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Journal articleWang K, Fei H, Kormushev P, 2022,
Fast online optimization for terrain-blind bipedal robot walking with a decoupled actuated SLIP model, Frontiers in Robotics and AI, Vol: 9, Pages: 1-11, ISSN: 2296-9144
We present an online optimization algorithm which enables bipedal robots to blindly walk overvarious kinds of uneven terrains while resisting pushes. The proposed optimization algorithmperforms high level motion planning of footstep locations and center-of-mass height variationsusing the decoupled actuated Spring Loaded Inverted Pendulum (aSLIP) model. The decoupledaSLIP model simplifies the original aSLIP with Linear Inverted Pendulum (LIP) dynamics inhorizontal states and spring dynamics in the vertical state. The motion planning can beformulated as a discrete-time Model Predictive Control (MPC) problem and solved at a frequencyof 1 kHz. The output of the motion planner is fed into an inverse-dynamics based whole bodycontroller for execution on the robot. A key result of this controller is that the feet of the robot arecompliant, which further extends the robot’s ability to be robust to unobserved terrain variations.We evaluate our method in simulation with the bipedal robot SLIDER. Results show the robotcan blindly walk over various uneven terrains including slopes, wave fields and stairs. It can alsoresist pushes of up to 40 N for a duration of 0.1 s while walking on uneven terrain.
Journal articleAlAttar A, Chappell D, Kormushev P, 2022,
Kinematic-model-free predictive control for robotic manipulator target reaching with obstacle avoidance, Frontiers in Robotics and AI, Vol: 9, Pages: 1-9, ISSN: 2296-9144
Model predictive control is a widely used optimal control method for robot path planning andobstacle avoidance. This control method, however, requires a system model to optimize controlover a finite time horizon and possible trajectories. Certain types of robots, such as softrobots, continuum robots, and transforming robots, can be challenging to model, especiallyin unstructured or unknown environments. Kinematic-model-free control can overcome thesechallenges by learning local linear models online. This paper presents a novel perception-basedrobot motion controller, the kinematic-model-free predictive controller, that is capable of controllingrobot manipulators without any prior knowledge of the robot’s kinematic structure and dynamicparameters and is able to perform end-effector obstacle avoidance. Simulations and physicalexperiments were conducted to demonstrate the ability and adaptability of the controller toperform simultaneous target reaching and obstacle avoidance.
Journal articleCursi F, Bai W, Yeatman EM, et al., 2022,
Robot design is a major component in robotics, as it allows building robots capable of performing properly in given tasks. However, designing a robot with multiple types of parameters and constraints and defining an optimization function analytically for the robot design problem may be intractable or even impossible. Therefore black-box optimization approaches are generally preferred. In this work we propose GlobDesOpt, a simple-to-use open-source optimization framework for robot design based on global optimization methods. The framework allows selecting various design parameters and optimizing for both single and dual-arm robots. The functionalities of the framework are shown here to optimally design a dual-arm surgical robot, comparing the different two optimization strategies.
Conference paperCursi F, Chappell D, Kormushev P, 2022,
Augmenting loss functions of feedforward neural networks with differential relationships for robot kinematic modelling, Ljubljana, Slovenia, 20th International Conference on Advanced Robotics (ICAR), Publisher: IEEE, Pages: 201-207
Model learning is a crucial aspect of robotics as it enables the use of traditional and consolidated model-based controllers to perform desired motion tasks. However, due to the increasing complexity of robotic structures, modelling robots is becoming more and more challenging, and analytical models are very difficult to build, particularly for redundant robots. Machine learning approaches have shown great capabilities in learning complex mapping and have widely been used in robot model learning and control. Generally, inverse kinematics is learned, directly obtaining the desired control commands given a desired task. However, learning forward kinematics is simpler and allows the computation of the robot Jacobian and enables the exploitation of the optimality of controllers. Nevertheless, typical learning methods have no knowledge about the differential relationship between the position and velocity mappings. In this work, we present two novel loss functions to train feedforward Artificial Neural network (ANN) which incorporate this information in learning the forward kinematic model of robotic structures, and carry out a comparison with standard ANN training using position data only. Simulation results show that incorporating the knowledge of the velocity mapping improves the suitability of the learnt model for control tasks.
