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2020


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]

2020

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]


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.

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.

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].

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.

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)

[BibTex]

[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

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

2020 (article) In revision

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) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]

2019


A Learnable Safety Measure
A Learnable Safety Measure

Heim, S., Rohr, A. V., Trimpe, S., Badri-Spröwitz, A.

Conference on Robot Learning, November 2019 (conference) Accepted

Arxiv [BibTex]

2019

Arxiv [BibTex]


Trunk Pitch Oscillations for Joint Load Redistribution in Humans and Humanoid Robots
Trunk Pitch Oscillations for Joint Load Redistribution in Humans and Humanoid Robots

Drama, Ö., Badri-Spröwitz, A.

Proceedings International Conference on Humanoid Robots, Humanoids, September 2019 (conference) Accepted

link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


Series Elastic Behavior of Biarticular Muscle-Tendon Structure in a Robotic Leg
Series Elastic Behavior of Biarticular Muscle-Tendon Structure in a Robotic Leg

Ruppert, F., Badri-Spröwitz, A.

Frontiers in Neurorobotics, 64, pages: 13, 13, August 2019 (article)

Frontiers YouTube link (url) DOI [BibTex]

Frontiers YouTube link (url) DOI [BibTex]


The positive side of damping
The positive side of damping

Heim, S., Millard, M., Le Mouel, C., Sproewitz, A.

Proceedings of AMAM, The 9th International Symposium on Adaptive Motion of Animals and Machines, August 2019 (conference) Accepted

[BibTex]

[BibTex]


Beyond Basins of Attraction: Quantifying Robustness of Natural Dynamics
Beyond Basins of Attraction: Quantifying Robustness of Natural Dynamics

Steve Heim, , Spröwitz, A.

IEEE Transactions on Robotics (T-RO) , 35(4), pages: 939-952, August 2019 (article)

Abstract
Properly designing a system to exhibit favorable natural dynamics can greatly simplify designing or learning the control policy. However, it is still unclear what constitutes favorable natural dynamics and how to quantify its effect. Most studies of simple walking and running models have focused on the basins of attraction of passive limit cycles and the notion of self-stability. We instead emphasize the importance of stepping beyond basins of attraction. In this paper, we show an approach based on viability theory to quantify robust sets in state-action space. These sets are valid for the family of all robust control policies, which allows us to quantify the robustness inherent to the natural dynamics before designing the control policy or specifying a control objective. We illustrate our formulation using spring-mass models, simple low-dimensional models of running systems. We then show an example application by optimizing robustness of a simulated planar monoped, using a gradient-free optimization scheme. Both case studies result in a nonlinear effective stiffness providing more robustness.

arXiv preprint arXiv:1806.08081 T-RO link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]

arXiv preprint arXiv:1806.08081 T-RO link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]


Quantifying the Robustness of Natural Dynamics: a Viability Approach
Quantifying the Robustness of Natural Dynamics: a Viability Approach

Heim, S., Sproewitz, A.

Proceedings of Dynamic Walking , Dynamic Walking , 2019 (conference) Accepted

Submission DW2019 [BibTex]

Submission DW2019 [BibTex]

2018


Oncilla robot: a versatile open-source quadruped research robot with compliant pantograph legs
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. [...]

link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]

2018

link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]


Learning from Outside the Viability Kernel: Why we Should Build Robots that can Fail with Grace
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)

link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]

link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]


Impact of Trunk Orientation  for Dynamic Bipedal Locomotion
Impact of Trunk Orientation for Dynamic Bipedal Locomotion

Drama, Ö.

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.

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


Shaping in Practice: Training Wheels to Learn Fast Hopping Directly in Hardware
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.

Video Youtube link (url) Project Page [BibTex]

Video Youtube link (url) Project Page [BibTex]

2017


Scalable Pneumatic and Tendon Driven Robotic Joint Inspired by Jumping Spiders
Scalable Pneumatic and Tendon Driven Robotic Joint Inspired by Jumping Spiders

Sproewitz, A., Göttler, C., Sinha, A., Caer, C., Öztekin, M. U., Petersen, K., Sitti, M.

In Proceedings 2017 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA), pages: 64-70, IEEE, Piscataway, NJ, USA, IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA), May 2017 (inproceedings)

Video link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]

2017

Video link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]


Spinal joint compliance and actuation in a simulated bounding quadruped robot
Spinal joint compliance and actuation in a simulated bounding quadruped robot

Pouya, S., Khodabakhsh, M., Sproewitz, A., Ijspeert, A.

{Autonomous Robots}, pages: 437–452, Kluwer Academic Publishers, Springer, Dordrecht, New York, NY, Febuary 2017 (article)

link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]

link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]


Linking {Mechanics} and {Learning}
Linking Mechanics and Learning

Heim, S., Grimminger, F., Drama, Ö., Spröwitz, A.

