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2018


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Gait learning for soft microrobots controlled by light fields

Rohr, A. V., Trimpe, S., Marco, A., Fischer, P., Palagi, S.

In International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS) 2018, pages: 6199-6206, International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems 2018, October 2018 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Soft microrobots based on photoresponsive materials and controlled by light fields can generate a variety of different gaits. This inherent flexibility can be exploited to maximize their locomotion performance in a given environment and used to adapt them to changing environments. However, because of the lack of accurate locomotion models, and given the intrinsic variability among microrobots, analytical control design is not possible. Common data-driven approaches, on the other hand, require running prohibitive numbers of experiments and lead to very sample-specific results. Here we propose a probabilistic learning approach for light-controlled soft microrobots based on Bayesian Optimization (BO) and Gaussian Processes (GPs). The proposed approach results in a learning scheme that is highly data-efficient, enabling gait optimization with a limited experimental budget, and robust against differences among microrobot samples. These features are obtained by designing the learning scheme through the comparison of different GP priors and BO settings on a semisynthetic data set. The developed learning scheme is validated in microrobot experiments, resulting in a 115% improvement in a microrobot’s locomotion performance with an experimental budget of only 20 tests. These encouraging results lead the way toward self-adaptive microrobotic systems based on lightcontrolled soft microrobots and probabilistic learning control.

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arXiv IEEE Xplore DOI Project Page [BibTex]

2018


arXiv IEEE Xplore DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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Nanoscale robotic agents in biological fluids and tissues

Palagi, S., Walker, D. Q. T., Fischer, P.

In The Encyclopedia of Medical Robotics, 2, pages: 19-42, 2, (Editors: Desai, J. P. and Ferreira, A.), World Scientific, October 2018 (inbook)

Abstract
Nanorobots are untethered structures of sub-micron size that can be controlled in a non-trivial way. Such nanoscale robotic agents are envisioned to revolutionize medicine by enabling minimally invasive diagnostic and therapeutic procedures. To be useful, nanorobots must be operated in complex biological fluids and tissues, which are often difficult to penetrate. In this chapter, we first discuss potential medical applications of motile nanorobots. We briefly present the challenges related to swimming at such small scales and we survey the rheological properties of some biological fluids and tissues. We then review recent experimental results in the development of nanorobots and in particular their design, fabrication, actuation, and propulsion in complex biological fluids and tissues. Recent work shows that their nanoscale dimension is a clear asset for operation in biological tissues, since many biological tissues consist of networks of macromolecules that prevent the passage of larger micron-scale structures, but contain dynamic pores through which nanorobots can move.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Soft Miniaturized Linear Actuators Wirelessly Powered by Rotating Permanent Magnets

Qiu, T., Palagi, S., Sachs, J., Fischer, P.

In 2018 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA), pages: 3595-3600, May 2018 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Wireless actuation by magnetic fields allows for the operation of untethered miniaturized devices, e.g. in biomedical applications. Nevertheless, generating large controlled forces over relatively large distances is challenging. Magnetic torques are easier to generate and control, but they are not always suitable for the tasks at hand. Moreover, strong magnetic fields are required to generate a sufficient torque, which are difficult to achieve with electromagnets. Here, we demonstrate a soft miniaturized actuator that transforms an externally applied magnetic torque into a controlled linear force. We report the design, fabrication and characterization of both the actuator and the magnetic field generator. We show that the magnet assembly, which is based on a set of rotating permanent magnets, can generate strong controlled oscillating fields over a relatively large workspace. The actuator, which is 3D-printed, can lift a load of more than 40 times its weight. Finally, we show that the actuator can be further miniaturized, paving the way towards strong, wirelessly powered microactuators.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [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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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]

2015


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3D-printed Soft Microrobot for Swimming in Biological Fluids

Qiu, T., Palagi, S., Fischer, P.

In Conf. Proc. IEEE Eng. Med. Biol. Soc., pages: 4922-4925, August 2015 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Microscopic artificial swimmers hold the potential to enable novel non-invasive medical procedures. In order to ease their translation towards real biomedical applications, simpler designs as well as cheaper yet more reliable materials and fabrication processes should be adopted, provided that the functionality of the microrobots can be kept. A simple single-hinge design could already enable microswimming in non-Newtonian fluids, which most bodily fluids are. Here, we address the fabrication of such single-hinge microrobots with a 3D-printed soft material. Firstly, a finite element model is developed to investigate the deformability of the 3D-printed microstructure under typical values of the actuating magnetic fields. Then the microstructures are fabricated by direct 3D-printing of a soft material and their swimming performances are evaluated. The speeds achieved with the 3D-printed microrobots are comparable to those obtained in previous work with complex fabrication procedures, thus showing great promise for 3D-printed microrobots to be operated in biological fluids.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

2015


link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Trajectory generation for multi-contact momentum control

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

In 2015 IEEE-RAS 15th International Conference on Humanoid Robots (Humanoids), pages: 874-880, IEEE, Seoul, South Korea, 2015 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Simplified models of the dynamics such as the linear inverted pendulum model (LIPM) have proven to perform well for biped walking on flat ground. However, for more complex tasks the assumptions of these models can become limiting. For example, the LIPM does not allow for the control of contact forces independently, is limited to co-planar contacts and assumes that the angular momentum is zero. In this paper, we propose to use the full momentum equations of a humanoid robot in a trajectory optimization framework to plan its center of mass, linear and angular momentum trajectories. The model also allows for planning desired contact forces for each end-effector in arbitrary contact locations. We extend our previous results on linear quadratic regulator (LQR) design for momentum control by computing the (linearized) optimal momentum feedback law in a receding horizon fashion. The resulting desired momentum and the associated feedback law are then used in a hierarchical whole body control approach. Simulation experiments show that the approach is computationally fast and is able to generate plans for locomotion on complex terrains while demonstrating good tracking performance for the full humanoid control.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Humanoid Momentum Estimation Using Sensed Contact Wrenches

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

In 2015 IEEE-RAS 15th International Conference on Humanoid Robots (Humanoids), pages: 556-563, IEEE, Seoul, South Korea, 2015 (inproceedings)

Abstract
This work presents approaches for the estimation of quantities important for the control of the momentum of a humanoid robot. In contrast to previous approaches which use simplified models such as the Linear Inverted Pendulum Model, we present estimators based on the momentum dynamics of the robot. By using this simple yet dynamically-consistent model, we avoid the issues of using simplified models for estimation. We develop an estimator for the center of mass and full momentum which can be reformulated to estimate center of mass offsets as well as external wrenches applied to the robot. The observability of these estimators is investigated and their performance is evaluated in comparison to previous approaches.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]