Conference paperCursi F, Kormushev P, 2021,
Pre-operative offline optimization of insertion point location for safe and accurate surgical task execution, Prague, Czech Republic, IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS 2021), Publisher: IEEE, Pages: 4040-4047
In robotically assisted surgical procedures thesurgical tool is usually inserted in the patient’s body througha small incision, which acts as a constraint for the motionof the robot, known as remote center of Motion (RCM). Thelocation of the insertion point on the patient’s body has hugeeffects on the performances of the surgical robot. In this workwe present an offline pre-operative framework to identify theoptimal insertion point location in order to guarantee accurateand safe surgical task execution. The approach is validatedusing a serial-link manipulator in conjunction with a surgicalrobotic tool to perform a tumor resection task, while avoidingnearby organs. Results show that the framework is capable ofidentifying the best insertion point ensuring high dexterity, hightracking accuracy, and safety in avoiding nearby organs.
Conference paperCursi F, Bai W, Kormushev P, 2021,
Robot modelling is an essential part to properlyunderstand how a robotic system moves and how to controlit. The kinematic model of a robot is usually obtained byusing Denavit-Hartenberg convention, which relies on a set ofparameters to describe the end-effector pose in a Cartesianspace. These parameters are assigned based on geometricalconsiderations of the robotic structure, however, the assignedvalues may be inaccurate. The purpose of robot kinematiccalibration is therefore to find optimal parameters whichimprove the accuracy of the robot model. In this work wepresent Kalibrot, an open source Matlab package for robotkinematic calibration. Kalibrot has been designed to simplifyrobot calibration and easily assess the calibration results. Besidecomputing the optimal parameters, Kalibrot provides a visualization layer showing the values of the calibrated parameters,what parameters can be identified, and the calibrated roboticstructure. The capabilities of the package are here shownthrough simulated and real world experiments.
Conference paperLa Barbera V, Pardo F, Tassa Y, et al., 2021,
OstrichRL: a musculoskeletal ostrich simulation to study bio-mechanical locomotion, NeurIPS 2021
Muscle-actuated control is a research topic of interest spanning different fields, inparticular biomechanics, robotics and graphics. This type of control is particularlychallenging because models are often overactuated, and dynamics are delayed andnon-linear. It is however a very well tested and tuned actuation model that hasundergone millions of years of evolution and that involves interesting propertiesexploiting passive forces of muscle-tendon units and efficient energy storage andrelease. To facilitate research on muscle-actuated simulation, we release a 3Dmusculoskeletal simulation of an ostrich based on the MuJoCo simulator. Ostrichesare one of the fastest bipeds on earth and are therefore an excellent model forstudying muscle-actuated bipedal locomotion. The model is based on CT scans anddissections used to gather actual muscle data such as insertion sites, lengths andpennation angles. Along with this model, we also provide a set of reinforcementlearning tasks, including reference motion tracking and a reaching task with theneck. The reference motion data are based on motion capture clips of variousbehaviors which we pre-processed and adapted to our model. This paper describeshow the model was built and iteratively improved using the tasks. We evaluate theaccuracy of the muscle actuation patterns by comparing them to experimentallycollected electromyographic data from locomoting birds. We believe that this workcan be a useful bridge between the biomechanics, reinforcement learning, graphicsand robotics communities, by providing a fast and easy to use simulation.
