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2014


Roombots: A hardware perspective on 3D self-reconfiguration and locomotion with a homogeneous modular robot
Roombots: A hardware perspective on 3D self-reconfiguration and locomotion with a homogeneous modular robot

Spröwitz, A., Moeckel, R., Vespignani, M., Bonardi, S., Ijspeert, A. J.

{Robotics and Autonomous Systems}, 62(7):1016-1033, Elsevier, Amsterdam, 2014 (article)

Abstract
In this work we provide hands-on experience on designing and testing a self-reconfiguring modular robotic system, Roombots (RB), to be used among others for adaptive furniture. In the long term, we envision that RB can be used to create sets of furniture, such as stools, chairs and tables that can move in their environment and that change shape and functionality during the day. In this article, we present the first, incremental results towards that long term vision. We demonstrate locomotion and reconfiguration of single and metamodule RB over 3D surfaces, in a structured environment equipped with embedded connection ports. RB assemblies can move around in non-structured environments, by using rotational or wheel-like locomotion. We show a proof of concept for transferring a Roombots metamodule (two in-series coupled RB modules) from the non-structured environment back into the structured grid, by aligning the RB metamodule in an entrapment mechanism. Finally, we analyze the remaining challenges to master the full Roombots scenario, and discuss the impact on future Roombots hardware.

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DOI [BibTex]

2014


DOI [BibTex]


Automatic Generation of Reduced CPG Control Networks for Locomotion of Arbitrary Modular Robot Structures
Automatic Generation of Reduced CPG Control Networks for Locomotion of Arbitrary Modular Robot Structures

Bonardi, S., Vespignani, M., Möckel, R., Van den Kieboom, J., Pouya, S., Spröwitz, A., Ijspeert, A.

In Proceedings of Robotics: Science and Systems, University of California, Barkeley, 2014 (inproceedings)

Abstract
The design of efficient locomotion controllers for arbitrary structures of reconfigurable modular robots is challenging because the morphology of the structure can change dynamically during the completion of a task. In this paper, we propose a new method to automatically generate reduced Central Pattern Generator (CPG) networks for locomotion control based on the detection of bio-inspired sub-structures, like body and limbs, and articulation joints inside the robotic structure. We demonstrate how that information, coupled with the potential symmetries in the structure, can be used to speed up the optimization of the gaits and investigate its impact on the solution quality (i.e. the velocity of the robotic structure and the potential internal collisions between robotic modules). We tested our approach on three simulated structures and observed that the reduced network topologies in the first iterations of the optimization process performed significantly better than the fully open ones.

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


Kinematic primitives for walking and trotting gaits of a quadruped robot with compliant legs
Kinematic primitives for walking and trotting gaits of a quadruped robot with compliant legs

Spröwitz, A. T., Ajallooeian, M., Tuleu, A., Ijspeert, A. J.

Frontiers in Computational Neuroscience, 8(27):1-13, 2014 (article)

Abstract
In this work we research the role of body dynamics in the complexity of kinematic patterns in a quadruped robot with compliant legs. Two gait patterns, lateral sequence walk and trot, along with leg length control patterns of different complexity were implemented in a modular, feed-forward locomotion controller. The controller was tested on a small, quadruped robot with compliant, segmented leg design, and led to self-stable and self-stabilizing robot locomotion. In-air stepping and on-ground locomotion leg kinematics were recorded, and the number and shapes of motion primitives accounting for 95\% of the variance of kinematic leg data were extracted. This revealed that kinematic patterns resulting from feed-forward control had a lower complexity (in-air stepping, 2–3 primitives) than kinematic patterns from on-ground locomotion (νm4 primitives), although both experiments applied identical motor patterns. The complexity of on-ground kinematic patterns had increased, through ground contact and mechanical entrainment. The complexity of observed kinematic on-ground data matches those reported from level-ground locomotion data of legged animals. Results indicate that a very low complexity of modular, rhythmic, feed-forward motor control is sufficient for level-ground locomotion in combination with passive compliant legged hardware.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Self-Exploration of the Stumpy Robot with Predictive Information Maximization

Martius, G., Jahn, L., Hauser, H., V. Hafner, V.

