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2019


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

Bogdanovic, M., Righetti, L.

IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS), IEEE, November 2019 (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.

mg

arXiv [BibTex]

2019


arXiv [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.

mg

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

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


Soft Continuous Surface for Micromanipulation driven by Light-controlled Hydrogels
Soft Continuous Surface for Micromanipulation driven by Light-controlled Hydrogels

Choi, E., Jeong, H., Qiu, T., Fischer, P., Palagi, S.

4th IEEE International Conference on Manipulation, Automation and Robotics at Small Scales (MARSS), July 2019 (conference)

Abstract
Remotely controlled, automated actuation and manipulation at the microscale is essential for a number of micro-manufacturing, biology, and lab-on-a-chip applications. To transport and manipulate micro-objects, arrays of remotely controlled micro-actuators are required, which, in turn, typically require complex and expensive solid-state chips. Here, we show that a continuous surface can function as a highly parallel, many-degree of freedom, wirelessly-controlled microactuator with seamless deformation. The soft continuous surface is based on a hydrogel that undergoes a volume change in response to applied light. The fabrication of the hydrogels and the characterization of their optical and thermomechanical behaviors are reported. The temperature-dependent localized deformation of the hydrogel is also investigated by numerical simulations. Static and dynamic deformations are obtained in the soft material by projecting light fields at high spatial resolution onto the surface. By controlling such deformations in open loop and especially closed loop, automated photoactuation is achieved. The surface deformations are then exploited to examine how inert microbeads can be manipulated autonomously on the surface. We believe that the proposed approach suggests ways to implement universal 2D micromanipulation schemes that can be useful for automation in microfabrication and lab-on-a-chip applications.

pf

[BibTex]

[BibTex]


Soft Phantom for the Training of Renal Calculi Diagnostics and  Lithotripsy
Soft Phantom for the Training of Renal Calculi Diagnostics and Lithotripsy

Li., D., Suarez-Ibarrola, R., Choi, E., Jeong, M., Gratzke, C., Miernik, A., Fischer, P., Qiu, T.

41st Annual International Conference of the IEEE Engineering in Medicine & Biology Society (EMBC), July 2019 (conference)

Abstract
Organ models are important for medical training and surgical planning. With the fast development of additive fabrication technologies, including 3D printing, the fabrication of 3D organ phantoms with precise anatomical features becomes possible. Here, we develop the first high-resolution kidney phantom based on soft material assembly, by combining 3D printing and polymer molding techniques. The phantom exhibits both the detailed anatomy of a human kidney and the elasticity of soft tissues. The phantom assembly can be separated into two parts on the coronal plane, thus large renal calculi are readily placed at any desired location of the calyx. With our sealing method, the assembled phantom withstands a hydraulic pressure that is four times the normal intrarenal pressure, thus it allows the simulation of medical procedures under realistic pressure conditions. The medical diagnostics of the renal calculi is performed by multiple imaging modalities, including X-ray, ultrasound imaging and endoscopy. The endoscopic lithotripsy is also successfully performed on the phantom. The use of a multifunctional soft phantom assembly thus shows great promise for the simulation of minimally invasive medical procedures under realistic conditions.

pf

[BibTex]

[BibTex]


A Magnetic Actuation System for the  Active Microrheology in Soft Biomaterials
A Magnetic Actuation System for the Active Microrheology in Soft Biomaterials

Jeong, M., Choi, E., Li., D., Palagi, S., Fischer, P., Qiu, T.

4th IEEE International Conference on Manipulation, Automation and Robotics at Small Scales (MARSS), July 2019 (conference)

Abstract
Microrheology is a key technique to characterize soft materials at small scales. The microprobe is wirelessly actuated and therefore typically only low forces or torques can be applied, which limits the range of the applied strain. Here, we report a new magnetic actuation system for microrheology consisting of an array of rotating permanent magnets, which achieves a rotating magnetic field with a spatially homogeneous high field strength of ~100 mT in a working volume of ~20×20×20 mm3. Compared to a traditional electromagnetic coil system, the permanent magnet assembly is portable and does not require cooling, and it exerts a large magnetic torque on the microprobe that is an order of magnitude higher than previous setups. Experimental results demonstrate that the measurement range of the soft gels’ elasticity covers at least five orders of magnitude. With the large actuation torque, it is also possible to study the fracture mechanics of soft biomaterials at small scales.

pf

[BibTex]

[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)

mg

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.

am mg

video arXiv [BibTex]

video arXiv [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)

pi

[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Ferromagnetic colloids in liquid crystal solvents

Zarubin, G.

Universität Stuttgart, Stuttgart, 2019 (phdthesis)

icm

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Fluctuating interface with a pinning potential

Pranjić, Daniel

Universität Stuttgart, Stuttgart, 2019 (mastersthesis)

icm

[BibTex]

[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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Controlling pattern formation in the confined Schnakenberg model

Beyer, David Bernhard

Universität Stuttgart, Stuttgart, 2019 (mastersthesis)

icm

[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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Interfaces in fluids of ionic liquid crystals

Bartsch, H.

Universität Stuttgart, Stuttgart, 2019 (phdthesis)

icm

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

2018


Gait learning for soft microrobots controlled by light fields
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.

ics pf

arXiv IEEE Xplore DOI Project Page [BibTex]

2018


arXiv IEEE Xplore DOI Project Page [BibTex]


Colloidal Chemical Nanomotors
Colloidal Chemical Nanomotors

Alarcon-Correa, M.