Conference paperWang K, Saputra RP, Foster JP, et al., 2021,
Improved energy efficiency via parallel elastic elements for the straight-legged vertically-compliant robot SLIDER, Japan, 24th International Conference on Climbing and Walking Robots and the Support Technologies for Mobile Machines, Publisher: Springer, Pages: 129-140
Most state-of-the-art bipedal robots are designed to be anthropomorphic, and therefore possess articulated legs with knees. Whilstthis facilitates smoother, human-like locomotion, there are implementation issues that make walking with straight legs difficult. Many robotshave to move with a constant bend in the legs to avoid a singularityoccurring at the knee joints. The actuators must constantly work tomaintain this stance, which can result in the negation of energy-savingtechniques employed. Furthermore, vertical compliance disappears whenthe leg is straight and the robot undergoes high-energy loss events such asimpacts from running and jumping, as the impact force travels throughthe fully extended joints to the hips. In this paper, we attempt to improve energy efficiency in a simple yet effective way: attaching bungeecords as elastic elements in parallel to the legs of a novel, knee-less bipedrobot SLIDER, and show that the robot’s prismatic hip joints preservevertical compliance despite the legs being constantly straight. Due tothe nonlinear dynamics of the bungee cords and various sources of friction, Bayesian Optimization is utilized to find the optimals configurationof bungee cords that achieves the largest reduction in energy consumption. The optimal solution found saves 15% of the energy consumptioncompared to the robot configuration without parallel elastic elements.Additional Video: https://youtu.be/ZTaG9−Dz8A
Conference paperRakicevic N, Cully A, Kormushev P, 2021,
Neuroevolution is an alternative to gradient-based optimisation that has the potential to avoid local minima and allows parallelisation. The main limiting factor is that usually it does not scale well with parameter space dimensionality. Inspired by recent work examining neural network intrinsic dimension and loss landscapes, we hypothesise that there exists a low-dimensional manifold, embedded in the policy network parameter space, around which a high-density of diverse and useful policies are located. This paper proposes a novel method for diversity-based policy search via Neuroevolution, that leverages learned representations of the policy network parameters, by performing policy search in this learned representation space. Our method relies on the Quality-Diversity (QD) framework which provides a principled approach to policy search, and maintains a collection of diverse policies, used as a dataset for learning policy representations. Further, we use the Jacobian of the inverse-mapping function to guide the search in the representation space. This ensures that the generated samples remain in the high-density regions, after mapping back to the original space. Finally, we evaluate our contributions on four continuous-control tasks in simulated environments, and compare to diversity-based baselines.
Journal articleSaputra RP, Rakicevic N, Kuder I, et al., 2021,
ResQbot 2.0: an improved design of a mobile rescue robot with an inflatable neck securing device for safe casualty extraction, Applied Sciences, Vol: 11, Pages: 1-18, ISSN: 2076-3417
Despite the fact that a large number of research studies have been conducted in the field of searchand rescue robotics, significantly little attention has been given to the development of rescue robotscapable of performing physical rescue interventions, including loading and transporting victims toa safe zone—i.e. casualty extraction tasks. The aim of this study is to develop a mobile rescue robotthat could assist first responders when saving casualties from a danger area by performing a casualty extraction procedure, whilst ensuring that no additional injury is caused by the operation andno additional lives are put at risk. In this paper, we present a novel design of ResQbot 2.0—a mobilerescue robot designed for performing the casualty extraction task. This robot is a stretcher-type casualty extraction robot, which is a significantly improved version of the initial proof-of-concept prototype, ResQbot (retrospectively referred to as ResQbot 1.0), that has been developed in our previous work. The proposed designs and development of the mechanical system of ResQbot 2.0, as wellas the method for safely loading a full body casualty onto the robot’s ‘stretcher bed’, are describedin detail based on the conducted literature review, evaluation of our previous work and feedbackprovided by medical professionals. To verify the proposed design and the casualty extraction procedure, we perform simulation experiments in Gazebo physics engine simulator. The simulationresults demonstrate the capability of ResQbot 2.0 to successfully carry out safe casualty extractions
Conference paperFrazelle C, Walker I, AlAttar A, et al., 2021,
Continuum robots have strong potential for application in Space environments. However, their modeling is challenging in comparison with traditional rigid-link robots. The Kinematic-Model-Free (KMF) robot control method has been shown to be extremely effective in permitting a rigid-link robot to learn approximations of local kinematics and dynamics (“kinodynamics”) at various points in the robot's task space. These approximations enable the robot to follow various trajectories and even adapt to changes in the robot's kinematic structure. In this paper, we present the adaptation of the KMF method to a three-section, nine degrees-of-freedom continuum manipulator for both planar and spatial task spaces. Using only an external 3D camera, we show that the KMF method allows the continuum robot to converge to various desired set points in the robot's task space, avoiding the complexities inherent in solving this problem using traditional inverse kinematics. The success of the method shows that a continuum robot can “learn” enough information from an external camera to reach and track desired points and trajectories, without needing knowledge of exact shape or position of the robot. We similarly apply the method in a simulated example of a continuum robot performing an inspection task on board the ISS.
