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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.

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arXiv IEEE Xplore DOI Project Page [BibTex]

2018


arXiv IEEE Xplore DOI Project Page [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.

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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]

2017


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.

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DOI [BibTex]

2017


DOI [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.

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link (url) DOI [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


Soft continuous microrobots with multiple intrinsic degrees of freedom
Soft continuous microrobots with multiple intrinsic degrees of freedom

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

In 2016 International Conference on Manipulation, Automation and Robotics at Small Scales (MARSS), pages: 1-5, July 2016 (inproceedings)

Abstract
One of the main challenges in the development of microrobots, i.e. robots at the sub-millimeter scale, is the difficulty of adopting traditional solutions for power, control and, especially, actuation. As a result, most current microrobots are directly manipulated by external fields, and possess only a few passive degrees of freedom (DOFs). We have reported a strategy that enables embodiment, remote powering and control of a large number of DOFs in mobile soft microrobots. These consist of photo-responsive materials, such that the actuation of their soft continuous body can be selectively and dynamically controlled by structured light fields. Here we use finite-element modelling to evaluate the effective number of DOFs that are addressable in our microrobots. We also demonstrate that by this flexible approach different actuation patterns can be obtained, and thus different locomotion performances can be achieved within the very same microrobot. The reported results confirm the versatility of the proposed approach, which allows for easy application-specific optimization and online reconfiguration of the microrobot's behavior. Such versatility will enable advanced applications of robotics and automation at the micro scale.

pf

DOI [BibTex]

2016


DOI [BibTex]


Wireless actuator based on ultrasonic bubble streaming
Wireless actuator based on ultrasonic bubble streaming

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

In 2016 International Conference on Manipulation, Automation and Robotics at Small Scales (MARSS), pages: 1-5, July 2016 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Miniaturized actuators are a key element for the manipulation and automation at small scales. Here, we propose a new miniaturized actuator, which consists of an array of micro gas bubbles immersed in a fluid. Under ultrasonic excitation, the oscillation of micro gas bubbles results in acoustic streaming and provides a propulsive force that drives the actuator. The actuator was fabricated by lithography and fluidic streaming was observed under ultrasound excitation. Theoretical modelling and numerical simulations were carried out to show that lowing the surface tension results in a larger amplitude of the bubble oscillation, and thus leads to a higher propulsive force. Experimental results also demonstrate that the propulsive force increases 3.5 times when the surface tension is lowered by adding a surfactant. An actuator with a 4×4 mm 2 surface area provides a driving force of about 0.46 mN, suggesting that it is possible to be used as a wireless actuator for small-scale robots and medical instruments.

pf

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


Auxetic Metamaterial Simplifies Soft Robot Design
Auxetic Metamaterial Simplifies Soft Robot Design

Mark, A. G., Palagi, S., Qiu, T., Fischer, P.

In 2016 IEEE Int. Conf. on Robotics and Automation (ICRA), pages: 4951-4956, May 2016 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Soft materials are being adopted in robotics in order to facilitate biomedical applications and in order to achieve simpler and more capable robots. One route to simplification is to design the robot's body using `smart materials' that carry the burden of control and actuation. Metamaterials enable just such rational design of the material properties. Here we present a soft robot that exploits mechanical metamaterials for the intrinsic synchronization of two passive clutches which contact its travel surface. Doing so allows it to move through an enclosed passage with an inchworm motion propelled by a single actuator. Our soft robot consists of two 3D-printed metamaterials that implement auxetic and normal elastic properties. The design, fabrication and characterization of the metamaterials are described. In addition, a working soft robot is presented. Since the synchronization mechanism is a feature of the robot's material body, we believe that the proposed design will enable compliant and robust implementations that scale well with miniaturization.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


Towards Photo-Induced Swimming: Actuation of Liquid Crystalline  Elastomer in Water
Towards Photo-Induced Swimming: Actuation of Liquid Crystalline Elastomer in Water

