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Chapter 21 — Actuators for Soft Robotics

Alin Albu-Schäffer and Antonio Bicchi

Although we do not know as yet how robots of the future will look like exactly, most of us are sure that they will not resemble the heavy, bulky, rigid machines dangerously moving around in old fashioned industrial automation. There is a growing consensus, in the research community as well as in expectations from the public, that robots of the next generation will be physically compliant and adaptable machines, closely interacting with humans and moving safely, smoothly and efficiently - in other terms, robots will be soft.

This chapter discusses the design, modeling and control of actuators for the new generation of soft robots, which can replace conventional actuators in applications where rigidity is not the first and foremost concern in performance. The chapter focuses on the technology, modeling, and control of lumped parameters of soft robotics, that is, systems of discrete, interconnected, and compliant elements. Distributed parameters, snakelike and continuum soft robotics, are presented in Chap. 20, while Chap. 23 discusses in detail the biomimetic motivations that are often behind soft robotics.

AMASC - changing stiffness

Author  Jonathan Hurst et al.

Video ID : 468

AMASC variable stiffness actuator: changing stiffness phase.

Chapter 50 — Modeling and Control of Robots on Rough Terrain

Keiji Nagatani, Genya Ishigami and Yoshito Okada

In this chapter, we introduce modeling and control for wheeled mobile robots and tracked vehicles. The target environment is rough terrains, which includes both deformable soil and heaps of rubble. Therefore, the topics are roughly divided into two categories, wheeled robots on deformable soil and tracked vehicles on heaps of rubble.

After providing an overview of this area in Sect. 50.1, a modeling method of wheeled robots on a deformable terrain is introduced in Sect. 50.2. It is based on terramechanics, which is the study focusing on the mechanical properties of natural rough terrain and its response to off-road vehicle, specifically the interaction between wheel/track and soil. In Sect. 50.3, the control of wheeled robots is introduced. A wheeled robot often experiences wheel slippage as well as its sideslip while traversing rough terrain. Therefore, the basic approach in this section is to compensate the slip via steering and driving maneuvers. In the case of navigation on heaps of rubble, tracked vehicles have much advantage. To improve traversability in such challenging environments, some tracked vehicles are equipped with subtracks, and one kinematical modeling method of tracked vehicle on rough terrain is introduced in Sect. 50.4. In addition, stability analysis of such vehicles is introduced in Sect. 50.5. Based on such kinematical model and stability analysis, a sensor-based control of tracked vehicle on rough terrain is introduced in Sect. 50.6. Sect. 50.7 summarizes this chapter.

Mobility prediction of rovers on soft terrain

Author  Daniel Holz, Ali Azimi, Marek Teichmann, Jozsef Kavecses

Video ID : 184

This video is an animated dynamic simulation of a vehicle traveling on sandy terrain. The simulator carefully considers mechanical interactions based on relationships between the wheel and the terrain and between the tool and the terrain. In particular, a discrete-element method is employed in order to represent the tool-sand interactions.

Chapter 21 — Actuators for Soft Robotics

Alin Albu-Schäffer and Antonio Bicchi

Although we do not know as yet how robots of the future will look like exactly, most of us are sure that they will not resemble the heavy, bulky, rigid machines dangerously moving around in old fashioned industrial automation. There is a growing consensus, in the research community as well as in expectations from the public, that robots of the next generation will be physically compliant and adaptable machines, closely interacting with humans and moving safely, smoothly and efficiently - in other terms, robots will be soft.

This chapter discusses the design, modeling and control of actuators for the new generation of soft robots, which can replace conventional actuators in applications where rigidity is not the first and foremost concern in performance. The chapter focuses on the technology, modeling, and control of lumped parameters of soft robotics, that is, systems of discrete, interconnected, and compliant elements. Distributed parameters, snakelike and continuum soft robotics, are presented in Chap. 20, while Chap. 23 discusses in detail the biomimetic motivations that are often behind soft robotics.