Journal articleAlAttar A, Cursi F, Kormushev P, 2021,
Kinematic-model-free redundancy resolution using multi-point tracking and control for robot manipulation, Applied Sciences, Vol: 11, Pages: 1-15, ISSN: 2076-3417
Abstract: Robots have been predominantly controlled using conventional control methods that require prior knowledge of the robots’ kinematic and dynamic models. These controllers can be challenging to tune and cannot directly adapt to changes in kinematic structure or dynamic properties. On the other hand, model-learning controllers can overcome such challenges.Our recently proposed model-learning orientation controller has shown promising ability to simul6 taneously control a three-degrees-of-freedom robot manipulator’s end-effector pose. However, this controller does not perform optimally with robots of higher degrees-of-freedom nor does it resolve redundancies. The research presented in this paper extends the state-of-the-art kinematic9 model-free controller to perform pose control of hyper-redundant robot manipulators and resolve redundancies by tracking and controlling multiple points along the robot’s serial chain. The results show that with more control points, the controller is able to reach desired poses in fewer steps, yielding an improvement of up to 66%, and capable of achieving complex configurations. The algorithm was validated by running the simulation 100 times and it was found that 82% of the times the robot successfully reached the desired target pose within 150 steps.
Conference paperTavakoli A, Fatemi M, Kormushev P, 2021,
Learning to represent action values as a hypergraph on the action vertices, Vienna, Austria, International Conference on Learning Representations
Action-value estimation is a critical component of many reinforcement learning(RL) methods whereby sample complexity relies heavily on how fast a good estimator for action value can be learned. By viewing this problem through the lens ofrepresentation learning, good representations of both state and action can facilitateaction-value estimation. While advances in deep learning have seamlessly drivenprogress in learning state representations, given the specificity of the notion ofagency to RL, little attention has been paid to learning action representations. Weconjecture that leveraging the combinatorial structure of multi-dimensional actionspaces is a key ingredient for learning good representations of action. To test this,we set forth the action hypergraph networks framework—a class of functions forlearning action representations in multi-dimensional discrete action spaces with astructural inductive bias. Using this framework we realise an agent class basedon a combination with deep Q-networks, which we dub hypergraph Q-networks.We show the effectiveness of our approach on a myriad of domains: illustrativeprediction problems under minimal confounding effects, Atari 2600 games, anddiscretised physical control benchmarks.
Journal articleRussell F, Takeda Y, Kormushev P, et al., 2021,
Stiffness modulation in walking is critical to maintain static/dynamic stability as well as minimize energy consumption and impact damage. However, optimal, or even functional, stiffness parameterization remains unresolved in legged robotics.We introduce an architecture for stiffness control utilizing a bioinspired robotic limb consisting of a condylar knee joint and leg with antagonistic actuation. The joint replicates elastic ligaments of the human knee providing tuneable compliance for walking. It further locks out at maximum extension, providing stability when standing. Compliance and friction losses between joint surfaces are derived as a function of ligament stiffness and length. Experimental studies validate utility through quantification of: 1) hip perturbation response; 2) payload capacity; and 3) static stiffness of the leg mechanism.Results prove initiation and compliance at lock out can be modulated independently of friction loss by changing ligament elasticity. Furthermore, increasing co-contraction or decreasing joint angle enables increased leg stiffness, which establishes co-contraction is counterbalanced by decreased payload.Findings have direct application in legged robots and transfemoral prosthetic knees, where biorobotic design could reduce energy expense while improving efficiency and stability. Future targeted impact involves increasing power/weight ratios in walking robots and artificial limbs for increased efficiency and precision in walking control.