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

In Proc. of SPIE 9738, pages: Laser 3D Manufacturing III, 97380T, April 2016 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Liquid Crystalline Elastomers (LCEs) are very promising smart materials that can be made sensitive to different external stimuli, such as heat, pH, humidity and light, by changing their chemical composition. In this paper we report the implementation of a nematically aligned LCE actuator able to undergo large light-induced deformations. We prove that this property is still present even when the actuator is submerged in fresh water. Thanks to the presence of azo-dye moieties, capable of going through a reversible trans-cis photo-isomerization, and by applying light with two different wavelengths we managed to control the bending of such actuator in the liquid environment. The reported results represent the first step towards swimming microdevices powered by light.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) 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]


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Balancing and Walking Using Full Dynamics LQR Control With Contact Constraints

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

In 2016 IEEE-RAS 16th International Conference on Humanoid Robots (Humanoids), pages: 63-68, IEEE, Cancun, Mexico, 2016 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Torque control algorithms which consider robot dynamics and contact constraints are important for creating dynamic behaviors for humanoids. As computational power increases, algorithms tend to also increase in complexity. However, it is not clear how much complexity is really required to create controllers which exhibit good performance. In this paper, we study the capabilities of a simple approach based on contact consistent LQR controllers designed around key poses to control various tasks on a humanoid robot. We present extensive experimental results on a hydraulic, torque controlled humanoid performing balancing and stepping tasks. This feedback control approach captures the necessary synergies between the DoFs of the robot to guarantee good control performance. We show that for the considered tasks, it is only necessary to re-linearize the dynamics of the robot at different contact configurations and that increasing the number of LQR controllers along desired trajectories does not improve performance. Our result suggest that very simple controllers can yield good performance competitive with current state of the art, but more complex, optimization-based whole-body controllers. A video of the experiments can be found at https://youtu.be/5T08CNKV1hw.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Step Timing Adjustement: a Step toward Generating Robust Gaits

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

In 2016 IEEE-RAS 16th International Conference on Humanoid Robots (Humanoids), pages: 35-42, IEEE, Cancun, Mexico, 2016 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Step adjustment for humanoid robots has been shown to improve robustness in gaits. However, step duration adaptation is often neglected in control strategies. In this paper, we propose an approach that combines both step location and timing adjustment for generating robust gaits. In this approach, step location and step timing are decided, based on feedback from the current state of the robot. The proposed approach is comprised of two stages. In the first stage, the nominal step location and step duration for the next step or a previewed number of steps are specified. In this stage which is done at the start of each step, the main goal is to specify the best step length and step duration for a desired walking speed. The second stage deals with finding the best landing point and landing time of the swing foot at each control cycle. In this stage, stability of the gaits is preserved by specifying a desired offset between the swing foot landing point and the Divergent Component of Motion (DCM) at the end of current step. After specifying the landing point of the swing foot at a desired time, the swing foot trajectory is regenerated at each control cycle to realize desired landing properties. Simulation on different scenarios shows the robustness of the generated gaits from our proposed approach compared to the case where no timing adjustment is employed.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

2015


3D-printed Soft Microrobot for Swimming in Biological Fluids
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]

2014


3D nanofabrication on complex seed shapes using glancing angle deposition
3D nanofabrication on complex seed shapes using glancing angle deposition

Hyeon-Ho, J., Mark, A. G., Gibbs, J. G., Reindl, T., Waizmann, U., Weis, J., Fischer, P.

In 2014 IEEE 27th International Conference on Micro Electro Mechanical Systems (MEMS), pages: 437-440, January 2014 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Three-dimensional (3D) fabrication techniques promise new device architectures and enable the integration of more components, but fabricating 3D nanostructures for device applications remains challenging. Recently, we have performed glancing angle deposition (GLAD) upon a nanoscale hexagonal seed array to create a variety of 3D nanoscale objects including multicomponent rods, helices, and zigzags [1]. Here, in an effort to generalize our technique, we present a step-by-step approach to grow 3D nanostructures on more complex nanoseed shapes and configurations than before. This approach allows us to create 3D nanostructures on nanoseeds regardless of seed sizes and shapes.

pf

DOI [BibTex]

2014


DOI [BibTex]


Active Microrheology of the Vitreous of the Eye applied to Nanorobot Propulsion
Active Microrheology of the Vitreous of the Eye applied to Nanorobot Propulsion

Qiu, T., Schamel, D., Mark, A. G., Fischer, P.

