Video Friday: Aerial Manipulator, Car-Removal Robot, Robotic Limbs, and More From ICRA 2015

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Photo: Evan Ackerman/IEEE Spectrum

All this week, we’ve been at ICRA in Seattle. A bunch of you are probably here too, and if you’re not, we’re sorry, because it’s awesome. The last few days we’ve bounced around as many different sessions as we can, and we have all kinds of amaaazing things to write about: what you’ve seen so far is just the start.

Try as we might, we can’t squeeze everything into its own article, so for Video Friday this week, we’re going to post a heaping stack of ICRA videos along with their accompanying abstracts. For you impatient types, we’ll return to normal Video Friday not next week (because it’ll be the first day of the DARPA Robotics Challenge Finals), but the week after, if we’re still alive by then.

If you have any questions about these videos, let us know: we have access to all of the accompanying papers, and if we can’t answer your question ourselves, just about all of the authors will be within (non-creepy) grabbing distance for most of today.


“Aerial Manipulator With Perching and Door-opening Capability,” by Hideyuki Tsukagoshi, Masahiro Watanabe, Takahiro Hamada, Dameitry Ashlih, and Ryuma Iizuka, from Tokyo Institute of Technology.

This paper presents an aerial robot with a manipulator to implement door opening mission. Although general aerial robots have advantages of flying in the three-dimensional space freely, they don’t have any capability of moving to another room when the door is closed. To overcome this problem, we propose a new configuration of an aerial manipulator with perching function, knob-twisting function, and door-pushing function. Perching function can be achieved by integration of door-approach control, the mechanism for perching and attitude-change control. With regard to knob-twisting function, the design concept of a light-weight manipulator generating large enough force to twist the knob is introduced, which is composed of a soft-bag actuator with
variable restriction to perform the arbitrary curved trajectory.
On the other hand, the door pushing force is aimed to be
generated by the lift of the propeller, which is helpful to avoid
gaining the additional weight. The validity of the proposed
methods is experimentally verified by using the developed
prototype.


“AVERT: An Autonomous Multi-Robot System for Vehicle Extraction and Transportation,” by Angelos Amanatiadis, Christopher Henschel, Bernd Birkicht, Benjamin Andel, Konstantinos Charalampous, Ioannis Kostavelis, Richard May, and Antonios Gasteratos, from Democritus University of Thrace, Zurich University of Applied Sciences, BB-Ingenieure, Force Ware, and IDUS Consultancy.

This paper presents a multi-robot system for autonomous vehicle extraction and transportation based on the 'a-robot-for-a-wheel' concept. The developed prototype is able to extract vehicles from confined spaces with delicate handling, swiftly and in any direction. The novel lifting robots are capable of omnidirectional movement, thus they can under-ride the desired vehicle and dock to its wheels for a synchronized lifting and extraction. The overall developed system applies reasoning about available trajectory paths, wheel identification, local and undercarriage obstacle detection, in order to fully automate the process. The validity and efficiency of the AVERT robotic system is illustrated via experiments in an indoor parking lot, demonstrating successful autonomous navigation, docking, lifting and transportation of a conventional vehicle.


“New Brooms Sweep Clean: An Autonomous Robotic Cleaning Assistant for Professional Office Cleaning,” by Richard Bormann, Joshua Hampp and Martin Hagele, from Fraunhofer IPA.

Millions of office workplaces are cleaned by a surprisingly
small group of cleaning workers every day, however,
cleaning companies struggle to recruit enough personnel these
days. One solution to this challenge is to schedule available
professionals for demanding tasks while relieving them from
simpler activities which are transferred to a robotic cleaning
assistant. Two of such tasks are floor cleaning and waste
disposal which account for 70% of the daily cleaning efforts.
This paper presents the world’s first autonomous cleaning
robot prototype that masters both of these tasks and whose
development was accompanied by the advice of a large cleaning
company. Besides a detailed description of the overall system
and its individual components an evaluation is provided based
on real world experiments. The results indicate that both
cleaning tasks can be solved at high quality but with potential
for increased efficiency to meet the required performance.
Hence, the paper concludes with a discussion on measures
necessary for the development of a commercial prototype.


“Design and Control of Supernumerary Robotic Limbs for Balance Augmentation,” by Federico Parietti, Kameron C. Chan, Banks Hunter and H. Harry Asada, from MIT.

This paper presents a novel approach to balance assistance and joint load reduction for human bipedal walking. We introduce a new type of wearable robot, called Supernumerary Robotic Limbs (SRL), that provides two additional legs for augmenting stability and reducing the loads on human leg joints. Unlike exoskeletons, the SRL is kinematically independent of the human skeletal structure, and can therefore take an arbitrary posture to provide optimal assistance in coordination with human motions. Furthermore, unlike crutches, canes, and other balance assistance equipment, the SRL can provide balancing support autonomously and thereby free the human arms from holding those tools. First, the new design concept and balance assistance strategy are described, followed by kinematic and static modeling. Two gait patterns of the combined human and SRL are discussed. Optimal gait synthesis that maximizes the area of support polygon is discussed. Finally, the gait control strategies are implemented on a prototype SRL, using body motion sensors to enable real-time, seamless coordination between the user and the robot.


“Quiet (Nearly Collisionless) Robotic Walking,” by Mario W. Gomes and Konrad Ahlin, from RIT and Georgia Tech.

