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2015


Compliant wing design for a flapping wing micro air vehicle
Compliant wing design for a flapping wing micro air vehicle

Colmenares, D., Kania, R., Zhang, W., Sitti, M.

In Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS), 2015 IEEE/RSJ International Conference on, pages: 32-39, September 2015 (inproceedings)

Abstract
In this work, we examine several wing designs for a motor-driven, flapping-wing micro air vehicle capable of liftoff. The full system consists of two wings independently driven by geared pager motors that include a spring in parallel with the output shaft. The linear transmission allows for resonant operation, while control is achieved by direct drive of the wing angle. Wings used in previous work were chosen to be fully rigid for simplicity of modeling and fabrication. However, biological wings are highly flexible and other micro air vehicles have successfully utilized flexible wing structures for specialized tasks. The goal of our study is to determine if wing flexibility can be generally used to increase wing performance. Two approaches to lift improvement using flexible wings are explored, resonance of the wing cantilever structure and dynamic wing twisting. We design and test several wings that are compared using different figures of merit. A twisted design improved lift per power by 73.6% and maximum lift production by 53.2% compared to the original rigid design. Wing twist is then modeled in order to propose optimal wing twist profiles that can maximize either wing efficiency or lift production.

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DOI [BibTex]

2015


DOI [BibTex]


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Millimeter-scale magnetic swimmers using elastomeric undulations

Zhang, J., Diller, E.

In 2015 IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS), pages: 1706-1711, September 2015 (inproceedings)

Abstract
This paper presents a new soft-bodied millimeterscale swimmer actuated by rotating uniform magnetic fields. The proposed swimmer moves through internal undulatory deformations, resulting from a magnetization profile programmed into its body. To understand the motion of the swimmer, a mathematical model is developed to describe the general relationship between the deflection of a flexible strip and its magnetization profile. As a special case, the situation of the swimmer on the water surface is analyzed and predictions made by the model are experimentally verified. Experimental results show the controllability of the proposed swimmer under a computer vision-based closed-loop controller. The swimmers have nominal dimensions of 1.5×4.9×0.06 mm and a top speed of 50 mm/s (10 body lengths per second). Waypoint following and multiagent control are demonstrated for swimmers constrained at the air-water interface and underwater swimming is also shown, suggesting the promising potential of this type of swimmer in biomedical and microfluidic applications.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


Experimental investigation of optimal adhesion of mushroomlike elastomer microfibrillar adhesives
Experimental investigation of optimal adhesion of mushroomlike elastomer microfibrillar adhesives

Marvi, H., Song, S., Sitti, M.

Langmuir, 31(37):10119-10124, American Chemical Society, August 2015 (article)

Abstract
Optimal fiber designs for the maximal pull-off force have been indispensable for increasing the attachment performance of recently introduced gecko-inspired reversible micro/nanofibrillar adhesives. There are several theoretical studies on such optimal designs; however, due to the lack of three-dimensional (3D) fabrication techniques that can fabricate such optimal designs in 3D, there have not been many experimental investigations on this challenge. In this study, we benefitted from recent advances in two-photon lithography techniques to fabricate mushroomlike polyurethane elastomer fibers with different aspect ratios of tip to stalk diameter (β) and tip wedge angles (θ) to investigate the effect of these two parameters on the pull-off force. We found similar trends to those predicted theoretically. We found that β has an impact on the slope of the force-displacement curve while both β and θ play a role in the stress distribution and crack propagation. We found that these effects are coupled and the optimal set of parameters also depends on the fiber material. This is the first experimental verification of such optimal designs proposed for mushroomlike microfibers. This experimental approach could be used to evaluate a wide range of complex microstructured adhesive designs suggested in the literature and optimize them.

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


pH-taxis of biohybrid microsystems
pH-taxis of biohybrid microsystems

Zhuang, J., Carlsen, R. W., Sitti, M.

