Header logo is


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]


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]

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]


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


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]

2013

Youtube1 Youtube2 Youtube3 Youtube4 Youtube5 DOI Project Page [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]

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]