DLR Hand Arm System throwing a ball and Justin catching it

Author  Alin Albu-Schäffer, Thomas Bahls, Berthold Bäuml, Maxime Chalon, Markus Grebenstein, Oliver Eiberger, Werner Friedl, Hannes Höppner, Dominic Lakatos, Nico Mansfeld, Florian Petit, Jens Reinecke, Roman Weitschat, Sebastian Wolf, Tilo Wüsthoff

Video ID : 547

The DLR Hand Arm System throws a ball and Justin catches it. There is no data connection between the two systems. Justin catches the ball by visual observation.

Chapter 58 — Robotics in Hazardous Applications

James Trevelyan, William R. Hamel and Sung-Chul Kang

Robotics researchers have worked hard to realize a long-awaited vision: machines that can eliminate the need for people to work in hazardous environments. Chapter 60 is framed by the vision of disaster response: search and rescue robots carrying people from burning buildings or tunneling through collapsed rock falls to reach trapped miners. In this chapter we review tangible progress towards robots that perform routine work in places too dangerous for humans. Researchers still have many challenges ahead of them but there has been remarkable progress in some areas. Hazardous environments present special challenges for the accomplishment of desired tasks depending on the nature and magnitude of the hazards. Hazards may be present in the form of radiation, toxic contamination, falling objects or potential explosions. Technology that specialized engineering companies can develop and sell without active help from researchers marks the frontier of commercial feasibility. Just inside this border lie teleoperated robots for explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) and for underwater engineering work. Even with the typical tenfold disadvantage in manipulation performance imposed by the limits of today’s telepresence and teleoperation technology, in terms of human dexterity and speed, robots often can offer a more cost-effective solution. However, most routine applications in hazardous environments still lie far beyond the feasibility frontier. Fire fighting, remediating nuclear contamination, reactor decommissioning, tunneling, underwater engineering, underground mining and clearance of landmines and unexploded ordnance still present many unsolved problems.

HD footage of 1950s atomic power plants - Nuclear reactors

Author  James P. Trevelyan

Video ID : 586

Robot manipulators, mainly remotely controlled and operated by people, have been widely used in the nuclear industry since the 1950s. This video contains archival film footage showing operations using remote manipulators.

Chapter 65 — Domestic Robotics

Erwin Prassler, Mario E. Munich, Paolo Pirjanian and Kazuhiro Kosuge

When the first edition of this book was published domestic robots were spoken of as a dream that was slowly becoming reality. At that time, in 2008, we looked back on more than twenty years of research and development in domestic robotics, especially in cleaning robotics. Although everybody expected cleaning to be the killer app for domestic robotics in the first half of these twenty years nothing big really happened. About ten years before the first edition of this book appeared, all of a sudden things started moving. Several small, but also some larger enterprises announced that they would soon launch domestic cleaning robots. The robotics community was anxiously awaiting these first cleaning robots and so were consumers. The big burst, however, was yet to come. The price tag of those cleaning robots was far beyond what people were willing to pay for a vacuum cleaner. It took another four years until, in 2002, a small and inexpensive device, which was not even called a cleaning robot, brought the first breakthrough: Roomba. Sales of the Roomba quickly passed the first million robots and increased rapidly. While for the first years after Roomba’s release, the big players remained on the sidelines, possibly to revise their own designs and, in particular their business models and price tags, some other small players followed quickly and came out with their own products. We reported about theses devices and their creators in the first edition. Since then the momentum in the field of domestics robotics has steadily increased. Nowadays most big appliance manufacturers have domestic cleaning robots in their portfolio. We are not only seeing more and more domestic cleaning robots and lawn mowers on the market, but we are also seeing new types of domestic robots, window cleaners, plant watering robots, tele-presence robots, domestic surveillance robots, and robotic sports devices. Some of these new types of domestic robots are still prototypes or concept studies. Others have already crossed the threshold to becoming commercial products.

