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2018


Thumb xl screen shot 2018 03 22 at 10.40.47 am
Oncilla robot: a versatile open-source quadruped research robot with compliant pantograph legs

Sproewitz, A., Tuleu, A., Ajallooeian, M., Vespignani, M., Moeckel, R., Eckert, P., D’Haene, M., Degrave, J., Nordmann, A., Schrauwen, B., Steil, J., Ijspeert, A. J.

Frontiers in Robotics and AI, 5(67), June 2018, arXiv: 1803.06259 (article)

Abstract
We present Oncilla robot, a novel mobile, quadruped legged locomotion machine. This large-cat sized, 5.1 robot is one of a kind of a recent, bioinspired legged robot class designed with the capability of model-free locomotion control. Animal legged locomotion in rough terrain is clearly shaped by sensor feedback systems. Results with Oncilla robot show that agile and versatile locomotion is possible without sensory signals to some extend, and tracking becomes robust when feedback control is added (Ajaoolleian 2015). By incorporating mechanical and control blueprints inspired from animals, and by observing the resulting robot locomotion characteristics, we aim to understand the contribution of individual components. Legged robots have a wide mechanical and control design parameter space, and a unique potential as research tools to investigate principles of biomechanics and legged locomotion control. But the hardware and controller design can be a steep initial hurdle for academic research. To facilitate the easy start and development of legged robots, Oncilla-robot's blueprints are available through open-source. [...]

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link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]

2018


link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]


Thumb xl screen shot 2018 04 18 at 11.01.27 am
Learning from Outside the Viability Kernel: Why we Should Build Robots that can Fail with Grace

Heim, S., Sproewitz, A.

Proceedings of SIMPAR 2018, pages: 55-61, IEEE, 2018 IEEE International Conference on Simulation, Modeling, and Programming for Autonomous Robots (SIMPAR), May 2018 (conference)

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link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]

link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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Impact of Trunk Orientation for Dynamic Bipedal Locomotion

Drama, O.

Dynamic Walking Conference, May 2018 (talk)

Abstract
Impact of trunk orientation for dynamic bipedal locomotion My research revolves around investigating the functional demands of bipedal running, with focus on stabilizing trunk orientation. When we think about postural stability, there are two critical questions we need to answer: What are the necessary and sufficient conditions to achieve and maintain trunk stability? I am concentrating on how morphology affects control strategies in achieving trunk stability. In particular, I denote the trunk pitch as the predominant morphology parameter and explore the requirements it imposes on a chosen control strategy. To analyze this, I use a spring loaded inverted pendulum model extended with a rigid trunk, which is actuated by a hip motor. The challenge for the controller design here is to have a single hip actuator to achieve two coupled tasks of moving the legs to generate motion and stabilizing the trunk. I enforce orthograde and pronograde postures and aim to identify the effect of these trunk orientations on the hip torque and ground reaction profiles for different control strategies.

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Impact of trunk orientation for dynamic bipedal locomotion [DW 2018] link (url) Project Page [BibTex]


Thumb xl screen shot 2018 02 03 at 9.09.06 am
Shaping in Practice: Training Wheels to Learn Fast Hopping Directly in Hardware

Heim, S., Ruppert, F., Sarvestani, A., Sproewitz, A.

In Proceedings of the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA) 2018, pages: 5076-5081, IEEE, International Conference on Robotics and Automation, May 2018 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Learning instead of designing robot controllers can greatly reduce engineering effort required, while also emphasizing robustness. Despite considerable progress in simulation, applying learning directly in hardware is still challenging, in part due to the necessity to explore potentially unstable parameters. We explore the of concept shaping the reward landscape with training wheels; temporary modifications of the physical hardware that facilitate learning. We demonstrate the concept with a robot leg mounted on a boom learning to hop fast. This proof of concept embodies typical challenges such as instability and contact, while being simple enough to empirically map out and visualize the reward landscape. Based on our results we propose three criteria for designing effective training wheels for learning in robotics.

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Video Youtube link (url) Project Page [BibTex]

Video Youtube link (url) Project Page [BibTex]

2014


Thumb xl screen shot 2018 02 03 at 11.45.27 am
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]


Thumb xl screen shot 2018 02 03 at 4.24.19 pm
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]