In Proceedings of Dynamic Walking 2017, 2017 (inproceedings)

[BibTex]

[BibTex]


Is Growing Good for Learning?
Is Growing Good for Learning?

Heim, S., Spröwitz, A.

Proceedings of the 8th International Symposium on Adaptive Motion of Animals and Machines AMAM2017, 2017 (conference)

[BibTex]

[BibTex]

2016


no image
On designing an active tail for legged robots: simplifying control via decoupling of control objectives

Heim, S. W., Ajallooeian, M., Eckert, P., Vespignani, M., Ijspeert, A. J.

Industrial Robot: An International Journal, 43, pages: 338-346, Emerald Group Publishing Limited, 2016 (article)

Preprint [BibTex]

2016

Preprint [BibTex]


ATRIAS: Design and validation of a tether-free 3D-capable spring-mass bipedal robot
ATRIAS: Design and validation of a tether-free 3D-capable spring-mass bipedal robot

Hubicki, C., Grimes, J., Jones, M., Renjewski, D., Spröwitz, A., Abate, A., Hurst, J.

{The International Journal of Robotics Research}, 35(12):1497-1521, Sage Publications, Inc., Cambridge, MA, 2016 (article)

DOI Project Page [BibTex]

DOI Project Page [BibTex]


no image
On designing an active tail for body-pitch control in legged robots via decoupling of control objectives

Heim, S. W., Ajallooeian, M., Eckert, P., Vespignani, M., Ijspeert, A.

In ASSISTIVE ROBOTICS: Proceedings of the 18th International Conference on CLAWAR 2015, pages: 256-264, 2016 (inproceedings)

[BibTex]

[BibTex]

2015


Exciting Engineered Passive Dynamics in a Bipedal Robot
Exciting Engineered Passive Dynamics in a Bipedal Robot

Renjewski, D., Spröwitz, A., Peekema, A., Jones, M., Hurst, J.

{IEEE Transactions on Robotics and Automation}, 31(5):1244-1251, IEEE, New York, NY, 2015 (article)

Abstract
A common approach in designing legged robots is to build fully actuated machines and control the machine dynamics entirely in soft- ware, carefully avoiding impacts and expending a lot of energy. However, these machines are outperformed by their human and animal counterparts. Animals achieve their impressive agility, efficiency, and robustness through a close integration of passive dynamics, implemented through mechanical components, and neural control. Robots can benefit from this same integrated approach, but a strong theoretical framework is required to design the passive dynamics of a machine and exploit them for control. For this framework, we use a bipedal spring–mass model, which has been shown to approximate the dynamics of human locomotion. This paper reports the first implementation of spring–mass walking on a bipedal robot. We present the use of template dynamics as a control objective exploiting the engineered passive spring–mass dynamics of the ATRIAS robot. The results highlight the benefits of combining passive dynamics with dynamics-based control and open up a library of spring–mass model-based control strategies for dynamic gait control of robots.

link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]

2015

link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]


Comparing the effect of different spine and leg designs for a small bounding quadruped robot
Comparing the effect of different spine and leg designs for a small bounding quadruped robot

Eckert, P., Spröwitz, A., Witte, H., Ijspeert, A. J.

In Proceedings of ICRA, pages: 3128-3133, Seattle, Washington, USA, 2015 (inproceedings)

Abstract
We present Lynx-robot, a quadruped, modular, compliant machine. It alternately features a directly actuated, single-joint spine design, or an actively supported, passive compliant, multi-joint spine configuration. Both spine con- figurations bend in the sagittal plane. This study aims at characterizing these two, largely different spine concepts, for a bounding gait of a robot with a three segmented, pantograph leg design. An earlier, similar-sized, bounding, quadruped robot named Bobcat with a two-segment leg design and a directly actuated, single-joint spine design serves as a comparison robot, to study and compare the effect of the leg design on speed, while keeping the spine design fixed. Both proposed spine designs (single rotatory and active and multi-joint compliant) reach moderate, self-stable speeds.

link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]

link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]

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.

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.

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.

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

2013


Benefits of an active spine supported bounding locomotion with a small compliant quadruped robot
Benefits of an active spine supported bounding locomotion with a small compliant quadruped robot

Khoramshahi, M., Spröwitz, A., Tuleu, A., Ahmadabadi, M. N., Ijspeert, A. J.

In Robotics and Automation (ICRA), 2013 IEEE International Conference on, pages: 3329-3334, May 2013 (inproceedings)

Abstract
We studied the effect of the control of an active spine versus a fixed spine, on a quadruped robot running in bound gait. Active spine supported actuation led to faster locomotion, with less foot sliding on the ground, and a higher stability to go straight forward. However, we did no observe an improvement of cost of transport of the spine-actuated, faster robot system compared to the rigid spine.