We present a simple walking prototype that is capable of demonstrating an efficient, near-collisionless gait down a ramp. This inertia-coupled rimless wheel is able to “walk” down a 3 degree incline, which corresponds to a cost of transport of approximately 0.05. This is the first device designed to demonstrate the concept of collisionless walking, where energy-loss due to foot/ground collisions is minimized by matching the velocity of the foot and the ground at the moment of impact. We also present and analyze a novel torsional spring design which was used to couple the inertia device to the frame. We conjecture that walking robots based on this design will be able to exploit the concept of collisionless gaits and may be able to achieve significantly more energy-efficient walking than existing robot designs.


“Dynamics and Trajectory Optimization for a Soft Spatial Fluidic Elastomer Manipulator,” by Andrew D. Marchese, Russ Tedrake, and Daniela Rus from MIT.

The goal of this work is to develop a soft robotic manipulation system that is capable of autonomous, dynamic, and safe interactions with humans and its environment. First, we develop a dynamic model for a multi-body fluidic elastomer manipulator that is composed entirely from soft rubber and subject to the self-loading effects of gravity. Then, we present a strategy for independently identifying all unknown components of the system: the soft manipulator, its distributed fluidic elastomer actuators, as well as drive cylinders that supply fluid energy. Next, using this model and trajectory optimization techniques we find locally optimal open-loop policies that allow the system to perform dynamic maneuvers we call grabs. In 37 experimental trials with a physical prototype, we successfully perform a grab 92% of the time. By studying such an extremeexample of a soft robot, we can begin to solve hard problems inhibiting the mainstream use of soft machines.


“Fiberbot: A Miniature Crawling Robot Using a Directional Fibrillar Pad,” by Yuanfeng Han, Hamidreza Marvi, and Metin Sitti, from CMU and Max Planck Institute.

Vibration-driven locomotion has been widely used
for crawling robot studies. Such robots usually have a vibration
motor as the actuator and a fibrillar structure for providing
directional friction on the substrate. However, there has not
been any studies about the effect of fiber structure on robot
crawling performance. In this paper, we develop Fiberbot, a
custom made mini vibration robot, for studying the effect of
fiber angle on robot velocity, steering, and climbing performance.
It is known that the friction force with and against
fibers depends on the fiber angle. Thus, we first present a
new fabrication method for making millimeter scale fibers at a
wide range of angles. We then show that using 30◦ angle fibers
that have the highest friction anisotropy (ratio of backward to
forward friction force) among the other fibers we fabricated in
this study, Fiberbot speed on glass increases to 13.8±0.4 cm/s
(compared to v = 0.6±0.1 cm/s using vertical fibers). We also
demonstrate that the locomotion direction of Fiberbot depends
on the tilting direction of fibers and we can steer the robot
by rotating the fiber pad. Fiberbot could also climb on glass
at inclinations of up to 10◦ when equipped with fibers of high
friction anisotropy. We show that adding a rigid tail to the
robot it can climb on glass at 25◦ inclines. Moreover, the robot
is able to crawl on rough surfaces such as wood (v = 10.0±0.2
cm/s using 30◦ fiber pad). Fiberbot, a low-cost vibration robot
equipped with a custom-designed fiber pad with steering and
climbing capabilities could be used for studies on collective
behavior on a wide range of topographies as well as search
and exploratory missions.


“Self-folding and Self-actuating Robots: a Pneumatic Approach,” by Xu Sun, Samuel M. Felton, Ryuma Niiyama, Robert J. Wood, and Sangbae Kim, from MIT, Harvard University, and University of Tokyo.

Self-assembling robots can be transported and
deployed inexpensively and autonomously in remote and dangerous environments. In this paper, we introduce a novel self assembling method with a planar pneumatic system. Inflation
of pouches translate into shape changes, turning a sheet of
composite material into a complex robotic structure. This new
method enables a flat origami-based robotic structure to selffold
to desired angles with pressure control. It allows a static
joint to become dynamic, self-actuate to reconfigure itself after
initial folding. Finally, the folded robot can unfold itself at the
end of a robotic application. We believe this new pneumatic
approach provides an important toolkit to build more powerful
and capable self-assembling robots.


“Case Study in Non-Prehensile Manipulation: Planning and Orbital Stabilization of One-directional Rollings for the ‘Butterfly’ Robot,” by Maksim Surov, Anton Shiriaev, Leonid Freidovich, Sergei Gusev, Leonid Paramonov, from JSC Educational Robotics, NTNU, Umea University, St. Petersburg State University.

We approach a problem of motion planning and stabilization for a benchmark example, known as the “Butterfly” robot. It was proposed as a benchmark challenge for developing systematic techniques for nonprehensile rolling manipulation. A dynamical model of the underactuated system with a non-unilateral contact is derived. The recently proposed methodologies, known as virtual-holonomic-constraints-based motion planning and transverse-linearization-based orbital stabilization, are appropriately extended to suit the task. Finally, the feasibility is demonstrated through a hardware implementation and an experimental validation of the concept.


“Development of a Bipedal Robot that Walks Like an Animation Character,” by Seungmoon Song, Joohyung Kim, and Katsu Yamane, from Disney Research.

Our goal is to bring animation characters to life in
the real world. We present a bipedal robot that looks like and
walks like an animation character. We start from animation
data of a character walking. We develop a bipedal robot
which corresponds to lower part of the character following
its kinematic structure. The links are 3D printed and the joints
are actuated by servo motors. Using trajectory optimization,
we generate an open-loop walking trajectory that mimics the
character’s walking motion by modifying the motion such that
the Zero Moment Point stays in the contact convex hull. The
walking is tested on the developed hardware system.


And here’s all of the plenaries and keynote talks just to wrap things up nice and neat:

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