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2014


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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]


Thumb xl screen shot 2018 02 03 at 11.50.19 am
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]


Thumb xl screen shot 2018 02 03 at 7.52.45 pm
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]

2010


Thumb xl screen shot 2018 02 03 at 4.33.15 pm
Graph signature for self-reconfiguration planning of modules with symmetry

Asadpour, M., Ashtiani, M. H. Z., Spröwitz, A., Ijspeert, A. J.

In Proceedings of the 2009 IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems, pages: 5295-5300, IEEE, St. Louis, MO, 2010 (inproceedings)

Abstract
In our previous works we had developed a framework for self-reconfiguration planning based on graph signature and graph edit-distance. The graph signature is a fast isomorphism test between different configurations and the graph edit-distance is a similarity metric. But the algorithm is not suitable for modules with symmetry. In this paper we improve the algorithm in order to deal with symmetric modules. Also, we present a new heuristic function to guide the search strategy by penalizing the solutions with more number of actions. The simulation results show the new algorithm not only deals with symmetric modules successfully but also finds better solutions in a shorter time.

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DOI [BibTex]

2010


DOI [BibTex]


Thumb xl screen shot 2018 02 03 at 11.59.15 am
Roombots - Towards decentralized reconfiguration with self-reconfiguring modular robotic metamodules

Spröwitz, A., Laprade, P., Bonardi, S., Mayer, M., Moeckel, R., Mudry, P., Ijspeert, A. J.

In Proceedings of the 2010 IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS), pages: 1126-1132, IEEE, Taipeh, 2010 (inproceedings)

Abstract
This paper presents our work towards a decentralized reconfiguration strategy for self-reconfiguring modular robots, assembling furniture-like structures from Roombots (RB) metamodules. We explore how reconfiguration by loco- motion from a configuration A to a configuration B can be controlled in a distributed fashion. This is done using Roombots metamodules—two Roombots modules connected serially—that use broadcast signals, lookup tables of their movement space, assumptions about their neighborhood, and connections to a structured surface to collectively build desired structures without the need of a centralized planner.

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


Thumb xl screen shot 2018 02 03 at 7.21.10 pm
Roombots: Reconfigurable Robots for Adaptive Furniture

Spröwitz, A., Pouya, S., Bonardi, S., van den Kieboom, J., Möckel, R., Billard, A., Dillenbourg, P., Ijspeert, A.

Computational Intelligence Magazine, IEEE, 5(3):20-32, 2010 (article)

Abstract
Imagine a world in which our furniture moves around like legged robots, interacts with us, and changes shape and function during the day according to our needs. This is the long term vision we have in the Roombots project. To work towards this dream, we are developing modular robotic modules that have rotational degrees of freedom for locomotion as well as active connection mechanisms for runtime reconfiguration. A piece of furniture, e.g. a stool, will thus be composed of several modules that activate their rotational joints together to implement locomotor gaits, and will be able to change shape, e.g. transforming into a chair, by sequences of attachments and detachments of modules. In this article, we firstly present the project and the hardware we are currently developing. We explore how reconfiguration from a configuration A to a configuration B can be controlled in a distributed fashion. This is done using metamodules-two Roombots modules connected serially-that use broadcast signals and connections to a structured ground to collectively build desired structures without the need of a centralized planner. We then present how locomotion controllers can be implemented in a distributed system of coupled oscillators-one per degree of freedom-similarly to the concept of central pattern generators (CPGs) found in the spinal cord of vertebrate animals. The CPGs are based on coupled phase oscillators to ensure synchronized behavior and have different output filters to allow switching between oscillations and rotations. A stochastic optimization algorithm is used to explore optimal CPG configurations for different simulated Roombots structures.

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


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Distributed Online Learning of Central Pattern Generators in Modular Robots

Christensen, D. J., Spröwitz, A., Ijspeert, A. J.

In From Animals to Animats 11, 6226, pages: 402-412, Lecture Notes in Computer Science, Springer, Berlin, 2010, author: Doncieux, Stéphan (incollection)

Abstract
In this paper we study distributed online learning of locomotion gaits for modular robots. The learning is based on a stochastic ap- proximation method, SPSA, which optimizes the parameters of coupled oscillators used to generate periodic actuation patterns. The strategy is implemented in a distributed fashion, based on a globally shared reward signal, but otherwise utilizing local communication only. In a physics-based simulation of modular Roombots robots we experiment with online learn- ing of gaits and study the effects of: module failures, different robot morphologies, and rough terrains. The experiments demonstrate fast online learning, typically 5-30 min. for convergence to high performing gaits (≈ 30 cm/sec), despite high numbers of open parameters (45-54). We conclude that the proposed approach is efficient, effective and a promising candidate for online learning on many other robotic platforms.

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


Thumb xl screen shot 2018 02 03 at 4.38.20 pm
Automatic Gait Generation in Modular Robots: to Oscillate or to Rotate? that is the question

Pouya, S., van den Kieboom, J., Spröwitz, A., Ijspeert, A. J.

In Proceedings of the 2010 IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS), pages: 514-520, IEEE, Taipei, 2010 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Modular robots offer the possibility to design robots with a high diversity of shapes and functionalities. This nice feature also brings an important challenge: namely how to design efficient locomotion gaits for arbitrary robot structures with many degrees of freedom. In this paper, we present a framework that allows one to explore and identify highly different gaits for a given arbitrary- shaped modular robot. We use simulated robots made of several Roombots modules that have three rotational joints each. These modules have the interesting feature that they can produce both oscillatory movements (i.e. periodic movements around a rest position) and rotational movements (i.e. with continuously increasing angle), leading to very rich locomotion patterns. Here we ask ourselves which types of movements —purely oscillatory, purely rotational, or a combination of both— lead to the fastest gaits. To address this question we designed a control architecture based on a distributed system of coupled phase oscillators that can produce synchronized rotations and oscillations in many degrees of freedom. We also designed a specific optimization algorithm that can automatically design hybrid controllers, i.e. controllers that use oscillations in some joints and rotations in others, for fast gaits. The proposed framework is verified by multiple simulations for several robot morphologies. The results show that (i) the question whether it is better to oscillate or to rotate depends on the morphology of the robot, and that in general it is best to do both, (ii) the optimization framework can successfully generate hybrid controllers that outperform purely oscillatory and purely rotational ones, and (iii) the resulting gaits are fast, innovative, and would have been hard to design by hand.

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


Thumb xl screen shot 2018 02 03 at 4.30.26 pm
Roombots: Design and Implementation of a Modular Robot for Reconfiguration and Locomotion

Spröwitz, A.

EPFL, Lausanne, Lausanne, 2010 (phdthesis)

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DOI [BibTex]

2009


Thumb xl screen shot 2018 02 03 at 4.40.27 pm
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]

2007


Thumb xl screen shot 2018 02 03 at 6.38.18 pm
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]