Scientific reports, 5, Nature Publishing Group, June 2015 (article)

Abstract
The last decade has seen an increasing number of studies developing bacteria and other cell-integrated biohybrid microsystems. However, the highly stochastic motion of these microsystems severely limits their potential use. Here, we present a method that exploits the pH sensing of flagellated bacteria to realize robust drift control of multi-bacteria propelled microrobots. Under three specifically configured pH gradients, we demonstrate that the microrobots exhibit both unidirectional and bidirectional pH-tactic behaviors, which are also observed in free-swimming bacteria. From trajectory analysis, we find that the swimming direction and speed biases are two major factors that contribute to their tactic drift motion. The motion analysis of microrobots also sheds light on the propulsion dynamics of the flagellated bacteria as bioactuators. It is expected that similar driving mechanisms are shared among pH-taxis, chemotaxis, and thermotaxis. By identifying the mechanism that drives the tactic behavior of bacteria-propelled microsystems, this study opens up an avenue towards improving the control of biohybrid microsystems. Furthermore, assuming that it is possible to tune the preferred pH of bioactuators by genetic engineering, these biohybrid microsystems could potentially be applied to sense the pH gradient induced by cancerous cells in stagnant fluids inside human body and realize targeted drug delivery.

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DOI Project Page [BibTex]

DOI Project Page [BibTex]


Fiberbot: A miniature crawling robot using a directional fibrillar pad
Fiberbot: A miniature crawling robot using a directional fibrillar pad

Han, Y., Marvi, H., Sitti, M.

In Robotics and Automation (ICRA), 2015 IEEE International Conference on, pages: 3122-3127, May 2015 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Vibration-driven locomotion has been widely used for crawling robot studies. Such robots usually have a vibration motor as the actuator and a fibrillar structure for providing directional friction on the substrate. However, there has not been any studies about the effect of fiber structure on robot crawling performance. In this paper, we develop Fiberbot, a custom made mini vibration robot, for studying the effect of fiber angle on robot velocity, steering, and climbing performance. It is known that the friction force with and against fibers depends on the fiber angle. Thus, we first present a new fabrication method for making millimeter scale fibers at a wide range of angles. We then show that using 30° angle fibers that have the highest friction anisotropy (ratio of backward to forward friction force) among the other fibers we fabricated in this study, Fiberbot speed on glass increases to 13.8±0.4 cm/s (compared to ν = 0.6±0.1 cm/s using vertical fibers). We also demonstrate that the locomotion direction of Fiberbot depends on the tilting direction of fibers and we can steer the robot by rotating the fiber pad. Fiberbot could also climb on glass at inclinations of up to 10° when equipped with fibers of high friction anisotropy. We show that adding a rigid tail to the robot it can climb on glass at 25° inclines. Moreover, the robot is able to crawl on rough surfaces such as wood (ν = 10.0±0.2 cm/s using 30° fiber pad). Fiberbot, a low-cost vibration robot equipped with a custom-designed fiber pad with steering and climbing capabilities could be used for studies on collective behavior on a wide range of topographies as well as search and exploratory missions.

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


Platform design and tethered flight of a motor-driven flapping-wing system
Platform design and tethered flight of a motor-driven flapping-wing system

Hines, L., Colmenares, D., Sitti, M.

In Robotics and Automation (ICRA), 2015 IEEE International Conference on, pages: 5838-5845, May 2015 (inproceedings)

Abstract
In this work, we examine two design modifications to a tethered motor-driven flapping-wing system. Previously, we had demonstrated a simple mechanism utilizing a linear transmission for resonant operation and direct drive of the wing flapping angle for control. The initial two-wing system had a weight of 2.7 grams and a maximum lift-to-weight ratio of 1.4. While capable of vertical takeoff, in open-loop flight it demonstrated instability and pitch oscillations at the wing flapping frequency, leading to flight times of only a few wing strokes. Here the effect of vertical wing offset as well as an alternative multi-wing layout is investigated and experimentally tested with newly constructed prototypes. With only a change in vertical wing offset, stable open-loop flight of the two-wing flapping system is shown to be theoretically possible, but difficult to achieve with our current design and operating parameters. Both of the new two and four-wing systems, however, prove capable of flying to the end of the tether, with the four-wing system prototype eliminating disruptive wing beat oscillations.

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


Structural optimization for flexure-based parallel mechanisms--Towards achieving optimal dynamic and stiffness properties
Structural optimization for flexure-based parallel mechanisms–Towards achieving optimal dynamic and stiffness properties

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

Precision Engineering, 42, pages: 195-207, Elsevier, May 2015 (article)

Abstract
Flexure-based parallel mechanisms (FPMs) are a type of compliant mechanisms that consist of a rigid end-effector that is articulated by several parallel, flexible limbs (a.k.a. sub-chains). Existing design methods can enhance the FPMs’ dynamic and stiffness properties by conducting a size optimization on their sub-chains. A similar optimization process, however, was not performed for their sub-chains’ topology, and this may severely limit the benefits of a size optimization. Thus, this paper proposes to use a structural optimization approach to synthesize and optimize the topology, shape and size of the FPMs’ sub-chains. The benefits of this approach are demonstrated via the design and development of a planar X − Y − θz FPM. A prototype of this FPM was evaluated experimentally to have a large workspace of 1.2 mm × 1.2 mm × 6°, a fundamental natural frequency of 102 Hz, and stiffness ratios that are greater than 120. The achieved properties show significant improvement over existing 3-degrees-of-freedom compliant mechanisms that can deflect more than 0.5 mm and 0.5°. These compliant mechanisms typically have stiffness ratios that are less than 60 and a fundamental natural frequency that is less than 45 Hz.

