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2015


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Enzymatically active biomimetic micropropellers for the penetration of mucin gels

Walker (Schamel), D., Käsdorf, B. T., Jeong, H. H., Lieleg, O., Fischer, P.

Science Advances, 1(11):e1500501, December 2015 (article)

Abstract
In the body, mucus provides an important defense mechanism by limiting the penetration of pathogens. It is therefore also a major obstacle for the efficient delivery of particle-based drug carriers. The acidic stomach lining in particular is difficult to overcome because mucin glycoproteins form viscoelastic gels under acidic conditions. The bacterium Helicobacter pylori has developed a strategy to overcome the mucus barrier by producing the enzyme urease, which locally raises the pH and consequently liquefies the mucus. This allows the bacteria to swim through mucus and to reach the epithelial surface. We present an artificial system of reactive magnetic micropropellers that mimic this strategy to move through gastric mucin gels by making use of surface-immobilized urease. The results demonstrate the validity of this biomimetic approach to penetrate biological gels, and show that externally propelled microstructures can actively and reversibly manipulate the physical state of their surroundings, suggesting that such particles could potentially penetrate native mucus.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

2015


link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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The EChemPen: A Guiding Hand To Learn Electrochemical Surface Modifications

Valetaud, M., Loget, G., Roche, J., Hueken, N., Fattah, Z., Badets, V., Fontaine, O., Zigah, D.

J. of Chem. Ed., 92(10):1700-1704, September 2015 (article)

Abstract
The Electrochemical Pen (EChemPen) was developed as an attractive tool for learning electrochemistry. The fabrication, principle, and operation of the EChemPen are simple and can be easily performed by students in practical classes. It is based on a regular fountain pen principle, where the electrolytic solution is dispensed at a tip to locally modify a conductive surface by triggering a localized electrochemical reaction. Three simple model reactions were chosen to demonstrate the versatility of the EChemPen for teaching various electrochemical processes. We describe first the reversible writing/erasing of metal letters, then the electrodeposition of a black conducting polymer "ink", and finally the colorful writings that can be generated by titanium anodization and that can be controlled by the applied potential. These entertaining and didactic experiments are adapted for teaching undergraduate students that start to study electrochemistry by means of surface modification reactions.

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


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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]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Optimal Length of Low Reynolds Number Nanopropellers

Walker (Schamel), D., Kuebler, M., Morozov, K. I., Fischer, P., Leshansky, A. M.

Nano Letters, 15(7):4412-4416, June 2015 (article)

Abstract
Locomotion in fluids at the nanoscale is dominated by viscous drag. One efficient propulsion scheme is to use a weak rotating magnetic field that drives a chiral object. Froth bacterial flagella to artificial drills, the corkscrew is a universally useful chiral shape for propulsion in viscous environments. Externally powered magnetic micro- and nanomotors have been recently developed that allow for precise fuel-free propulsion in complex media. Here, we combine analytical and numerical theory with experiments on nanostructured screw-propellers to show that the optimal length is surprisingly short only about one helical turn, which is shorter than most of the structures in use to date. The results have important implications for the design of artificial actuated nano- and micropropellers and can dramatically reduce fabrication times, while ensuring optimal performance.

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


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A theoretical study of potentially observable chirality-sensitive NMR effects in molecules

Garbacz, P., Cukras, J., Jaszunski, M.

Phys. Chem. Chem. Phys., 17(35):22642-22651, May 2015 (article)

Abstract
Two recently predicted nuclear magnetic resonance effects, the chirality-induced rotating electric polarization and the oscillating magnetization, are examined for several experimentally available chiral molecules. We discuss in detail the requirements for experimental detection of chirality-sensitive NMR effects of the studied molecules. These requirements are related to two parameters: the shielding polarizability and the antisymmetric part of the nuclear magnetic shielding tensor. The dominant second contribution has been computed for small molecules at the coupled cluster and density functional theory levels. It was found that DFT calculations using the KT2 functional and the aug-cc-pCVTZ basis set adequately reproduce the CCSD(T) values obtained with the same basis set. The largest values of parameters, thus most promising from the experimental point of view, were obtained for the fluorine nuclei in 1,3-difluorocyclopropene and 1,3-diphenyl-2-fluoro-3-trifluoromethylcyclopropene.

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


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Dynamic Inclusion Complexes of Metal Nanoparticles Inside Nanocups

Alarcon-Correa, M., Lee, T. C., Fischer, P.

