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2020


Postural stability in human running with step-down perturbations: an experimental and numerical study
Postural stability in human running with step-down perturbations: an experimental and numerical study

Özge Drama, , Johanna Vielemeyer, , Alexander Badri-Spröwitz, , Müller, R.

Royal Society Open Science, 7, November 2020 (article)

Abstract
Postural stability is one of the most crucial elements in bipedal locomotion. Bipeds are dynamically unstable and need to maintain their trunk upright against the rotations induced by the ground reaction forces (GRFs), especially when running. Gait studies report that the GRF vectors focus around a virtual point above the center of mass (VPA), while the trunk moves forward in pitch axis during the stance phase of human running. However, a recent simulation study suggests that a virtual point below the center of mass (VPB) might be present in human running, since a VPA yields backward trunk rotation during the stance phase. In this work, we perform a gait analysis to investigate the existence and location of the VP in human running at 5 m s−1, and support our findings numerically using the spring-loaded inverted pendulum model with a trunk (TSLIP). We extend our analysis to include perturbations in terrain height (visible and camouflaged), and investigate the response of the VP mechanism to step-down perturbations both experimentally and numerically. Our experimental results show that the human running gait displays a VPB of ≈ −30 cm and a forward trunk motion during the stance phase. The camouflaged step-down perturbations affect the location of the VPB. Our simulation results suggest that the VPB is able to encounter the step-down perturbations and bring the system back to its initial equilibrium state.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

2020


link (url) DOI [BibTex]


A little damping goes a long way: a simulation study of how damping influences task-level stability in running
A little damping goes a long way: a simulation study of how damping influences task-level stability in running

Heim, S., Millard, M., Mouel, C. L., Badri-Spröwitz, A.

Biology Letters, 16(9), September 2020 (article)

Abstract
It is currently unclear if damping plays a functional role in legged locomotion, and simple models often do not include damping terms. We present a new model with a damping term that is isolated from other parameters: that is, the damping term can be adjusted without retuning other model parameters for nominal motion. We systematically compare how increased damping affects stability in the face of unexpected ground-height perturbations. Unlike most studies, we focus on task-level stability: instead of observing whether trajectories converge towards a nominal limit-cycle, we quantify the ability to avoid falls using a recently developed mathematical measure. This measure allows trajectories to be compared quantitatively instead of only being separated into a binary classification of ‘stable' or ‘unstable'. Our simulation study shows that increased damping contributes significantly to task-level stability; however, this benefit quickly plateaus after only a small amount of damping. These results suggest that the low intrinsic damping values observed experimentally may have stability benefits and are not simply minimized for energetic reasons. All Python code and data needed to generate our results are available open source.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


Effective Viscous Damping Enables Morphological Computation in Legged Locomotion
Effective Viscous Damping Enables Morphological Computation in Legged Locomotion

Mo, A., Izzi, F., Haeufle, D. F. B., Badri-Spröwitz, A.

Frontiers Robots and Ai, 7:110, August 2020 (article)

Abstract
Muscle models and animal observations suggest that physical damping is beneficial for stabilization. Still, only a few implementations of mechanical damping exist in compliant robotic legged locomotion. It remains unclear how physical damping can be exploited for locomotion tasks, while its advantages as sensor-free, adaptive force- and negative work-producing actuators are promising. In a simplified numerical leg model, we studied the energy dissipation from viscous and Coulomb damping during vertical drops with ground-level perturbations. A parallel spring-damper is engaged between touch-down and mid-stance, and its damper auto-disengages during mid-stance and takeoff. Our simulations indicate that an adjustable and viscous damper is desired. In hardware we explored effective viscous damping and adjustability and quantified the dissipated energy. We tested two mechanical, leg-mounted damping mechanisms; a commercial hydraulic damper, and a custom-made pneumatic damper. The pneumatic damper exploits a rolling diaphragm with an adjustable orifice, minimizing Coulomb damping effects while permitting adjustable resistance. Experimental results show that the leg-mounted, hydraulic damper exhibits the most effective viscous damping. Adjusting the orifice setting did not result in substantial changes of dissipated energy per drop, unlike adjusting damping parameters in the numerical model. Consequently, we also emphasize the importance of characterizing physical dampers during real legged impacts to evaluate their effectiveness for compliant legged locomotion.

