimethylformamide, and iron oxide nanoparticles. These nanoparticles are concentrated within the head of the microrobot, and hence enable directional control along external magnetic fields. The magnetic dipole moment of the microrobot is characterized (using the flip-time technique) to be 1.4×10-11 A.m2, at magnetic field of 28 mT. In addition, the morphology of the microrobot is characterized using Scanning Electron Microscopy images. The characterized parameters and morphology are used in the simulation of the locomotion mechanism of the microrobot to prove that its motion depends on breaking the time-reversal symmetry, rather than pulling with the magnetic field gradient. We experimentally demonstrate that the microrobot can controllably follow S-shaped, U-shaped, and square paths, and selectively target the cell mockups using image guidance and under the influence of the oscillating magnetic fields.

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


Analysis of the magnetic torque on a tilted permanent magnet for drug delivery in capsule robots
Analysis of the magnetic torque on a tilted permanent magnet for drug delivery in capsule robots

Munoz, F., Alici, G., Zhou, H., Li, W., Sitti, M.

In Advanced Intelligent Mechatronics (AIM), 2016 IEEE International Conference on, pages: 1386-1391, July 2016 (inproceedings)

Abstract
In this paper, we present the analysis of the torque transmitted to a tilted permanent magnet that is to be embedded in a capsule robot to achieve targeted drug delivery. This analysis is carried out by using an analytical model and experimental results for a small cubic permanent magnet that is driven by an external magnetic system made of an array of arc-shaped permanent magnets (ASMs). Our experimental results, which are in agreement with the analytical results, show that the cubic permanent magnet can safely be actuated for inclinations lower than 75° without having to make positional adjustments in the external magnetic system. We have found that with further inclinations, the cubic permanent magnet to be embedded in a drug delivery mechanism may stall. When it stalls, the external magnetic system's position and orientation would have to be adjusted to actuate the cubic permanent magnet and the drug release mechanism. This analysis of the transmitted torque is helpful for the development of real-time control strategies for magnetically articulated devices.

pi

DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


Sperm-shaped magnetic microrobots: Fabrication using electrospinning, modeling, and characterization
Sperm-shaped magnetic microrobots: Fabrication using electrospinning, modeling, and characterization

Khalil, I. S., Tabak, A. F., Hosney, A., Mohamed, A., Klingner, A., Ghoneima, M., Sitti, M.

In Robotics and Automation (ICRA), 2016 IEEE International Conference on, pages: 1939-1944, May 2016 (inproceedings)

Abstract
We use electrospinning to fabricate sperm-shaped magnetic microrobots with a range of diameters from 50 μm to 500 μm. The variables of the electrospinning operation (voltage, concentration of the solution, dynamic viscosity, and distance between the syringe needle and collector) to achieve beading effect are determined. This beading effect allows us to fabricate microrobots with similar morphology to that of sperm cells. The bead and the ultra-fine fiber resemble the morphology of the head and tail of the sperm cell, respectively. We incorporate iron oxide nanoparticles to the head of the sperm-shaped microrobot to provide a magnetic dipole moment. This dipole enables directional control under the influence of external magnetic fields. We also apply weak (less than 2 mT) oscillating magnetic fields to exert a magnetic torque on the magnetic head, and generate planar flagellar waves and flagellated swim. The average speed of the sperm-shaped microrobot is calculated to be 0.5 body lengths per second and 1 body lengths per second at frequencies of 5 Hz and 10 Hz, respectively. We also develop a model of the microrobot using elastohydrodynamics approach and Timoshenko-Rayleigh beam theory, and find good agreement with the experimental results.

pi

DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


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Phase transitions and optimal algorithms in high-dimensional Gaussian mixture clustering

Lesieur, T., De Bacco, C., Banks, J., Krzakala, F., Moore, C., Zdeborová, L.

In Communication, Control, and Computing (Allerton), 2016 54th Annual Allerton Conference on, pages: 601-608, 2016 (inproceedings)

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Preprint link (url) [BibTex]

Preprint link (url) [BibTex]


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Compliant control for soft robots: emergent behavior of a tendon driven anthropomorphic arm.

Martius, G., Hostettler, R., Knoll, A., Der, R.

In 2016 IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS), pages: 767-773, 2016 (inproceedings)

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


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On the Effects of Measurement Uncertainty in Optimal Control of Contact Interactions

Ponton, B., Schaal, S., Righetti, L.