Angew. Chem. Int. Ed., 54(23):6730-6734, May 2015, Featured cover article. (article)

Abstract
Host-guest inclusion complexes are abundant in molecular systems and of fundamental importance in living organisms. Realizing a colloidal analogue of a molecular dynamic inclusion complex is challenging because inorganic nanoparticles (NPs) with a well-defined cavity and portal are difficult to synthesize in high yield and with good structural fidelity. Herein, a generic strategy towards the fabrication of dynamic 1: 1 inclusion complexes of metal nanoparticles inside oxide nanocups with high yield (> 70%) and regiospecificity (> 90%) by means of a reactive double Janus nanoparticle intermediate is reported. Experimental evidence confirms that the inclusion complexes are formed by a kinetically controlled mechanism involving a delicate interplay between bipolar galvanic corrosion and alloying-dealloying oxidation. Release of the NP guest from the nanocups can be efficiently triggered by an external stimulus. Featured cover article.

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


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Surface roughness-induced speed increase for active Janus micromotors

Choudhury, U., Soler, L., Gibbs, J. G., Sanchez, S., Fischer, P.

Chem. Comm., 51(41):8660-8663, April 2015 (article)

Abstract
We demonstrate a simple physical fabrication method to control surface roughness of Janus micromotors and fabricate self-propelled active Janus microparticles with rough catalytic platinum surfaces that show a four-fold increase in their propulsion speed compared to conventional Janus particles coated with a smooth Pt layer.

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


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Active colloidal microdrills

Gibbs, J. G., Fischer, P.

Chem. Comm., 51(20):4192-4195, Febuary 2015 (article)

Abstract
We demonstrate a chemically driven, autonomous catalytic microdrill. An asymmetric distribution of catalyst causes the helical swimmer to twist while it undergoes directed propulsion. A driving torque and hydrodynamic coupling between translation and rotation at low Reynolds number leads to drill-like swimming behaviour.

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


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Selectable Nanopattern Arrays for Nanolithographic Imprint and Etch-Mask Applications

Jeong, H. H., Mark, A. G., Lee, T., Son, K., Chen, W., Alarcon-Correa, M., Kim, I., Schütz, G., Fischer, P.

Adv. Science, 2(7):1500016, 2015, Featured cover article. (article)

Abstract
A parallel nanolithographic patterning method is presented that can be used to obtain arrays of multifunctional nanoparticles. These patterns can simply be converted into a variety of secondary nanopatterns that are useful for nanolithographic imprint, plasmonic, and etch-mask applications.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Kinematic and gait similarities between crawling human infants and other quadruped mammals

Righetti, L., Nylen, A., Rosander, K., Ijspeert, A.

Frontiers in Neurology, 6(17), February 2015 (article)

Abstract
Crawling on hands and knees is an early pattern of human infant locomotion, which offers an interesting way of studying quadrupedalism in one of its simplest form. We investigate how crawling human infants compare to other quadruped mammals, especially primates. We present quantitative data on both the gait and kinematics of seven 10-month-old crawling infants. Body movements were measured with an optoelectronic system giving precise data on 3-dimensional limb movements. Crawling on hands and knees is very similar to the locomotion of non-human primates in terms of the quite protracted arm at touch-down, the coordination between the spine movements in the lateral plane and the limbs, the relatively extended limbs during locomotion and the strong correlation between stance duration and speed of locomotion. However, there are important differences compared to primates, such as the choice of a lateral-sequence walking gait, which is similar to most non-primate mammals and the relatively stiff elbows during stance as opposed to the quite compliant gaits of primates. These finding raise the question of the role of both the mechanical structure of the body and neural control on the determination of these characteristics.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

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]

2013


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Hybrid nanocolloids with programmed three-dimensional shape and material composition

Mark, A. G., Gibbs, J. G., Lee, T., Fischer, P.

NATURE MATERIALS, 12(9):802-807, 2013, Max Planck Press Release. (article)

Abstract
Tuning the optical(1,2), electromagnetic(3,4) and mechanical properties of a material requires simultaneous control over its composition and shape(5). This is particularly challenging for complex structures at the nanoscale because surface-energy minimization generally causes small structures to be highly symmetric(5). Here we combine low-temperature shadow deposition with nanoscale patterning to realize nanocolloids with anisotropic three-dimensional shapes, feature sizes down to 20 nm and a wide choice of materials. We demonstrate the versatility of the fabrication scheme by growing three-dimensional hybrid nanostructures that contain several functional materials with the lowest possible symmetry, and by fabricating hundreds of billions of plasmonic nanohelices, which we use as chiral metafluids with record circular dichroism and tunable chiroptical properties.

Max Planck Press Release.