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


Controlled surface topography regulates collective 3D migration by epithelial--mesenchymal composite embryonic tissues
Controlled surface topography regulates collective 3D migration by epithelial–mesenchymal composite embryonic tissues

Song, J., Shawky, J. H., Kim, Y., Hazar, M., LeDuc, P. R., Sitti, M., Davidson, L. A.

Biomaterials, 58, pages: 1-9, Elsevier, April 2015 (article)

Abstract
Cells in tissues encounter a range of physical cues as they migrate. Probing single cell and collective migratory responses to physically defined three-dimensional (3D) microenvironments and the factors that modulate those responses are critical to understanding how tissue migration is regulated during development, regeneration, and cancer. One key physical factor that regulates cell migration is topography. Most studies on surface topography and cell mechanics have been carried out with single migratory cells, yet little is known about the spreading and motility response of 3D complex multi-cellular tissues to topographical cues. Here, we examine the response to complex topographical cues of microsurgically isolated tissue explants composed of epithelial and mesenchymal cell layers from naturally 3D organized embryos of the aquatic frog Xenopus laevis. We control topography using fabricated micropost arrays (MPAs) and investigate the collective 3D migration of these multi-cellular systems in these MPAs. We find that the topography regulates both collective and individual cell migration and that dense MPAs reduce but do not eliminate tissue spreading. By modulating cell size through the cell cycle inhibitor Mitomycin C or the spacing of the MPAs we uncover how 3D topographical cues disrupt collective cell migration. We find surface topography can direct both single cell motility and tissue spreading, altering tissue-scale processes that enable efficient conversion of single cell motility into collective movement.

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


Transfer Printing of Metallic Microstructures on Adhesion-Promoting Hydrogel Substrates
Transfer Printing of Metallic Microstructures on Adhesion-Promoting Hydrogel Substrates

Wu, H., Sariola, V., Zhu, C., Zhao, J., Sitti, M., Bettinger, C. J.

Advanced Materials, 27(22):3398-3404, April 2015 (article)

Abstract
Fabrication schemes that integrate inorganic microstructures with hydrogel substrates are essential for advancing flexible electronics. A transfer printing process that is made possible through the design and synthesis of adhesion-promoting hydrogels as target substrates is reported. This fabrication technique may advance ultracompliant electronics by melding microfabricated structures with swollen hydrogel substrates.

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


Biomedical applications of untethered mobile milli/microrobots
Biomedical applications of untethered mobile milli/microrobots

Sitti, M., Ceylan, H., Hu, W., Giltinan, J., Turan, M., Yim, S., Diller, E.

Proceedings of the IEEE, 103(2):205-224, IEEE, March 2015 (article)

Abstract
Untethered robots miniaturized to the length scale of millimeter and below attract growing attention for the prospect of transforming many aspects of health care and bioengineering. As the robot size goes down to the order of a single cell, previously inaccessible body sites would become available for high-resolution in situ and in vivo manipulations. This unprecedented direct access would enable an extensive range of minimally invasive medical operations. Here, we provide a comprehensive review of the current advances in biomedical untethered mobile milli/microrobots. We put a special emphasis on the potential impacts of biomedical microrobots in the near future. Finally, we discuss the existing challenges and emerging concepts associated with designing such a miniaturized robot for operation inside a biological environment for biomedical applications.

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


Collective 3D Migration of Embryonic Epithelial Mesenchymal Composite Tissues are Regulated by Surface Topology
Collective 3D Migration of Embryonic Epithelial Mesenchymal Composite Tissues are Regulated by Surface Topology

Song, J., Shawky, J., Kim, Y. T., Hazar, M., Sitti, M., LeDuc, P. R., Davidson, L. A.

