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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]

2016


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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]


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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]

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]

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]


Distributed Online Learning of Central Pattern Generators in Modular Robots
Distributed Online Learning of Central Pattern Generators in Modular Robots

Christensen, D. J., Spröwitz, A., Ijspeert, A. J.

In From Animals to Animats 11, 6226, pages: 402-412, Lecture Notes in Computer Science, Springer, Berlin, 2010, author: Doncieux, Stéphan (incollection)

Abstract
In this paper we study distributed online learning of locomotion gaits for modular robots. The learning is based on a stochastic ap- proximation method, SPSA, which optimizes the parameters of coupled oscillators used to generate periodic actuation patterns. The strategy is implemented in a distributed fashion, based on a globally shared reward signal, but otherwise utilizing local communication only. In a physics-based simulation of modular Roombots robots we experiment with online learn- ing of gaits and study the effects of: module failures, different robot morphologies, and rough terrains. The experiments demonstrate fast online learning, typically 5-30 min. for convergence to high performing gaits (≈ 30 cm/sec), despite high numbers of open parameters (45-54). We conclude that the proposed approach is efficient, effective and a promising candidate for online learning on many other robotic platforms.

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]


Roombots: Design and Implementation of a Modular Robot for Reconfiguration and Locomotion
Roombots: Design and Implementation of a Modular Robot for Reconfiguration and Locomotion

Spröwitz, A.

EPFL, Lausanne, Lausanne, 2010 (phdthesis)

DOI [BibTex]