Colloidal Chemical Nanomotors, pages: 150, Cuvillier Verlag, MPI-IS , June 2018 (phdthesis)

Abstract
Synthetic sophisticated nanostructures represent a fundamental building block for the development of nanotechnology. The fabrication of nanoparticles complex in structure and material composition is key to build nanomachines that can operate as man-made nanoscale motors, which autonomously convert external energy into motion. To achieve this, asymmetric nanoparticles were fabricated combining a physical vapor deposition technique known as NanoGLAD and wet chemical synthesis. This thesis primarily concerns three complex colloidal systems that have been developed: i)Hollow nanocup inclusion complexes that have a single Au nanoparticle in their pocket. The Au particle can be released with an external trigger. ii)The smallest self-propelling nanocolloids that have been made to date, which give rise to a local concentration gradient that causes enhanced diffusion of the particles. iii)Enzyme-powered pumps that have been assembled using bacteriophages as biological nanoscaffolds. This construct also can be used for enzyme recovery after heterogeneous catalysis.

pf

[BibTex]

[BibTex]


Soft Miniaturized Linear Actuators Wirelessly Powered by Rotating Permanent Magnets
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.

pf

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.

am mg

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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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]


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Pattern forming systems under confinement

Maihöfer, Michael

Universität Stuttgart, Stuttgart, 2018 (mastersthesis)

icm

[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Effective interactions between colloidal particles in critical solvents

Labbe-Laurent, M.

Universität Stuttgart, Stuttgart, 2018 (phdthesis)

icm

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [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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Non-equilibrium dynamics of a binary solvent around heated colloidal particles

Wilke, Moritz

Universität Stuttgart, Stuttgart, 2018 (mastersthesis)

icm

[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]


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Monte Carlo study of colloidal structure formation at fluid interfaces

Meiler, Tim

Universität Stuttgart, Stuttgart, 2018 (mastersthesis)

icm

[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Electrolyte solutions and simple fluids at curved walls

Reindl, A.

Universität Stuttgart, Stuttgart, 2018 (phdthesis)

icm

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Surface structure of liquid crystals

Sattler, Alexander

Universität Stuttgart, Stuttgart, 2018 (mastersthesis)

icm

[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Dynamics of an active particle in confined viscous flows

Pöhnl, Ruben

Universität Stuttgart, Stuttgart, 2018 (mastersthesis)

icm

[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Electrostatic interaction between colloids with constant surface potentials at fluid interfaces

Bebon, Rick

Universität Stuttgart, Stuttgart, 2018 (mastersthesis)

icm

[BibTex]

[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.

am mg

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.

am mg

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.

am mg

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.

pi

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.

pi

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.

pi

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.

pi

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


Locomotion of light-driven soft microrobots through a hydrogel via local melting
Locomotion of light-driven soft microrobots through a hydrogel via local melting

Palagi, S., Mark, A. G., Melde, K., Qiu, T., Zeng, H., Parmeggiani, C., Martella, D., Wiersma, D. S., Fischer, P.

In 2017 International Conference on Manipulation, Automation and Robotics at Small Scales (MARSS), pages: 1-5, July 2017 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Soft mobile microrobots whose deformation can be directly controlled by an external field can adapt to move in different environments. This is the case for the light-driven microrobots based on liquid-crystal elastomers (LCEs). Here we show that the soft microrobots can move through an agarose hydrogel by means of light-controlled travelling-wave motions. This is achieved by exploiting the inherent rise of the LCE temperature above the melting temperature of the agarose gel, which facilitates penetration of the microrobot through the hydrogel. The locomotion performance is investigated as a function of the travelling-wave parameters, showing that effective propulsion can be obtained by adapting the generated motion to the specific environmental conditions.

pf

DOI [BibTex]

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.

pi

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.

pi

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.

pi

DOI Project Page [BibTex]

DOI Project Page [BibTex]


Wireless micro-robots for endoscopic applications in urology
Wireless micro-robots for endoscopic applications in urology

Adams, F., Qiu, T., Mark, A. G., Melde, K., Palagi, S., Miernik, A., Fischer, P.

In Eur Urol Suppl, 16(3):e1914, March 2017 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Endoscopy is an essential and common method for both diagnostics and therapy in Urology. Current flexible endoscope is normally cable-driven, thus it is hard to be miniaturized and its reachability is restricted as only one bending section near the tip with one degree of freedom (DoF) is allowed. Recent progresses in micro-robotics offer a unique opportunity for medical inspections in minimally invasive surgery. Micro-robots are active devices that has a feature size smaller than one millimeter and can normally be actuated and controlled wirelessly. Magnetically actuated micro-robots have been demonstrated to propel through biological fluids.Here, we report a novel micro robotic arm, which is actuated wirelessly by ultrasound. It works as a miniaturized endoscope with a side length of ~1 mm, which fits through the 3 Fr. tool channel of a cystoscope, and successfully performs an active cystoscopy in a rabbit bladder.

pf

link (url) DOI [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.

pi

DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


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Stationary and time-dependent heat transfer in paradigmatic many-body geometries

Asheichyk, Kiryl

Universität Stuttgart, Stuttgart, 2017 (mastersthesis)

icm

[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Non-equilibrium forces after temperature quenches in ideal fluids with conserved density

Hölzl, Christian

Universität Stuttgart, Stuttgart, 2017 (mastersthesis)

icm

[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Numerical studies of active colloids at fluid interfaces

Peter, Toni

Universität Stuttgart, Stuttgart, 2017 (mastersthesis)

icm

[BibTex]

[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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Collective dynamics of laterally confined active particles near fluid-fluid interfaces

Kistner, Irina

Universität Stuttgart, Stuttgart, 2017 (mastersthesis)

icm

[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Self-diffusion of DNA grafted functional colloids in a crowded environment

Werner, M.

Universität Stuttgart, Stuttgart, 2017 (mastersthesis)

icm

[BibTex]

[BibTex]