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Youtube link (url) DOI [BibTex]

Youtube link (url) DOI [BibTex]


Learning Variable Impedance Control for Contact Sensitive Tasks
Learning Variable Impedance Control for Contact Sensitive Tasks

Bogdanovic, M., Khadiv, M., Righetti, L.

IEEE Robotics and Automation Letters ( Early Access ), IEEE, July 2020 (article)

Abstract
Reinforcement learning algorithms have shown great success in solving different problems ranging from playing video games to robotics. However, they struggle to solve delicate robotic problems, especially those involving contact interactions. Though in principle a policy outputting joint torques should be able to learn these tasks, in practice we see that they have difficulty to robustly solve the problem without any structure in the action space. In this paper, we investigate how the choice of action space can give robust performance in presence of contact uncertainties. We propose to learn a policy that outputs impedance and desired position in joint space as a function of system states without imposing any other structure to the problem. We compare the performance of this approach to torque and position control policies under different contact uncertainties. Extensive simulation results on two different systems, a hopper (floating-base) with intermittent contacts and a manipulator (fixed-base) wiping a table, show that our proposed approach outperforms policies outputting torque or position in terms of both learning rate and robustness to environment uncertainty.

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


Walking Control Based on Step Timing Adaptation
Walking Control Based on Step Timing Adaptation

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

IEEE Transactions on Robotics, 36, pages: 629 - 643, IEEE, June 2020 (article)

Abstract
Step adjustment can improve the gait robustness of biped robots; however, the adaptation of step timing is often neglected as it gives rise to nonconvex problems when optimized over several footsteps. In this article, we argue that it is not necessary to optimize walking over several steps to ensure gait viability and show that it is sufficient to merely select the next step timing and location. Using this insight, we propose a novel walking pattern generator that optimally selects step location and timing at every control cycle. Our approach is computationally simple compared to standard approaches in the literature, yet guarantees that any viable state will remain viable in the future. We propose a swing foot adaptation strategy and integrate the pattern generator with an inverse dynamics controller that does not explicitly control the center of mass nor the foot center of pressure. This is particularly useful for biped robots with limited control authority over their foot center of pressure, such as robots with point feet or passive ankles. Extensive simulations on a humanoid robot with passive ankles demonstrate the capabilities of the approach in various walking situations, including external pushes and foot slippage, and emphasize the importance of step timing adaptation to stabilize walking.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


FootTile: a Rugged Foot Sensor for Force and Center of Pressure Sensing in Soft Terrain
FootTile: a Rugged Foot Sensor for Force and Center of Pressure Sensing in Soft Terrain

Felix Ruppert, , Badri-Spröwitz, A.

In Proceedings of the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation, IEEE, International Conference on Robotics and Automation, May 2020 (inproceedings) Accepted

Abstract
In this paper, we present FootTile, a foot sensor for reaction force and center of pressure sensing in challenging terrain. We compare our sensor design to standard biomechanical devices, force plates and pressure plates. We show that FootTile can accurately estimate force and pressure distribution during legged locomotion. FootTile weighs 0.9g, has a sampling rate of 330 Hz, a footprint of 10×10 mm and can easily be adapted in sensor range to the required load case. In three experiments, we validate: first, the performance of the individual sensor, second an array of FootTiles for center of pressure sensing and third the ground reaction force estimation during locomotion in granular substrate. We then go on to show the accurate sensing capabilities of the waterproof sensor in liquid mud, as a showcase for real world rough terrain use.

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Youtube1 Youtube2 Presentation link (url) [BibTex]

Youtube1 Youtube2 Presentation link (url) [BibTex]


VP above or below? A new perspective on the story of the virtual point
VP above or below? A new perspective on the story of the virtual point

Drama, Ö., Badri-Spröwitz, A.

Dynamic Walking, May 2020 (poster)

Abstract
The spring inverted pendulum model with an extended trunk (TSLIP) is widely used to investigate the postural stability in bipedal locomotion [1, 2]. The challenge of the model is to define a hip torque that generates feasible gait patterns while stabilizing the floating trunk. The virtual point (VP) method is proposed as a simplified solution, where the hip torque is coupled to the passive compliant leg force via a virtual point. This geometric coupling is based on the assumption that the instantaneous ground reaction forces of the stance phase (GRF) intersect at a single virtual point.