Youtube DOI Project Page [BibTex]

2013

Youtube DOI Project Page [BibTex]


Central pattern generators augmented with virtual model control for quadruped rough terrain locomotion
Central pattern generators augmented with virtual model control for quadruped rough terrain locomotion

Ajallooeian, M., Pouya, S., Spröwitz, A., Ijspeert, A. J.

In Proceedings of the 2013 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA), pages: 3321-3328, IEEE, Karlsruhe, 2013 (inproceedings)

Abstract
We present a modular controller for quadruped locomotion over unperceived rough terrain. Our approach is based on a computational Central Pattern Generator (CPG) model implemented as coupled nonlinear oscillators. Stumbling correction reflex is implemented as a sensory feedback mechanism affecting the CPG. We augment the outputs of the CPG with virtual model control torques responsible for posture control. The control strategy is validated on a 3D forward dynamics simulated quadruped robot platform of about the size and weight of a cat. To demonstrate the capabilities of the proposed approach, we perform locomotion over unperceived uneven terrain and slopes, as well as situations facing external pushes.

DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


Towards Dynamic Trot Gait Locomotion: Design, Control, and Experiments with Cheetah-cub, a Compliant Quadruped Robot
Towards Dynamic Trot Gait Locomotion: Design, Control, and Experiments with Cheetah-cub, a Compliant Quadruped Robot

Spröwitz, A., Tuleu, A., Vespignani, M., Ajallooeian, M., Badri, E., Ijspeert, A. J.

{The International Journal of Robotics Research}, 32(8):932-950, Sage Publications, Inc., Cambridge, MA, 2013 (article)

Abstract
We present the design of a novel compliant quadruped robot, called Cheetah-cub, and a series of locomotion experiments with fast trotting gaits. The robot’s leg configuration is based on a spring-loaded, pantograph mechanism with multiple segments. A dedicated open-loop locomotion controller was derived and implemented. Experiments were run in simulation and in hardware on flat terrain and with a step down, demonstrating the robot’s self-stabilizing properties. The robot reached a running trot with short flight phases with a maximum Froude number of FR = 1.30, or 6.9 body lengths per second. Morphological parameters such as the leg design also played a role. By adding distal in-series elasticity, self- stability and maximum robot speed improved. Our robot has several advantages, especially when compared with larger and stiffer quadruped robot designs. (1) It is, to the best of the authors’ knowledge, the fastest of all quadruped robots below 30 kg (in terms of Froude number and body lengths per second). (2) It shows self-stabilizing behavior over a large range of speeds with open-loop control. (3) It is lightweight, compact, and electrically powered. (4) It is cheap, easy to reproduce, robust, and safe to handle. This makes it an excellent tool for research of multi-segment legs in quadruped robots.

Youtube1 Youtube2 Youtube3 Youtube4 Youtube5 DOI Project Page [BibTex]

Youtube1 Youtube2 Youtube3 Youtube4 Youtube5 DOI Project Page [BibTex]


Gait Optimization for Roombots Modular Robots - Matching Simulation and Reality
Gait Optimization for Roombots Modular Robots - Matching Simulation and Reality

Möckel, R., Yura, N. P., The Nguyen, A., Vespignani, M., Bonardi, S., Pouya, S., Spröwitz, A., van den Kieboom, J., Wilhelm, F., Ijspeert, A. J.

In Proceedings of the 2013 IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems, pages: 3265-3272, IEEE, Tokyo, 2013 (inproceedings)

Abstract
The design of efficient locomotion gaits for robots with many degrees of freedom is challenging and time consuming even if optimization techniques are applied. Control parameters can be found through optimization in two ways: (i) through online optimization where the performance of a robot is measured while trying different control parameters on the actual hardware and (ii) through offline optimization by simulating the robot’s behavior with the help of models of the robot and its environment. In this paper, we present a hybrid optimization method that combines the best properties of online and offline optimization to efficiently find locomotion gaits for arbitrary structures. In comparison to pure online optimization, both the number of experiments using robotic hardware as well as the total time required for finding efficient locomotion gaits get highly reduced by running the major part of the optimization process in simulation using a cluster of processors. The presented example shows that even for robots with a low number of degrees of freedom the time required for optimization can be reduced by a factor of 2.5 to 30, at least, depending on how extensive the search for optimized control parameters should be. Time for hardware experiments becomes minimal. More importantly, gaits that can possibly damage the robotic hardware can be filtered before being tried in hardware. Yet in contrast to pure offline optimization, we reach well matched behavior that allows a direct transfer of locomotion gaits from simulation to hardware. This is because through a meta-optimization we adapt not only the locomotion parameters but also the parameters for simulation models of the robot and environment allowing for a good matching of the robot behavior in simulation and hardware. We validate the proposed hybrid optimization method on a structure composed of two Roombots modules with a total number of six degrees of freedom. Roombots are self-reconfigurable modular robots that can form arbitrary structures with many degrees of freedom through an integrated active connection mechanism.

DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


Modular Control of Limit Cycle Locomotion over Unperceived Rough Terrain
Modular Control of Limit Cycle Locomotion over Unperceived Rough Terrain

Ajallooeian, M., Gay, S., Tuleu, A., Spröwitz, A., Ijspeert, A. J.

In Proceedings of the IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems, 2013, pages: 3390-3397, Tokyo, 2013 (inproceedings)

Abstract
We present a general approach to design modular controllers for limit cycle locomotion over unperceived rough terrain. The control strategy uses a Central Pattern Generator (CPG) model implemented as coupled nonlinear oscillators as basis. Stumbling correction and leg extension reflexes are implemented as feedbacks for fast corrections, and model-based posture control mechanisms define feedbacks for continuous corrections. The control strategy is validated on a detailed physics-based simulated model of a compliant quadruped robot, the Oncilla robot. We demonstrate dynamic locomotion with a speed of more than 1.5 BodyLength/s over unperceived uneven terrains, steps, and slopes.

DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


Horse-Like Walking, Trotting, and Galloping derived from Kinematic Motion Primitives (kMPs) and their Application to Walk/Trot Transitions in a Compliant Quadruped Robot
Horse-Like Walking, Trotting, and Galloping derived from Kinematic Motion Primitives (kMPs) and their Application to Walk/Trot Transitions in a Compliant Quadruped Robot

Moro, F., Spröwitz, A., Tuleu, A., Vespignani, M., Tsagakiris, N. G., Ijspeert, A. J., Caldwell, D. G.

Biological Cybernetics, 107(3):309-320, 2013 (article)

Abstract
This manuscript proposes a method to directly transfer the features of horse walking, trotting, and galloping to a quadruped robot, with the aim of creating a much more natural (horse-like) locomotion profile. A principal component analysis on horse joint trajectories shows that walk, trot, and gallop can be described by a set of four kinematic Motion Primitives (kMPs). These kMPs are used to generate valid, stable gaits that are tested on a compliant quadruped robot. Tests on the effects of gait frequency scaling as follows: results indicate a speed optimal walking frequency around 3.4 Hz, and an optimal trotting frequency around 4 Hz. Following, a criterion to synthesize gait transitions is proposed, and the walk/trot transitions are successfully tested on the robot. The performance of the robot when the transitions are scaled in frequency is evaluated by means of roll and pitch angle phase plots.

DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]

2012


Development of a Minimalistic Pneumatic Quadruped Robot for Fast Locomotion
Development of a Minimalistic Pneumatic Quadruped Robot for Fast Locomotion

Narioka, K., Rosendo, A., Spröwitz, A., Hosoda, K.

In Proceedings of the 2012 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Biomimetics (ROBIO), 2012, pages: 307-311, IEEE, Guangzhou, 2012 (inproceedings)

Abstract
In this paper, we describe the development of the quadruped robot ”Ken” with the minimalistic and lightweight body design for achieving fast locomotion. We use McKibben pneumatic artificial muscles as actuators, providing high frequency and wide stride motion of limbs, also avoiding problems with overheating. We conducted a preliminary experiment, finding out that the robot can swing its limb over 7.5 Hz without amplitude reduction, nor heat problems. Moreover, the robot realized a several steps of bouncing gait by using simple CPG-based open loop controller, indicating that the robot can generate enough torque to kick the ground and limb contraction to avoid stumbling.

DOI [BibTex]

2012

DOI [BibTex]


Locomotion through Reconfiguration based on Motor Primitives for Roombots Self-Reconfigurable Modular Robots
Locomotion through Reconfiguration based on Motor Primitives for Roombots Self-Reconfigurable Modular Robots

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

In Robotics; Proceedings of ROBOTIK 2012; 7th German Conference on, pages: 1-6, 2012 (inproceedings)

Abstract
We present the hardware and reconfiguration experiments for an autonomous self-reconfigurable modular robot called Roombots (RB). RB were designed to form the basis for self-reconfigurable furniture. Each RB module contains three degrees of freedom that have been carefully selected to allow a single module to reach any position on a 2-dimensional grid and to overcome concave corners in a 3-dimensional grid. For the first time we demonstrate locomotion capabilities of single RB modules through reconfiguration with real hardware. The locomotion through reconfiguration is controlled by a planner combining the well-known D* algorithm and composed motor primitives. The novelty of our approach is the use of an online running hierarchical planner closely linked to the real hardware.

link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [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]

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.

DOI [BibTex]

2009

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]