Biophysical Journal, 108(2):455a, Elsevier, January 2015 (article)

Abstract
Cells in tissues encounter a range of physical cues as they migrate. Probing single cell and collective migratory responses to physically defined three-dimensional (3D) microenvironments and the factors that modulate those responses are critical to understanding how tissue migration is regulated during development, regeneration, and cancer. One key physical factor that regulates cell migration is topology. Most studies on surface topology and cell mechanics have been carried out with single migratory cells, yet little is known about the spreading and motility response of 3D complex multicellular tissues to topological cues. Here, we examine the behaviors of microsurgically isolated tissue explants composed of epithelial and mesenchymal cell layers from naturally 3D organized embryos of the aquatic frog Xenopus laevis to complex topological cues. We control topology using fabricated micropost arrays (MPAs) with different diameters (e.g., different spacing gaps) and investigate the collective 3D migration of these multicellular systems in these MPAs. Our topographical controlled approach for cellular application enables us to achieve a high degree of control over micropost positioning and geometry via simple, accurate, and repeatable microfabrication processes. We find that the topology regulates both collective and individual cell migration and that dense MPAs reduce but do not eliminate tissue spreading. By modulating cell size through the cell cycle inhibitor Mitomycin C or the spacing within MPAs we discover a role for topology in disrupting collective enhancement of cell migration. We find 3D topological cues can direct both single cell motility and tissue spreading, altering tissue-scale processes that enable efficient conversion of single cell motility into collective movement.

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


Three-dimensional heterogeneous assembly of coded microgels using an untethered mobile microgripper
Three-dimensional heterogeneous assembly of coded microgels using an untethered mobile microgripper

Chung, S. E., Dong, X., Sitti, M.

Lab on a Chip, 15(7):1667-1676, Royal Society of Chemistry, January 2015 (article)

Abstract
Three-dimensional (3D) heterogeneous assembly of coded microgels in enclosed aquatic environments is demonstrated using a remotely actuated and controlled magnetic microgripper by a customized electromagnetic coil system. The microgripper uses different ‘stick–slip’ and ‘rolling’ locomotion in 2D and also levitation in 3D by magnetic gradient-based pulling force. This enables the microrobot to precisely manipulate each microgel by controlling its position and orientation in all x–y–z directions. Our microrobotic assembly method broke the barrier of limitation on the number of assembled microgel layers, because it enabled precise 3D levitation of the microgripper. We used the gripper to assemble microgels that had been coded with different colours and shapes onto prefabricated polymeric microposts. This eliminates the need for extra secondary cross-linking to fix the final construct. We demonstrated assembly of microgels on a single micropost up to ten layers. By increasing the number and changing the distribution of the posts, complex heterogeneous microsystems were possible to construct in 3D.

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DOI Project Page [BibTex]

DOI Project Page [BibTex]


Integrating mechanism synthesis and topological optimization technique for stiffness-oriented design of a three degrees-of-freedom flexure-based parallel mechanism
Integrating mechanism synthesis and topological optimization technique for stiffness-oriented design of a three degrees-of-freedom flexure-based parallel mechanism

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

Precision Engineering, 39, pages: 125-133, Elsevier, January 2015 (article)

Abstract
This paper introduces a new design approach to synthesize multiple degrees-of-freedom (DOF) flexure-based parallel mechanism (FPM). Termed as an integrated design approach, it is a systematic design methodology, which integrates both classical mechanism synthesis and modern topology optimization technique, to deliver an optimized multi-DOF FPM. This design approach is separated into two levels. At sub-chain level, a novel topology optimization technique, which uses the classical linkage mechanisms as DNA seeds, is used to synthesize the compliant joints or limbs. At configuration level, the optimal compliant joints are used to form the parallel limbs of the multi-DOF FPM and another stage of optimization was conducted to determine the optimal space distribution between these compliant joints so as to generate a multi-DOF FPM with optimized stiffness characteristic. In this paper, the design of a 3-DOF planar motion FPM was used to demonstrate the effectiveness and accuracy of this proposed design approach.

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DOI [BibTex]


Actively controlled fibrillar friction surfaces
Actively controlled fibrillar friction surfaces

Marvi, H, Han, Y, Sitti, M

Applied Physics Letters, 106(5):051602, AIP Publishing, January 2015 (article)

Abstract
In this letter, we propose a technique by which we can actively adjust frictional properties of elastic fibrillar structures in different directions. Using a mesh attached to a two degree-of-freedom linear stage, we controlled the active length and the tilt angle of fibers, independently. Thus, we were able to achieve desired levels of friction forces in different directions and significantly improve passive friction anisotropies observed in the same fiber arrays. The proposed technique would allow us to readily control the friction anisotropy and the friction magnitude of fibrillar structures in any planar direction.