In 2014 IEEE INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON ROBOTICS AND AUTOMATION (ICRA), pages: 3801-3806, IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation ICRA, 2014, Best Automation Paper Award – Finalist. (inproceedings)

Abstract
Biomedical applications of micro or nanorobots require active movement through complex biological fluids. These are generally non-Newtonian (viscoelastic) fluids that are characterized by complicated networks of macromolecules that have size-dependent rheological properties. It has been suggested that an untethered microrobot could assist in retinal surgical procedures. To do this it must navigate the vitreous humor, a hydrated double network of collagen fibrils and high molecular-weight, polyanionic hyaluronan macromolecules. Here, we examine the characteristic size that potential robots must have to traverse vitreous relatively unhindered. We have constructed magnetic tweezers that provide a large gradient of up to 320 T/m to pull sub-micron paramagnetic beads through biological fluids. A novel two-step electrical discharge machining (EDM) approach is used to construct the tips of the magnetic tweezers with a resolution of 30 mu m and high aspect ratio of similar to 17:1 that restricts the magnetic field gradient to the plane of observation. We report measurements on porcine vitreous. In agreement with structural data and passive Brownian diffusion studies we find that the unhindered active propulsion through the eye calls for nanorobots with cross-sections of less than 500 nm.

Best Automation Paper Award – Finalist.

pf

[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Dual Execution of Optimized Contact Interaction Trajectories

Toussaint, M., Ratliff, N., Bohg, J., Righetti, L., Englert, P., Schaal, S.

In 2014 IEEE/RSJ Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems, pages: 47-54, IEEE, Chicago, USA, 2014 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Efficient manipulation requires contact to reduce uncertainty. The manipulation literature refers to this as funneling: a methodology for increasing reliability and robustness by leveraging haptic feedback and control of environmental interaction. However, there is a fundamental gap between traditional approaches to trajectory optimization and this concept of robustness by funneling: traditional trajectory optimizers do not discover force feedback strategies. From a POMDP perspective, these behaviors could be regarded as explicit observation actions planned to sufficiently reduce uncertainty thereby enabling a task. While we are sympathetic to the full POMDP view, solving full continuous-space POMDPs in high-dimensions is hard. In this paper, we propose an alternative approach in which trajectory optimization objectives are augmented with new terms that reward uncertainty reduction through contacts, explicitly promoting funneling. This augmentation shifts the responsibility of robustness toward the actual execution of the optimized trajectories. Directly tracing trajectories through configuration space would lose all robustness-dual execution achieves robustness by devising force controllers to reproduce the temporal interaction profile encoded in the dual solution of the optimization problem. This work introduces dual execution in depth and analyze its performance through robustness experiments in both simulation and on a real-world robotic platform.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Balancing experiments on a torque-controlled humanoid with hierarchical inverse dynamics

Herzog, A., Righetti, L., Grimminger, F., Pastor, P., Schaal, S.

In 2014 IEEE/RSJ Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems, pages: 981-988, IEEE, Chicago, USA, 2014 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Recently several hierarchical inverse dynamics controllers based on cascades of quadratic programs have been proposed for application on torque controlled robots. They have important theoretical benefits but have never been implemented on a torque controlled robot where model inaccuracies and real-time computation requirements can be problematic. In this contribution we present an experimental evaluation of these algorithms in the context of balance control for a humanoid robot. The presented experiments demonstrate the applicability of the approach under real robot conditions (i.e. model uncertainty, estimation errors, etc). We propose a simplification of the optimization problem that allows us to decrease computation time enough to implement it in a fast torque control loop. We implement a momentum-based balance controller which shows robust performance in face of unknown disturbances, even when the robot is standing on only one foot. In a second experiment, a tracking task is evaluated to demonstrate the performance of the controller with more complicated hierarchies. Our results show that hierarchical inverse dynamics controllers can be used for feedback control of humanoid robots and that momentum-based balance control can be efficiently implemented on a real robot.

am mg

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Full Dynamics LQR Control of a Humanoid Robot: An Experimental Study on Balancing and Squatting

Mason, S., Righetti, L., Schaal, S.

