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2010


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]

2010

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]

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]

2007


An easy to use bluetooth scatternet protocol for fast data exchange in wireless sensor networks and autonomous robots
An easy to use bluetooth scatternet protocol for fast data exchange in wireless sensor networks and autonomous robots

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

In Proceedings of the 2007 IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems, pages: 2801-2806, IEEE, San Diego, CA, 2007 (inproceedings)

Abstract
We present a Bluetooth scatternet protocol (SNP) that provides the user with a serial link to all connected members in a transparent wireless Bluetooth network. By using only local decision making we can reduce the overhead of our scatternet protocol dramatically. We show how our SNP software layer simplifies a variety of tasks like the synchronization of central pattern generator controllers for actuators, collecting sensory data and building modular robot structures. The whole Bluetooth software stack including our new scatternet layer is implemented on a single Bluetooth and memory chip. To verify and characterize the SNP we provide data from experiments using real hardware instead of software simulation. This gives a realistic overview of the scatternet performance showing higher order effects that are difficult to be simulated correctly and guaranties the correct function of the SNP in real world applications.

DOI [BibTex]

2007

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]

2005


Adaptation of Central Pattern Generators to Preexisting Mechanical Structure
Adaptation of Central Pattern Generators to Preexisting Mechanical Structure

Spröwitz, A.

Technische Universität Ilmenau, Ilmenau, 2005 (mastersthesis)

[BibTex]

2005

[BibTex]

2004


Simple and low-cost compliant leg-foot system
Simple and low-cost compliant leg-foot system

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

In Proceedings of the IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS 2004), 1, pages: 515-520, IEEE, Sendai, Japan, 2004 (inproceedings)

Abstract
We present the design of a simple and low- cost humanoid leg-foot system featuring compliant joints and springy feet. The mechanical compliance of the individual joints can be adjusted by means of visco-elastic material, or metal. To explore some of the relevant characteristics of the proposed system, we performed a series of experiments in which the leg was dropped from a fixed height. Combinations of different materials in the joints (silicone rubber, latex, and brass) as well as a rigid or a compliant foot were used. Additional data were obtained through of a Lagrangian analysis of the leg-foot system. Our analyses show that compliant joints not only reduce impactive forces, but also induce smoother joint trajectories. Further, by employing a compliant foot, a higher energy efficiency for the movement is achieved.

DOI [BibTex]

2004

DOI [BibTex]