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Video - Fabrication of Designer Nanostructures DOI [BibTex]


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Chiral Colloidal Molecules And Observation of The Propeller Effect

Schamel, D., Pfeifer, M., Gibbs, J. G., Miksch, B., Mark, A. G., Fischer, P.

JOURNAL OF THE AMERICAN CHEMICAL SOCIETY, 135(33):12353-12359, 2013 (article)

Abstract
Chiral molecules play an important role in biological and chemical processes, but physical effects due to their symmetry-breaking are generally weak. Several physical chiral separation schemes which could potentially be useful, including the propeller effect, have therefore not yet been demonstrated at the molecular scale. However, it has been proposed that complex nonspherical colloidal particles could act as ``colloidal molecules{''} in mesoscopic model systems to permit the visualization of molecular phenomena that are otherwise difficult to observe. Unfortunately, it is difficult to synthesize such colloids because surface minimization generally favors the growth of symmetric particles. Here we demonstrate the production of large numbers of complex colloids with glancing angle physical vapor deposition. We use chiral colloids to demonstrate the Baranova and Zel'dovich (Baranova, N. B.; Zel'dovich, B. Y. Chem. Phys. Lett. 1978, 57, 435) propeller effect: the separation of a racemic mixture by application of a rotating field that couples to the dipole moment of the enantiomers and screw propels them in opposite directions. The handedness of the colloidal suspensions is monitored with circular differential light scattering. An exact solution for the colloid's propulsion is derived, and comparisons between the colloidal system and the corresponding effect at the molecular scale are made.

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Video - Nanospropellers DOI [BibTex]

Video - Nanospropellers DOI [BibTex]


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Indirect absorption spectroscopy using quantum cascade lasers: mid-infrared refractometry and photothermal spectroscopy

Pfeifer, M., Ruf, A., Fischer, P.

OPTICS EXPRESS, 21(22):25643-25654, 2013 (article)

Abstract
We record vibrational spectra with two indirect schemes that depend on the real part of the index of refraction: mid-infrared refractometry and photothermal spectroscopy. In the former, a quantum cascade laser (QCL) spot is imaged to determine the angles of total internal reflection, which yields the absorption line via a beam profile analysis. In the photothermal measurements, a tunable QCL excites vibrational resonances of a molecular monolayer, which heats the surrounding medium and changes its refractive index. This is observed with a probe laser in the visible. Sub-monolayer sensitivities are demonstrated. (C) 2013 Optical Society of America

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DOI [BibTex]


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Plasmonic nanohelix metamaterials with tailorable giant circular dichroism

Gibbs, J. G., Mark, A. G., Eslami, S., Fischer, P.

APPLIED PHYSICS LETTERS, 103(21), 2013, Featured cover article. (article)

Abstract
Plasmonic nanohelix arrays are shown to interact with electromagnetic fields in ways not typically seen with ordinary matter. Chiral metamaterials (CMMs) with feature sizes small with respect to the wavelength of visible light are a promising route to experimentally achieve such phenomena as negative refraction without the need for simultaneously negative e and mu. Here we not only show that giant circular dichroism in the visible is achievable with hexagonally arranged plasmonic nanohelix arrays, but that we can precisely tune the optical activity via morphology and lattice spacing. The discrete dipole approximation is implemented to support experimental data. (C) 2013 AIP Publishing LLC.

Featured cover article.

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


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AGILITY – Dynamic Full Body Locomotion and Manipulation with Autonomous Legged Robots

Hutter, M., Bloesch, M., Buchli, J., Semini, C., Bazeille, S., Righetti, L., Bohg, J.

In 2013 IEEE International Symposium on Safety, Security, and Rescue Robotics (SSRR), pages: 1-4, IEEE, Linköping, Sweden, 2013 (inproceedings)

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Learning Objective Functions for Manipulation

Kalakrishnan, M., Pastor, P., Righetti, L., Schaal, S.

In 2013 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation, IEEE, Karlsruhe, Germany, 2013 (inproceedings)

Abstract
We present an approach to learning objective functions for robotic manipulation based on inverse reinforcement learning. Our path integral inverse reinforcement learning algorithm can deal with high-dimensional continuous state-action spaces, and only requires local optimality of demonstrated trajectories. We use L 1 regularization in order to achieve feature selection, and propose an efficient algorithm to minimize the resulting convex objective function. We demonstrate our approach by applying it to two core problems in robotic manipulation. First, we learn a cost function for redundancy resolution in inverse kinematics. Second, we use our method to learn a cost function over trajectories, which is then used in optimization-based motion planning for grasping and manipulation tasks. Experimental results show that our method outperforms previous algorithms in high-dimensional settings.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Using Torque Redundancy to Optimize Contact Forces in Legged Robots

Righetti, L., Buchli, J., Mistry, M., Kalakrishnan, M., Schaal, S.