In 2014 IEEE-RAS International Conference on Humanoid Robots, pages: 374-379, IEEE, Madrid, Spain, 2014 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Humanoid robots operating in human environments require whole-body controllers that can offer precise tracking and well-defined disturbance rejection behavior. In this contribution, we propose an experimental evaluation of a linear quadratic regulator (LQR) using a linearization of the full robot dynamics together with the contact constraints. The advantage of the controller is that it explicitly takes into account the coupling between the different joints to create optimal feedback controllers for whole-body control. We also propose a method to explicitly regulate other tasks of interest, such as the regulation of the center of mass of the robot or its angular momentum. In order to evaluate the performance of linear optimal control designs in a real-world scenario (model uncertainty, sensor noise, imperfect state estimation, etc), we test the controllers in a variety of tracking and balancing experiments on a torque controlled humanoid (e.g. balancing, split plane balancing, squatting, pushes while squatting, and balancing on a wheeled platform). The proposed control framework shows a reliable push recovery behavior competitive with more sophisticated balance controllers, rejecting impulses up to 11.7 Ns with peak forces of 650 N, with the added advantage of great computational simplicity. Furthermore, the controller is able to track squatting trajectories up to 1 Hz without relinearization, suggesting that the linearized dynamics is sufficient for significant ranges of motion.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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State Estimation for a Humanoid Robot

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

In 2014 IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems, pages: 952-958, IEEE, Chicago, USA, 2014 (inproceedings)

Abstract
This paper introduces a framework for state estimation on a humanoid robot platform using only common proprioceptive sensors and knowledge of leg kinematics. The presented approach extends that detailed in prior work on a point-foot quadruped platform by adding the rotational constraints imposed by the humanoid's flat feet. As in previous work, the proposed Extended Kalman Filter accommodates contact switching and makes no assumptions about gait or terrain, making it applicable on any humanoid platform for use in any task. A nonlinear observability analysis is performed on both the point-foot and flat-foot filters and it is concluded that the addition of rotational constraints significantly simplifies singular cases and improves the observability characteristics of the system. Results on a simulated walking dataset demonstrate the performance gain of the flat-foot filter as well as confirm the results of the presented observability analysis.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

2011


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Learning Force Control Policies for Compliant Manipulation

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

In 2011 IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems, pages: 4639-4644, IEEE, San Francisco, USA, sep 2011 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Developing robots capable of fine manipulation skills is of major importance in order to build truly assistive robots. These robots need to be compliant in their actuation and control in order to operate safely in human environments. Manipulation tasks imply complex contact interactions with the external world, and involve reasoning about the forces and torques to be applied. Planning under contact conditions is usually impractical due to computational complexity, and a lack of precise dynamics models of the environment. We present an approach to acquiring manipulation skills on compliant robots through reinforcement learning. The initial position control policy for manipulation is initialized through kinesthetic demonstration. We augment this policy with a force/torque profile to be controlled in combination with the position trajectories. We use the Policy Improvement with Path Integrals (PI2) algorithm to learn these force/torque profiles by optimizing a cost function that measures task success. We demonstrate our approach on the Barrett WAM robot arm equipped with a 6-DOF force/torque sensor on two different manipulation tasks: opening a door with a lever door handle, and picking up a pen off the table. We show that the learnt force control policies allow successful, robust execution of the tasks.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

2011


link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Control of legged robots with optimal distribution of contact forces