In The 12th International Workshop on the Algorithmic Foundations of Robotics WAFR, Berkeley, USA, 2016 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Stochastic Optimal Control (SOC) typically considers noise only in the process model, i.e. unknown disturbances. However, in many robotic applications involving interaction with the environment, such as locomotion and manipulation, uncertainty also comes from lack of precise knowledge of the world, which is not an actual disturbance. We analyze the effects of also considering noise in the measurement model, by devel- oping a SOC algorithm based on risk-sensitive control, that includes the dynamics of an observer in such a way that the control law explicitly de- pends on the current measurement uncertainty. In simulation results on a simple 2D manipulator, we have observed that measurement uncertainty leads to low impedance behaviors, a result in contrast with the effects of process noise that creates stiff behaviors. This suggests that taking into account measurement uncertainty could be a potentially very interesting way to approach problems involving uncertain contact interactions.

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link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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A Convex Model of Momentum Dynamics for Multi-Contact Motion Generation

Ponton, B., Herzog, A., Schaal, S., Righetti, L.

In 2016 IEEE-RAS 16th International Conference on Humanoid Robots Humanoids, pages: 842-849, IEEE, Cancun, Mexico, 2016 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Linear models for control and motion generation of humanoid robots have received significant attention in the past years, not only due to their well known theoretical guarantees, but also because of practical computational advantages. However, to tackle more challenging tasks and scenarios such as locomotion on uneven terrain, a more expressive model is required. In this paper, we are interested in contact interaction-centered motion optimization based on the momentum dynamics model. This model is non-linear and non-convex; however, we find a relaxation of the problem that allows us to formulate it as a single convex quadratically-constrained quadratic program (QCQP) that can be very efficiently optimized and is useful for multi-contact planning. This convex model is then coupled to the optimization of end-effector contact locations using a mixed integer program, which can also be efficiently solved. This becomes relevant e.g. to recover from external pushes, where a predefined stepping plan is likely to fail and an online adaptation of the contact location is needed. The performance of our algorithm is demonstrated in several multi-contact scenarios for a humanoid robot.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Inertial Sensor-Based Humanoid Joint State Estimation

Rotella, N., Mason, S., Schaal, S., Righetti, L.

In 2016 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA), pages: 1825-1831, IEEE, Stockholm, Sweden, 2016 (inproceedings)

Abstract
This work presents methods for the determination of a humanoid robot's joint velocities and accelerations directly from link-mounted Inertial Measurement Units (IMUs) each containing a three-axis gyroscope and a three-axis accelerometer. No information about the global pose of the floating base or its links is required and precise knowledge of the link IMU poses is not necessary due to presented calibration routines. Additionally, a filter is introduced to fuse gyroscope angular velocities with joint position measurements and compensate the computed joint velocities for time-varying gyroscope biases. The resulting joint velocities are subject to less noise and delay than filtered velocities computed from numerical differentiation of joint potentiometer signals, leading to superior performance in joint feedback control as demonstrated in experiments performed on a SARCOS hydraulic humanoid.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Stepping Stabilization Using a Combination of DCM Tracking and Step Adjustment

Khadiv, M., Kleff, S., Herzog, A., Moosavian, S. A. A., Schaal, S., Righetti, L.

In 2016 4th International Conference on Robotics and Mechatronics (ICROM), pages: 130-135, IEEE, Teheran, Iran, 2016 (inproceedings)

Abstract
In this paper, a method for stabilizing biped robots stepping by a combination of Divergent Component of Motion (DCM) tracking and step adjustment is proposed. In this method, the DCM trajectory is generated, consistent with the predefined footprints. Furthermore, a swing foot trajectory modification strategy is proposed to adapt the landing point, using DCM measurement. In order to apply the generated trajectories to the full robot, a Hierarchical Inverse Dynamics (HID) is employed. The HID enables us to use different combinations of the DCM tracking and step adjustment for stabilizing different biped robots. Simulation experiments on two scenarios for two different simulated robots, one with active ankles and the other with passive ankles, are carried out. Simulation results demonstrate the effectiveness of the proposed method for robots with both active and passive ankles.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Structured contact force optimization for kino-dynamic motion generation

Herzog, A., Schaal, S., Righetti, L.

In 2016 IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS), pages: 2703-2710, IEEE, Daejeon, South Korea, 2016 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Optimal control approaches in combination with trajectory optimization have recently proven to be a promising control strategy for legged robots. Computationally efficient and robust algorithms were derived using simplified models of the contact interaction between robot and environment such as the linear inverted pendulum model (LIPM). However, as humanoid robots enter more complex environments, less restrictive models become increasingly important. As we leave the regime of linear models, we need to build dedicated solvers that can compute interaction forces together with consistent kinematic plans for the whole-body. In this paper, we address the problem of planning robot motion and interaction forces for legged robots given predefined contact surfaces. The motion generation process is decomposed into two alternating parts computing force and motion plans in coherence. We focus on the properties of the momentum computation leading to sparse optimal control formulations to be exploited by a dedicated solver. In our experiments, we demonstrate that our motion generation algorithm computes consistent contact forces and joint trajectories for our humanoid robot. We also demonstrate the favorable time complexity due to our formulation and composition of the momentum equations.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]