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Poster Abstract link (url) [BibTex]

Poster Abstract link (url) [BibTex]


Viscous Damping in Legged Locomotion
Viscous Damping in Legged Locomotion

Mo, A., Izzi, F., Haeufle, D. F. B., Badri-Spröwitz, A.

Dynamic Walking, May 2020 (poster)

Abstract
Damping likely plays an essential role in legged animal locomotion, but remains an insufficiently understood mechanism. Intrinsic damping muscle forces can potentially add to the joint torque output during unexpected impacts, stabilise movements, convert the system’s energy, and reject unexpected perturbations.

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Abstract Poster link (url) [BibTex]

Abstract Poster link (url) [BibTex]


How Quadrupeds Benefit from Lower Leg Passive Elasticity
How Quadrupeds Benefit from Lower Leg Passive Elasticity

Ruppert, F., Badri-Spröwitz, A.

Dynamic Walking, May 2020 (poster)

Abstract
Recently developed and fully actuated, legged robots start showing exciting locomotion capabilities, but rely heavily on high-power actuators, high-frequency sensors, and complex locomotion controllers. The engineering solutions implemented in these legged robots are much different compared to animals. Vertebrate animals share magnitudes slower neurocontrol signal velocities [1] compared to their robot counterparts. Also, animals feature a plethora of cascaded and underactuated passive elastic structures [2].

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Abstract Poster link (url) [BibTex]


Trunk pitch oscillations for energy trade-offs in bipedal running birds and robots
Trunk pitch oscillations for energy trade-offs in bipedal running birds and robots

Drama, Ö., Badri-Spröwitz, A.

Bioinspiration & Biomimetics, 15(3), March 2020 (article)

Abstract
Bipedal animals have diverse morphologies and advanced locomotion abilities. Terrestrial birds, in particular, display agile, efficient, and robust running motion, in which they exploit the interplay between the body segment masses and moment of inertias. On the other hand, most legged robots are not able to generate such versatile and energy-efficient motion and often disregard trunk movements as a means to enhance their locomotion capabilities. Recent research investigated how trunk motions affect the gait characteristics of humans, but there is a lack of analysis across different bipedal morphologies. To address this issue, we analyze avian running based on a spring-loaded inverted pendulum model with a pronograde (horizontal) trunk. We use a virtual point based control scheme and modify the alignment of the ground reaction forces to assess how our control strategy influences the trunk pitch oscillations and energetics of the locomotion. We derive three potential key strategies to leverage trunk pitch motions that minimize either the energy fluctuations of the center of mass or the work performed by the hip and leg. We suggest how these strategies could be used in legged robotics.

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Youtube Video link (url) DOI [BibTex]

Youtube Video link (url) DOI [BibTex]


Potential for elastic soft tissue deformation and mechanosensory function within the lumbosacral spinal canal of birds
Potential for elastic soft tissue deformation and mechanosensory function within the lumbosacral spinal canal of birds

Kamska, V., Daley, M., Badri-Spröwitz, A.

Society of Integrative & Comparative Biology Annual Meeting, January 2020 (poster)

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[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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A Real-Robot Dataset for Assessing Transferability of Learned Dynamics Models

Agudelo-España, D., Zadaianchuk, A., Wenk, P., Garg, A., Akpo, J., Grimminger, F., Viereck, J., Naveau, M., Righetti, L., Martius, G., Krause, A., Schölkopf, B., Bauer, S., Wüthrich, M.

IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA), 2020 (conference) Accepted

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Project Page PDF [BibTex]

Project Page PDF [BibTex]


Electronics, Software and Analysis of a Bioinspired Sensorized Quadrupedal Robot
Electronics, Software and Analysis of a Bioinspired Sensorized Quadrupedal Robot

Petereit, R.

Technische Universität München, 2020 (mastersthesis)

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[BibTex]

2011


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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]

2011


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.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Operational Space Control of Constrained and Underactuated Systems

Mistry, M., Righetti, L.

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

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

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Online movement adaptation based on previous sensor experiences

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

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

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

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]