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DOI [BibTex]

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]

2011


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Design and application of a wire-driven bidirectional telescopic mechanism for workspace expansion with a focus on shipbuilding tasks

Lee, D., Chang, D., Shin, Y., Son, D., Kim, T., Lee, K., Kim, J.

Advanced Robotics, 25, 2011 (article)

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[BibTex]

2011


[BibTex]


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Waalbot II: Adhesion recovery and improved performance of a climbing robot using fibrillar adhesives

Murphy, M. P., Kute, C., Mengüç, Y., Sitti, M.

The International Journal of Robotics Research, 30(1):118-133, SAGE Publications Sage UK: London, England, 2011 (article)

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Project Page [BibTex]

Project Page [BibTex]


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Automated 2-D nanoparticle manipulation using atomic force microscopy

Onal, C. D., Ozcan, O., Sitti, M.

IEEE Transactions on Nanotechnology, 10(3):472-481, IEEE, 2011 (article)

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[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Design and analysis of a magnetically actuated and compliant capsule endoscopic robot

Yim, S., Sitti, M.

In Robotics and Automation (ICRA), 2011 IEEE International Conference on, pages: 4810-4815, 2011 (inproceedings)

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[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Micro-scale propulsion using multiple flexible artificial flagella

Singleton, J., Diller, E., Andersen, T., Regnier, S., Sitti, M.

In Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS), 2011 IEEE/RSJ International Conference on, pages: 1687-1692, 2011 (inproceedings)

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Project Page [BibTex]

Project Page [BibTex]


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Biaxial mechanical modeling of the small intestine

Bellini, C., Glass, P., Sitti, M., Di Martino, E. S.

Journal of the mechanical behavior of biomedical materials, 4(8):1727-1740, Elsevier, 2011 (article)

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Project Page [BibTex]

Project Page [BibTex]


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Control of multiple heterogeneous magnetic micro-robots on non-specialized surfaces

Diller, E., Floyd, S., Pawashe, C., Sitti, M.

In Robotics and Automation (ICRA), 2011 IEEE International Conference on, pages: 115-120, 2011 (inproceedings)

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[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Tip based robotic precision micro/nanomanipulation systems

Onal, C., Sumer, B., Ozcan, O., Nain, A., Sitti, M.

In SPIE Defense, Security, and Sensing, pages: 80580M-80580M, 2011 (inproceedings)

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[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Design of a miniature integrated multi-modal jumping and gliding robot

Woodward, M. A., Sitti, M.

In Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS), 2011 IEEE/RSJ International Conference on, pages: 556-561, 2011 (inproceedings)

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Project Page [BibTex]

Project Page [BibTex]


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Assembly and disassembly of magnetic mobile micro-robots towards deterministic 2-D reconfigurable micro-systems

Diller, E., Pawashe, C., Floyd, S., Sitti, M.

The International Journal of Robotics Research, 30(14):1667-1680, SAGE Publications Sage UK: London, England, 2011 (article)

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[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Toward simple control for complex, autonomous robotic applications: combining discrete and rhythmic motor primitives

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

Autonomous Robots, 31(2-3):155-181, October 2011 (article)

Abstract
Vertebrates are able to quickly adapt to new environments in a very robust, seemingly effortless way. To explain both this adaptivity and robustness, a very promising perspective in neurosciences is the modular approach to movement generation: Movements results from combinations of a finite set of stable motor primitives organized at the spinal level. In this article we apply this concept of modular generation of movements to the control of robots with a high number of degrees of freedom, an issue that is challenging notably because planning complex, multidimensional trajectories in time-varying environments is a laborious and costly process. We thus propose to decrease the complexity of the planning phase through the use of a combination of discrete and rhythmic motor primitives, leading to the decoupling of the planning phase (i.e. the choice of behavior) and the actual trajectory generation. Such implementation eases the control of, and the switch between, different behaviors by reducing the dimensionality of the high-level commands. Moreover, since the motor primitives are generated by dynamical systems, the trajectories can be smoothly modulated, either by high-level commands to change the current behavior or by sensory feedback information to adapt to environmental constraints. In order to show the generality of our approach, we apply the framework to interactive drumming and infant crawling in a humanoid robot. These experiments illustrate the simplicity of the control architecture in terms of planning, the integration of different types of feedback (vision and contact) and the capacity of autonomously switching between different behaviors (crawling and simple reaching).