In Proc. From Animals to Animats, SAB 2014, 8575, pages: 32-42, LNCS, Springer, 2014 (inproceedings)

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[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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Robot Learning by Guided Self-Organization

Martius, G., Der, R., Herrmann, J. M.

In Guided Self-Organization: Inception, 9, pages: 223-260, Emergence, Complexity and Computation, Springer Berlin Heidelberg, 2014 (incollection)

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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An autonomous manipulation system based on force control and optimization

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

Autonomous Robots, 36(1-2):11-30, January 2014 (article)

Abstract
In this paper we present an architecture for autonomous manipulation. Our approach is based on the belief that contact interactions during manipulation should be exploited to improve dexterity and that optimizing motion plans is useful to create more robust and repeatable manipulation behaviors. We therefore propose an architecture where state of the art force/torque control and optimization-based motion planning are the core components of the system. We give a detailed description of the modules that constitute the complete system and discuss the challenges inherent to creating such a system. We present experimental results for several grasping and manipulation tasks to demonstrate the performance and robustness of our approach.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Learning of grasp selection based on shape-templates

Herzog, A., Pastor, P., Kalakrishnan, M., Righetti, L., Bohg, J., Asfour, T., Schaal, S.

Autonomous Robots, 36(1-2):51-65, January 2014 (article)

Abstract
The ability to grasp unknown objects still remains an unsolved problem in the robotics community. One of the challenges is to choose an appropriate grasp configuration, i.e., the 6D pose of the hand relative to the object and its finger configuration. In this paper, we introduce an algorithm that is based on the assumption that similarly shaped objects can be grasped in a similar way. It is able to synthesize good grasp poses for unknown objects by finding the best matching object shape templates associated with previously demonstrated grasps. The grasp selection algorithm is able to improve over time by using the information of previous grasp attempts to adapt the ranking of the templates to new situations. We tested our approach on two different platforms, the Willow Garage PR2 and the Barrett WAM robot, which have very different hand kinematics. Furthermore, we compared our algorithm with other grasp planners and demonstrated its superior performance. The results presented in this paper show that the algorithm is able to find good grasp configurations for a large set of unknown objects from a relatively small set of demonstrations, and does improve its performance over time.

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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.

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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]

2009


Roombots-mechanical design of self-reconfiguring modular robots for adaptive furniture
Roombots-mechanical design of self-reconfiguring modular robots for adaptive furniture

Spröwitz, A., Billard, A., Dillenbourg, P., Ijspeert, A. J.

In Proceedings of the 2009 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA), pages: 4259-4264, IEEE, Kobe, 2009 (inproceedings)

Abstract
We aim at merging technologies from information technology, roomware, and robotics in order to design adaptive and intelligent furniture. This paper presents design principles for our modular robots, called Roombots, as future building blocks for furniture that moves and self-reconfigures. The reconfiguration is done using dynamic connection and disconnection of modules and rotations of the degrees of freedom. We are furthermore interested in applying Roombots towards adaptive behaviour, such as online learning of locomotion patterns. To create coordinated and efficient gait patterns, we use a Central Pattern Generator (CPG) approach, which can easily be optimized by any gradient-free optimization algorithm. To provide a hardware framework we present the mechanical design of the Roombots modules and an active connection mechanism based on physical latches. Further we discuss the application of our Roombots modules as pieces of a homogenic or heterogenic mix of building blocks for static structures.

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DOI [BibTex]

2009


DOI [BibTex]


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Modelling the interplay of central pattern generation and sensory feedback in the neuromuscular control of running

Daley, M., Righetti, L., Ijspeert, A.

In Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology - Part A: Molecular & Integrative Physiology. Annual Main Meeting for the Society for Experimental Biology, 153, Glasgow, Scotland, 2009 (inproceedings)

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Adaptive Frequency Oscillators and Applications

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

The Open Cybernetics \& Systemics Journal, 3, pages: 64-69, 2009 (article)

Abstract
In this contribution we present a generic mechanism to transform an oscillator into an adaptive frequency oscillator, which can then dynamically adapt its parameters to learn the frequency of any periodic driving signal. Adaptation is done in a dynamic way: it is part of the dynamical system and not an offline process. This mechanism goes beyond entrainment since it works for any initial frequencies and the learned frequency stays encoded in the system even if the driving signal disappears. Interestingly, this mechanism can easily be applied to a large class of oscillators from harmonic oscillators to relaxation types and strange attractors. Several practical applications of this mechanism are then presented, ranging from adaptive control of compliant robots to frequency analysis of signals and construction of limit cycles of arbitrary shape.

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link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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A Sensor-Based Learning Algorithm for the Self-Organization of Robot Behavior

Hesse, F., Martius, G., Der, R., Herrmann, J. M.

Algorithms, 2(1):398-409, 2009 (article)

Abstract
Ideally, sensory information forms the only source of information to a robot. We consider an algorithm for the self-organization of a controller. At short timescales the controller is merely reactive but the parameter dynamics and the acquisition of knowledge by an internal model lead to seemingly purposeful behavior on longer timescales. As a paradigmatic example, we study the simulation of an underactuated snake-like robot. By interacting with the real physical system formed by the robotic hardware and the environment, the controller achieves a sensitive and body-specific actuation of the robot.

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link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]

2007


An easy to use bluetooth scatternet protocol for fast data exchange in wireless sensor networks and autonomous robots
An easy to use bluetooth scatternet protocol for fast data exchange in wireless sensor networks and autonomous robots

Mockel, R., Spröwitz, A., Maye, J., Ijspeert, A. J.

In Proceedings of the 2007 IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems, pages: 2801-2806, IEEE, San Diego, CA, 2007 (inproceedings)

Abstract
We present a Bluetooth scatternet protocol (SNP) that provides the user with a serial link to all connected members in a transparent wireless Bluetooth network. By using only local decision making we can reduce the overhead of our scatternet protocol dramatically. We show how our SNP software layer simplifies a variety of tasks like the synchronization of central pattern generator controllers for actuators, collecting sensory data and building modular robot structures. The whole Bluetooth software stack including our new scatternet layer is implemented on a single Bluetooth and memory chip. To verify and characterize the SNP we provide data from experiments using real hardware instead of software simulation. This gives a realistic overview of the scatternet performance showing higher order effects that are difficult to be simulated correctly and guaranties the correct function of the SNP in real world applications.

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DOI [BibTex]

2007


DOI [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.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

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]


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iCub - The Design and Realization of an Open Humanoid Platform for Cognitive and Neuroscience Research

Tsagarakis, N., Metta, G., Sandini, G., Vernon, D., Beira, R., Becchi, F., Righetti, L., Santos-Victor, J., Ijspeert, A., Carrozza, M., Caldwell, D.

Advanced Robotics, 21(10):1151-1175, 2007 (article)

Abstract
The development of robotic cognition and the advancement of understanding of human cognition form two of the current greatest challenges in robotics and neuroscience, respectively. The RobotCub project aims to develop an embodied robotic child (iCub) with the physical (height 90 cm and mass less than 23 kg) and ultimately cognitive abilities of a 2.5-year-old human child. The iCub will be a freely available open system which can be used by scientists in all cognate disciplines from developmental psychology to epigenetic robotics to enhance understanding of cognitive systems through the study of cognitive development. The iCub will be open both in software, but more importantly in all aspects of the hardware and mechanical design. In this paper the design of the mechanisms and structures forming the basic 'body' of the iCub are described. The papers considers kinematic structures dynamic design criteria, actuator specification and selection, and detailed mechanical and electronic design. The paper concludes with tests of the performance of sample joints, and comparison of these results with the design requirements and simulation projects.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Guided Self-organisation for Autonomous Robot Development

Martius, G., Herrmann, J. M., Der, R.

In Advances in Artificial Life 9th European Conference, ECAL 2007, 4648, pages: 766-775, LNCS, Springer, 2007 (inproceedings)

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[BibTex]

[BibTex]