Journal articleCursi F, Modugno V, Lanari L, et al., 2021,
Bayesian neural network modeling and hierarchical MPC for a tendon-driven surgical robot with uncertainty minimization, IEEE Robotics and Automation Letters, Vol: 6, Pages: 2642-2649, ISSN: 2377-3766
In order to guarantee precision and safety in robotic surgery, accurate models of the robot and proper control strategies are needed. Bayesian Neural Networks (BNN) are capable of learning complex models and provide information about the uncertainties of the learned system. Model Predictive Control (MPC) is a reliable control strategy to ensure optimality and satisfaction of safety constraints. In this work we propose the use of BNN to build the highly nonlinear kinematic and dynamic models of a tendon-driven surgical robot, and exploit the information about the epistemic uncertainties by means of a Hierarchical MPC (Hi-MPC) control strategy. Simulation and real world experiments show that the method is capable of ensuring accurate tip positioning, while satisfying imposed safety bounds on the kinematics and dynamics of the robot.
Journal articleSaputra RP, Rakicevic N, Chappell D, et al., 2021,
In recent years, several robots have been developed and deployed to perform casualty extraction tasks. However, the majority of these robots are overly complex, and require teleoperation via either a skilled operator or a specialised device, and often the operator must be present at the scene to navigate safely around the casualty. Instead, improving the autonomy of such robots can reduce the reliance on expert operators and potentially unstable communication systems, while still extracting the casualty in a safe manner. There are several stages in the casualty extraction procedure, from navigating to the location of the emergency, safely approaching and loading the casualty, to finally navigating back to the medical assistance location. In this paper, we propose a Hierarchical Decomposed-Objective based Model Predictive Control (HiDO-MPC) method for safely approaching and manoeuvring around the casualty. We implement this controller on ResQbot — a proof-of-concept mobile rescue robot we previously developed — capable of safely rescuing an injured person lying on the ground, i.e. performing the casualty extraction procedure. HiDO-MPC achieves the desired casualty extraction behaviour by decomposing the main objective into multiple sub-objectives with a hierarchical structure. At every time step, the controller evaluates this hierarchical decomposed objective and generates the optimal control decision. We have conducted a number of experiments both in simulation and using the real robot to evaluate the proposed method’s performance, and compare it with baseline approaches. The results demonstrate that the proposed control strategy gives significantly better results than baseline approaches in terms of accuracy, robustness, and execution time, when applied to casualty extraction scenarios.
Conference paperCursi F, Modugno V, Kormushev P, 2021,
Model predictive control for a tendon-driven surgical robot with safety constraints in kinematics and dynamics, Las Vegas, USA, International Conference on Intelligence Robots and Systems (IROS), Pages: 7653-7660
In fields such as minimally invasive surgery, effective control strategies are needed to guarantee safety andaccuracy of the surgical task. Mechanical designs and actuationschemes have inevitable limitations such as backlash and jointlimits. Moreover, surgical robots need to operate in narrowpathways, which may give rise to additional environmentalconstraints. Therefore, the control strategies must be capableof satisfying the desired motion trajectories and the imposedconstraints. Model Predictive Control (MPC) has proven effective for this purpose, allowing to solve an optimal problem bytaking into consideration the evolution of the system states, costfunction, and constraints over time. The high nonlinearities intendon-driven systems, adopted in many surgical robots, are difficult to be modelled analytically. In this work, we use a modellearning approach for the dynamics of tendon-driven robots.The dynamic model is then employed to impose constraintson the torques of the robot under consideration and solve anoptimal constrained control problem for trajectory trackingby using MPC. To assess the capabilities of the proposedframework, both simulated and real world experiments havebeen conducted
Conference paperRakicevic N, Cully A, Kormushev P, 2020,
Policy manifold search for improving diversity-based neuroevolution, Publisher: arXiv