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

In 2011 11th IEEE-RAS International Conference on Humanoid Robots, pages: 318-324, IEEE, Bled, Slovenia, 2011 (inproceedings)

Abstract
The development of agile and safe humanoid robots require controllers that guarantee both high tracking performance and compliance with the environment. More specifically, the control of contact interaction is of crucial importance for robots that will actively interact with their environment. Model-based controllers such as inverse dynamics or operational space control are very appealing as they offer both high tracking performance and compliance. However, while widely used for fully actuated systems such as manipulators, they are not yet standard controllers for legged robots such as humanoids. Indeed such robots are fundamentally different from manipulators as they are underactuated due to their floating-base and subject to switching contact constraints. In this paper we present an inverse dynamics controller for legged robots that use torque redundancy to create an optimal distribution of contact constraints. The resulting controller is able to minimize, given a desired motion, any quadratic cost of the contact constraints at each instant of time. In particular we show how this can be used to minimize tangential forces during locomotion, therefore significantly improving the locomotion of legged robots on difficult terrains. In addition to the theoretical result, we present simulations of a humanoid and a quadruped robot, as well as experiments on a real quadruped robot that demonstrate the advantages of the controller.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Learning Motion Primitive Goals for Robust Manipulation

Stulp, F., Theodorou, E., Kalakrishnan, M., Pastor, P., Righetti, L., Schaal, S.

In IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems, pages: 325-331, IEEE, San Francisco, USA, sep 2011 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Applying model-free reinforcement learning to manipulation remains challenging for several reasons. First, manipulation involves physical contact, which causes discontinuous cost functions. Second, in manipulation, the end-point of the movement must be chosen carefully, as it represents a grasp which must be adapted to the pose and shape of the object. Finally, there is uncertainty in the object pose, and even the most carefully planned movement may fail if the object is not at the expected position. To address these challenges we 1) present a simplified, computationally more efficient version of our model-free reinforcement learning algorithm PI2; 2) extend PI2 so that it simultaneously learns shape parameters and goal parameters of motion primitives; 3) use shape and goal learning to acquire motion primitives that are robust to object pose uncertainty. We evaluate these contributions on a manipulation platform consisting of a 7-DOF arm with a 4-DOF hand.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Inverse Dynamics Control of Floating-Base Robots with External Constraints: a Unified View

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

In 2011 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation, pages: 1085-1090, IEEE, Shanghai, China, 2011 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Inverse dynamics controllers and operational space controllers have proved to be very efficient for compliant control of fully actuated robots such as fixed base manipulators. However legged robots such as humanoids are inherently different as they are underactuated and subject to switching external contact constraints. Recently several methods have been proposed to create inverse dynamics controllers and operational space controllers for these robots. In an attempt to compare these different approaches, we develop a general framework for inverse dynamics control and show that these methods lead to very similar controllers. We are then able to greatly simplify recent whole-body controllers based on operational space approaches using kinematic projections, bringing them closer to efficient practical implementations. We also generalize these controllers such that they can be optimal under an arbitrary quadratic cost in the commands.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Operational Space Control of Constrained and Underactuated Systems

Mistry, M., Righetti, L.

In Proceedings of Robotics: Science and Systems, Los Angeles, CA, USA, June 2011 (inproceedings)

Abstract
The operational space formulation (Khatib, 1987), applied to rigid-body manipulators, describes how to decouple task-space and null-space dynamics, and write control equations that correspond only to forces at the end-effector or, alternatively, only to motion within the null-space. We would like to apply this useful theory to modern humanoids and other legged systems, for manipulation or similar tasks, however these systems present additional challenges due to their underactuated floating bases and contact states that can dynamically change. In recent work, Sentis et al. derived controllers for such systems by implementing a task Jacobian projected into a space consistent with the supporting constraints and underactuation (the so called "support consistent reduced Jacobian"). Here, we take a new approach to derive operational space controllers for constrained underactuated systems, by first considering the operational space dynamics within "projected inverse-dynamics" (Aghili, 2005), and subsequently resolving underactuation through the addition of dynamically consistent control torques. Doing so results in a simplified control solution compared with previous results, and importantly yields several new insights into the underlying problem of operational space control in constrained environments: 1) Underactuated systems, such as humanoid robots, cannot in general completely decouple task and null-space dynamics. However, 2) there may exist an infinite number of control solutions to realize desired task-space dynamics, and 3) these solutions involve the addition of dynamically consistent null-space motion or constraint forces (or combinations of both). In light of these findings, we present several possible control solutions, with varying optimization criteria, and highlight some of their practical consequences.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Online movement adaptation based on previous sensor experiences