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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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]

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.

am mg

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Free flight simulations and pitch and roll control experiments of a sub-gram flapping-flight micro aerial vehicle

Hines, L. L., Arabagi, V., Sitti, M.

In Robotics and Automation (ICRA), 2011 IEEE International Conference on, pages: 1-7, 2011 (inproceedings)

pi

Project Page [BibTex]

Project Page [BibTex]


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Modeling of stochastic motion of bacteria propelled spherical microbeads

Arabagi, V., Behkam, B., Cheung, E., Sitti, M.

Journal of Applied Physics, 109(11):114702, AIP, 2011 (article)

pi

Project Page [BibTex]

Project Page [BibTex]


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The effect of aspect ratio on adhesion and stiffness for soft elastic fibres

Aksak, B., Hui, C., Sitti, M.

Journal of The Royal Society Interface, 8(61):1166-1175, The Royal Society, 2011 (article)

pi

Project Page [BibTex]

Project Page [BibTex]


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Chemotactic behavior and dynamics of bacteria propelled microbeads

Kim, Dongwook, Liu, Albert, Stitti, Metin

In Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS), 2011 IEEE/RSJ International Conference on, pages: 1674-1679, 2011 (inproceedings)

pi

Project Page [BibTex]

Project Page [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.

mg

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Under-actuated tank-like climbing robot with various transitioning capabilities

Seo, T., Sitti, M.

In Robotics and Automation (ICRA), 2011 IEEE International Conference on, pages: 777-782, 2011 (inproceedings)

pi

[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Enhancing adhesion of biologically inspired polymer microfibers with a viscous oil coating

Cheung, E., Sitti, M.

The Journal of Adhesion, 87(6):547-557, Taylor & Francis Group, 2011 (article)

pi

Project Page [BibTex]

Project Page [BibTex]


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Rotating magnetic micro-robots for versatile non-contact fluidic manipulation of micro-objects

Diller, E., Ye, Z., Sitti, M.

In Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS), 2011 IEEE/RSJ International Conference on, pages: 1291-1296, 2011 (inproceedings)

pi

Project Page [BibTex]

Project Page [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.

am mg

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Piezoelectric polymer fiber arrays for tactile sensing applications

Sümer, B., Aksak, B., Şsahin, K., Chuengsatiansup, K., Sitti, M.

Sensor Letters, 9(2):457-463, American Scientific Publishers, 2011 (article)

pi

Project Page [BibTex]

Project Page [BibTex]


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Assembly and disassembly of magnetic mobile micro-robots towards deterministic 2-D reconfigurable micro-systems

Pawashe, C., Diller, E., Floyd, S., Sitti, M.

In Robotics and Automation (ICRA), 2011 IEEE International Conference on, pages: 261-266, 2011 (inproceedings)

pi

[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Stochastic dynamics of bacteria propelled spherical micro-robots

Arabagi, V., Behkam, B., Sitti, M.

In Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS), 2011 IEEE/RSJ International Conference on, pages: 3937-3942, 2011 (inproceedings)

pi

[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Control methodologies for a heterogeneous group of untethered magnetic micro-robots

Floyd, S., Diller, E., Pawashe, C., Sitti, M.

The International Journal of Robotics Research, 30(13):1553-1565, SAGE Publications, 2011 (article)

pi

[BibTex]

[BibTex]

2007


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Bacterial flagella-based propulsion and on/off motion control of microscale objects

Behkam, B., Sitti, M.

Applied Physics Letters, 90(2):023902, AIP, 2007 (article)

pi

[BibTex]

2007


[BibTex]


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A strategy for vision-based controlled pushing of microparticles

Lynch, N. A., Onal, C., Schuster, E., Sitti, M.

In Robotics and Automation, 2007 IEEE International Conference on, pages: 1413-1418, 2007 (inproceedings)

pi

[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Friction of partially embedded vertically aligned carbon nanofibers inside elastomers

Aksak, B., Sitti, M., Cassell, A., Li, J., Meyyappan, M., Callen, P.

Applied Physics Letters, 91(6):061906, AIP, 2007 (article)

pi

[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Enhanced friction of elastomer microfiber adhesives with spatulate tips

Kim, S., Aksak, B., Sitti, M.

Applied Physics Letters, 91(22):221913, AIP, 2007 (article)

pi

Project Page [BibTex]

Project Page [BibTex]


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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.

mg

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]