In Redundancy in Robot Manipulators and Multi-Robot Systems, 57, pages: 35-51, Lecture Notes in Electrical Engineering, Springer Berlin Heidelberg, 2013 (incollection)

Abstract
The development of legged robots for complex environments requires controllers that guarantee both high tracking performance and compliance with the environment. More specifically the control of contact interaction with the environment is of crucial importance to ensure stable, robust and safe motions. In the following, we present an inverse dynamics controller that exploits torque redundancy to directly and explicitly minimize any combination of linear and quadratic costs in the contact constraints and in the commands. Such a result is particularly relevant for legged robots as it allows to use torque redundancy to directly optimize contact interactions. For example, given a desired locomotion behavior, it can guarantee the minimization of contact forces to reduce slipping on difficult terrains while ensuring high tracking performance of the desired motion. The proposed controller is very simple and computationally efficient, and most importantly it can greatly improve the performance of legged locomotion on difficult terrains as can be seen in the experimental results.

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link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Optimal distribution of contact forces with inverse-dynamics control

Righetti, L., Buchli, J., Mistry, M., Kalakrishnan, M., Schaal, S.

The International Journal of Robotics Research, 32(3):280-298, March 2013 (article)

Abstract
The development of legged robots for complex environments requires controllers that guarantee both high tracking performance and compliance with the environment. More specifically the control of the contact interaction with the environment is of crucial importance to ensure stable, robust and safe motions. In this contribution we develop an inverse-dynamics controller for floating-base robots under contact constraints that can minimize any combination of linear and quadratic costs in the contact constraints and the commands. Our main result is the exact analytical derivation of the controller. Such a result is particularly relevant for legged robots as it allows us to use torque redundancy to directly optimize contact interactions. For example, given a desired locomotion behavior, we can guarantee the minimization of contact forces to reduce slipping on difficult terrains while ensuring high tracking performance of the desired motion. The main advantages of the controller are its simplicity, computational efficiency and robustness to model inaccuracies. We present detailed experimental results on simulated humanoid and quadruped robots as well as a real quadruped robot. The experiments demonstrate that the controller can greatly improve the robustness of locomotion of the robots.1

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Controlled Reduction with Unactuated Cyclic Variables: Application to 3D Bipedal Walking with Passive Yaw Rotation

Gregg, R., Righetti, L.

IEEE Transactions on Automatic Control, 58(10):2679-2685, October 2013 (article)

Abstract
This technical note shows that viscous damping can shape momentum conservation laws in a manner that stabilizes yaw rotation and enables steering for underactuated 3D walking. We first show that unactuated cyclic variables can be controlled by passively shaped conservation laws given a stabilizing controller in the actuated coordinates. We then exploit this result to realize controlled geometric reduction with multiple unactuated cyclic variables. We apply this underactuated control strategy to a five-link 3D biped to produce exponentially stable straight-ahead walking and steering in the presence of passive yawing.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Learning Task Error Models for Manipulation

Pastor, P., Kalakrishnan, M., Binney, J., Kelly, J., Righetti, L., Sukhatme, G. S., Schaal, S.

In 2013 IEEE Conference on Robotics and Automation, IEEE, Karlsruhe, Germany, 2013 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Precise kinematic forward models are important for robots to successfully perform dexterous grasping and manipulation tasks, especially when visual servoing is rendered infeasible due to occlusions. A lot of research has been conducted to estimate geometric and non-geometric parameters of kinematic chains to minimize reconstruction errors. However, kinematic chains can include non-linearities, e.g. due to cable stretch and motor-side encoders, that result in significantly different errors for different parts of the state space. Previous work either does not consider such non-linearities or proposes to estimate non-geometric parameters of carefully engineered models that are robot specific. We propose a data-driven approach that learns task error models that account for such unmodeled non-linearities. We argue that in the context of grasping and manipulation, it is sufficient to achieve high accuracy in the task relevant state space. We identify this relevant state space using previously executed joint configurations and learn error corrections for those. Therefore, our system is developed to generate subsequent executions that are similar to previous ones. The experiments show that our method successfully captures the non-linearities in the head kinematic chain (due to a counterbalancing spring) and the arm kinematic chains (due to cable stretch) of the considered experimental platform, see Fig. 1. The feasibility of the presented error learning approach has also been evaluated in independent DARPA ARM-S testing contributing to successfully complete 67 out of 72 grasping and manipulation tasks.

am mg

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]