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

In 2011 IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems, pages: 365-371, IEEE, San Francisco, USA, sep 2011 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Personal robots can only become widespread if they are capable of safely operating among humans. In uncertain and highly dynamic environments such as human households, robots need to be able to instantly adapt their behavior to unforseen events. In this paper, we propose a general framework to achieve very contact-reactive motions for robotic grasping and manipulation. Associating stereotypical movements to particular tasks enables our system to use previous sensor experiences as a predictive model for subsequent task executions. We use dynamical systems, named Dynamic Movement Primitives (DMPs), to learn goal-directed behaviors from demonstration. We exploit their dynamic properties by coupling them with the measured and predicted sensor traces. This feedback loop allows for online adaptation of the movement plan. Our system can create a rich set of possible motions that account for external perturbations and perception uncertainty to generate truly robust behaviors. As an example, we present an application to grasping with the WAM robot arm.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

2007


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Hand placement during quadruped locomotion in a humanoid robot: A dynamical system approach

Degallier, S., Righetti, L., Ijspeert, A.

In 2007 IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems, pages: 2047-2052, IEEE, San Diego, USA, 2007 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Locomotion on an irregular surface is a challenging task in robotics. Among different problems to solve to obtain robust locomotion, visually guided locomotion and accurate foot placement are of crucial importance. Robust controllers able to adapt to sensory-motor feedbacks, in particular to properly place feet on specific locations, are thus needed. Dynamical systems are well suited for this task as any online modification of the parameters leads to a smooth adaptation of the trajectories, allowing a safe integration of sensory-motor feedback. In this contribution, as a first step in the direction of locomotion on irregular surfaces, we present a controller that allows hand placement during crawling in a simulated humanoid robot. The goal of the controller is to superimpose rhythmic movements for crawling with discrete (i.e. short-term) modulations of the hand placements to reach specific marks on the ground.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

2007


link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Lower body realization of the baby humanoid - ‘iCub’

Tsagarakis, N., Becchi, F., Righetti, L., Ijspeert, A., Caldwell, D.

In 2007 IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems, pages: 3616-3622, IEEE, San Diego, USA, 2007 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Nowadays, the understanding of the human cognition and it application to robotic systems forms a great challenge of research. The iCub is a robotic platform that was developed within the RobotCub European project to provide the cognition research community with an open baby- humanoid platform for understanding and development of cognitive systems. In this paper we present the design requirements and mechanical realization of the lower body developed for the "iCub". In particular the leg and the waist mechanisms adopted for lower body to match the size and physical abilities of a 2 frac12 year old human baby are introduced.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

2005


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A dynamical systems approach to learning: a frequency-adaptive hopper robot

Buchli, J., Righetti, L., Ijspeert, A.

In Proceedings of the VIIIth European Conference on Artificial Life ECAL 2005, pages: 210-220, Springer Verlag, 2005 (inproceedings)

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[BibTex]

2005


[BibTex]


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From Dynamic Hebbian Learning for Oscillators to Adaptive Central Pattern Generators

Righetti, L., Buchli, J., Ijspeert, A.

In Proceedings of 3rd International Symposium on Adaptive Motion in Animals and Machines – AMAM 2005, Verlag ISLE, Ilmenau, 2005 (inproceedings)

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[BibTex]

[BibTex]