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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]

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]


Motor Control Adaptation to Changes in Robot Body Dynamics for a Compliant Quadruped Robot
Motor Control Adaptation to Changes in Robot Body Dynamics for a Compliant Quadruped Robot

Pouya, S., Eckert, P., Spröwitz, A., Moc̈kel, R., Ijspeert, A. J.

In Biomimetic and Biohybrid Systems, 8064, pages: 434-437, Lecture Notes in Computer Science, Springer, Heidelberg, 2013 (incollection)

Abstract
One of the major deficiencies of current robots in comparison to living beings is the ability to adapt to new conditions either resulting from environmental changes or their own dynamics. In this work we focus on situations where the robot experiences involuntary changes in its body particularly in its limbs’ inertia. Inspired from its biological counterparts we are interested in enabling the robot to adapt its motor control to the new system dynamics. To reach this goal, we propose two different control strategies and compare their performance when handling these modifications. Our results show substantial improvements in adaptivity to body changes when the robot is aware of its new dynamics and can exploit this knowledge in synthesising new motor control.

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]

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]

2006


Passive compliance for a {RC} servo-controlled bouncing robot
Passive compliance for a RC servo-controlled bouncing robot

Meyer, F., Spröwitz, A., Berthouze, L.

Advanced Robotics, 20(8):953-961, 2006 (article)

Abstract
A novel and low-cost passively compliant mechanism is described that can be used with RC servos to actuate legged robots in tasks involving high dynamic loads such as bouncing. Compliance is achieved by combining visco-elastic material and metal parts. Joint response to dynamic loads is evaluated using real-world experiments and force data are obtained from a Lagrangian analysis of the system. The experimental results demonstrate the applicative potential of this mechanism.

DOI [BibTex]

2006

DOI [BibTex]


Project course "Design of Mechatronic Systems"
Project course "Design of Mechatronic Systems"

Koch, C., Spröwitz, A., Radler, O., Strohla, T.

In IEEE International Conference on Mechatronics, pages: 69-72, IEEE, Budapest, 2006 (inproceedings)

Abstract
The course "Design of Mechatronic Systems" at Technische Universität Ilmenau imparts the systematic procedure of mechatronic design. This paper shows the main features of VDI Guideline 2206, which provides the structured background for students education in mechatronics. Furthermore practical teaching experiences and results from the course are described.

DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]