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2020


Virtual Point Control for Step-down Perturbations and Downhill Slopes in Bipedal Running
Virtual Point Control for Step-down Perturbations and Downhill Slopes in Bipedal Running

Drama, Ö., Badri-Spröwitz, A.

Frontiers in Bioengineering Biotechnology, Bionics and Biomimetics, November 2020 (article) Accepted

Abstract
Bipedal running is a difficult task to realize in robots, since the trunk is underactuated and control is limited by intermittent ground contacts. Stabilizing the trunk becomes even more challenging if the terrain is uneven and causes perturbations. One bio-inspired method to achieve postural stability is the virtual point (VP) control, which is able to generate natural motion. However, so far it has only been studied for level running. In this work, we investigate whether the VP control method can accommodate single step-down perturbations and downhill terrains. We provide guidelines on the model and controller parameterizations for handling varying terrain conditions. Next, we show that the VP method is able to stabilize single step-down perturbations up to 40 cm, and downhill grades up to 20-10° corresponding to running speeds of 2-5 m/s. Our results show that the VP approach leads to asymmetrically bounded ground reaction forces for downhill running, unlike the commonly-used symmetric friction cone constraints. Overall, VP control is a promising candidate for terrain-adaptive running control of bipedal robots.

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

2020

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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

Drama, Ö., Vielemeyer, J., Badri-Spröwitz, A., 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.

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

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.

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.

Youtube link (url) DOI [BibTex]

Youtube 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.

Youtube1 Youtube2 Presentation link (url) [BibTex]

Youtube1 Youtube2 Presentation 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.

Youtube Video link (url) DOI [BibTex]

Youtube Video link (url) DOI [BibTex]

2010


Graph signature for self-reconfiguration planning of modules with symmetry
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.

DOI [BibTex]

2010

DOI [BibTex]


Roombots - Towards decentralized reconfiguration with self-reconfiguring modular robotic metamodules
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.

DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


Roombots: Reconfigurable Robots for Adaptive Furniture
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.

DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


Automatic Gait Generation in Modular Robots: to Oscillate or to Rotate? that is the question
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.

DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]

2008


Learning to Move in Modular Robots using Central Pattern Generators and Online Optimization
Learning to Move in Modular Robots using Central Pattern Generators and Online Optimization

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

The International Journal of Robotics Research, 27(3-4):423-443, 2008 (article)

Abstract
This article addresses the problem of how modular robotics systems, i.e. systems composed of multiple modules that can be configured into different robotic structures, can learn to locomote. In particular, we tackle the problems of online learning, that is, learning while moving, and the problem of dealing with unknown arbitrary robotic structures. We propose a framework for learning locomotion controllers based on two components: a central pattern generator (CPG) and a gradient-free optimization algorithm referred to as Powell's method. The CPG is implemented as a system of coupled nonlinear oscillators in our YaMoR modular robotic system, with one oscillator per module. The nonlinear oscillators are coupled together across modules using Bluetooth communication to obtain specific gaits, i.e. synchronized patterns of oscillations among modules. Online learning involves running the Powell optimization algorithm in parallel with the CPG model, with the speed of locomotion being the criterion to be optimized. Interesting aspects of the optimization include the fact that it is carried out online, the robots do not require stopping or resetting and it is fast. We present results showing the interesting properties of this framework for a modular robotic system. In particular, our CPG model can readily be implemented in a distributed system, it is computationally cheap, it exhibits limit cycle behavior (temporary perturbations are rapidly forgotten), it produces smooth trajectories even when control parameters are abruptly changed and it is robust against imperfect communication among modules. We also present results of learning to move with three different robot structures. Interesting locomotion modes are obtained after running the optimization for less than 60 minutes.

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

2008

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


Passive compliant quadruped robot using central pattern generators for locomotion control
Passive compliant quadruped robot using central pattern generators for locomotion control

Rutishauser, S., Spröwitz, A., Righetti, L., Ijspeert, A. J.

In Proceedings of the 2008 2nd Biennial IEEE/RAS-EMBS International Conference on Biomedical Robotics and Biomechatronics, pages: 710-715, IEEE, Scottsdale, AZ, 2008 (inproceedings)

Abstract
We present a new quadruped robot, “Cheetah”, featuring three-segment pantographic legs with passive compliant knee joints. Each leg has two degrees of freedom - knee and hip joint can be actuated using proximal mounted RC servo motors, force transmission to the knee is achieved by means of a Bowden cable mechanism. Simple electronics to command the actuators from a desktop computer have been designed in order to test the robot. A Central Pattern Generator (CPG) network has been implemented to generate different gaits. A parameter space search was performed and tested on the robot to optimize forward velocity.

DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


Graph signature for self-reconfiguration planning
Graph signature for self-reconfiguration planning

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

In Proceedings of the 2008 IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems, pages: 863-869, IEEE, Nice, 2008 (inproceedings)

Abstract
This project incorporates modular robots as build- ing blocks for furniture that moves and self-reconfigures. The reconfiguration is done using dynamic connection / disconnection of modules and rotations of the degrees of freedom. This paper introduces a new approach to self-reconfiguration planning for modular robots based on the graph signature and the graph edit-distance. The method has been tested in simulation on two type of modules: YaMoR and M-TRAN. The simulation results shows interesting features of the approach, namely rapidly finding a near-optimal solution.

DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


An active connection mechanism for modular self-reconfigurable robotic systems based on physical latching
An active connection mechanism for modular self-reconfigurable robotic systems based on physical latching

Spröwitz, A., Asadpour, M., Bourquin, Y., Ijspeert, A. J.

In Proceedings on the 2008 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA), 2008, pages: 3508-3513, IEEE, Pasadena, CA, 2008 (inproceedings)

Abstract
This article presents a robust and heavy duty physical latching connection mechanism, which can be actuated with DC motors to actively connect and disconnect modular robot units. The special requirements include a lightweight and simple construction providing an active, strong, hermaphrodite, completely retractable connection mechanism with a 90 degree symmetry and a no-energy consumption in the locked state. The mechanism volume is kept small to fit multiple copies into a single modular robot unit and to be used on as many faces of the robot unit as possible. This way several different lattice like modular robot structures are possible. The large selection for dock-able connection positions will likely simplify self-reconfiguration strategies. Tests with the implemented mechanism demonstrate its applicative potential for self-reconfiguring modular robots.

DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]