Diversity-based approaches have recently gained popularity as an alternativeparadigm to performance-based policy search. A popular approach from thisfamily, Quality-Diversity (QD), maintains a collection of high-performingpolicies separated in the diversity-metric space, defined based on policies'rollout behaviours. When policies are parameterised as neural networks, i.e.Neuroevolution, QD tends to not scale well with parameter space dimensionality.Our hypothesis is that there exists a low-dimensional manifold embedded in thepolicy parameter space, containing a high density of diverse and feasiblepolicies. We propose a novel approach to diversity-based policy search viaNeuroevolution, that leverages learned latent representations of the policyparameters which capture the local structure of the data. Our approachiteratively collects policies according to the QD framework, in order to (i)build a collection of diverse policies, (ii) use it to learn a latentrepresentation of the policy parameters, (iii) perform policy search in thelearned latent space. We use the Jacobian of the inverse transformation(i.e.reconstruction function) to guide the search in the latent space. Thisensures that the generated samples remain in the high-density regions of theoriginal space, after reconstruction. We evaluate our contributions on threecontinuous control tasks in simulated environments, and compare todiversity-based baselines. The findings suggest that our approach yields a moreefficient and robust policy search process.
Journal articleRussell F, Kormushev P, Vaidyanathan R, et al., 2020,
Objective: Elucidating the role of structural mechanisms in the knee can improve joint surgeries, rehabilitation, and understanding of biped locomotion. Identification of key features, however, is challenging due to limitations in simulation and in-vivo studies. In particular the coupling of the patello-femoral and tibio-femoral joints with ligaments and its impact on joint mechanics and movement is not understood. We investigate this coupling experimentally through the design and testing of a robotic sagittal plane model. Methods: We constructed a sagittal plane robot comprised of: 1) elastic links representing cruciate ligaments; 2) a bi-condylar joint; 3) a patella; and 4) actuator hamstrings and quadriceps. Stiffness and geometry were derived from anthropometric data. 10° - 110° squatting tests were executed at speeds of 0.1 - 0.25Hz over a range of anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) slack lengths. Results: Increasing ACL length compromised joint stability, yet did not impact quadriceps mechanical advantage and force required for squat. The trend was consistent through varying condyle contact point and ligament force changes. Conclusion: The geometry of the condyles allows the ratio of quadriceps to patella tendon force to compensate for contact point changes imparted by the removal of the ACL. Thus the system maintains a constant mechanical advantage. Significance: The investigation uncovers critical features of human knee biomechanics. Findings contribute to understanding of knee ligament damage, inform procedures for knee surgery and orthopaedic implant design, and support design of trans-femoral prosthetics and walking robots. Results further demonstrate the utility of robotics as a powerful means of studying human joint biomechanics.
Conference paperWang K, Marsh DM, Saputra RP, et al., 2020,
Most state-of-the-art bipedal robots are designedto be highly anthropomorphic and therefore possess legs withknees. Whilst this facilitates more human-like locomotion, thereare implementation issues that make walking with straight ornear-straight legs difficult. Most bipedal robots have to movewith a constant bend in the legs to avoid singularities at theknee joints, and to keep the centre of mass at a constant heightfor control purposes. Furthermore, having a knee on the legincreases the design complexity as well as the weight of the leg,hindering the robot’s performance in agile behaviours such asrunning and jumping.We present SLIDER, an ultra-lightweight, low-cost bipedalwalking robot with a novel knee-less leg design. This nonanthropomorphic straight-legged design reduces the weight ofthe legs significantly whilst keeping the same functionality asanthropomorphic legs. Simulation results show that SLIDER’slow-inertia legs contribute to less vertical motion in the centerof mass (CoM) than anthropomorphic robots during walking,indicating that SLIDER’s model is closer to the widely usedInverted Pendulum (IP) model. Finally, stable walking onflat terrain is demonstrated both in simulation and in thephysical world, and feedback control is implemented to addresschallenges with the physical robot.
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