For the second edition of this chapter, we have decided to not only enumerate the devices that have emerged and survived in the past five years, but also to take a look back at how it all began, contrasting this retrospection with the burst of progress in the past five years in domestic cleaning robotics. We will not describe and discuss in detail every single cleaning robot that has seen the light of the day, but select those that are representative for the evolution of the technology as well as the market. We will also reserve some space for new types of mobile domestic robots, which will be the success stories or failures for the next edition of this chapter. Further we will look into nonmobile domestic robots, also called smart appliances, and examine their fate. Last but not least, we will look at the recent developments in the area of intelligent homes that surround and, at times, also control the mobile domestic robots and smart appliances described in the preceding sections.

Home pool-cleaner review - Five types of robotic cleaners

Author  Erwin Prassler

Video ID : 739

Video presents a comparison of five commercial pool-cleaning robots from Dolphin, Baracuda, Kreepy Krauly, Hayward, and Gemini.

Chapter 23 — Biomimetic Robots

Kyu-Jin Cho and Robert Wood

Biomimetic robot designs attempt to translate biological principles into engineered systems, replacing more classical engineering solutions in order to achieve a function observed in the natural system. This chapter will focus on mechanism design for bio-inspired robots that replicate key principles from nature with novel engineering solutions. The challenges of biomimetic design include developing a deep understanding of the relevant natural system and translating this understanding into engineering design rules. This often entails the development of novel fabrication and actuation to realize the biomimetic design.

This chapter consists of four sections. In Sect. 23.1, we will define what biomimetic design entails, and contrast biomimetic robots with bio-inspired robots. In Sect. 23.2, we will discuss the fundamental components for developing a biomimetic robot. In Sect. 23.3, we will review detailed biomimetic designs that have been developed for canonical robot locomotion behaviors including flapping-wing flight, jumping, crawling, wall climbing, and swimming. In Sect. 23.4, we will discuss the enabling technologies for these biomimetic designs including material and fabrication.

A single-motor-actuated, miniature, steerable jumping robot

Author  Jianguo Zhao, Jing Xu, Bingtuan Gao, Ning Xi, Fernando J. Cintron, Matt W. Mutka, Li Xiao

Video ID : 280

The contents of the video are divided into three parts. The first part illustrates the individual functions of the robot such as jumping, self-righting and steering. The second part demonstrates the robot's locomotion capability in indoor environments. Scenarios such as jumping from the floor, jumping in an office and jumping over stairs are included. The third part shows the robot's locomotion capability in outdoor environments. Experiments on uneven ground, ground with small gravels and ground with grass are included.

Chapter 71 — Cognitive Human-Robot Interaction

Bilge Mutlu, Nicholas Roy and Selma Šabanović

A key research challenge in robotics is to design robotic systems with the cognitive capabilities necessary to support human–robot interaction. These systems will need to have appropriate representations of the world; the task at hand; the capabilities, expectations, and actions of their human counterparts; and how their own actions might affect the world, their task, and their human partners. Cognitive human–robot interaction is a research area that considers human(s), robot(s), and their joint actions as a cognitive system and seeks to create models, algorithms, and design guidelines to enable the design of such systems. Core research activities in this area include the development of representations and actions that allow robots to participate in joint activities with people; a deeper understanding of human expectations and cognitive responses to robot actions; and, models of joint activity for human–robot interaction. This chapter surveys these research activities by drawing on research questions and advances from a wide range of fields including computer science, cognitive science, linguistics, and robotics.

Active key-frame-based learning from demonstration

Author  Maya Cakmak, Andrea Thomaz

Video ID : 238

Simon asks different types of questions in response to demonstrations given by the teacher.

Chapter 55 — Space Robotics

Kazuya Yoshida, Brian Wilcox, Gerd Hirzinger and Roberto Lampariello

In the space community, any unmanned spacecraft can be called a robotic spacecraft. However, Space Robots are considered to be more capable devices that can facilitate manipulation, assembling, or servicing functions in orbit as assistants to astronauts, or to extend the areas and abilities of exploration on remote planets as surrogates for human explorers.

In this chapter, a concise digest of the historical overview and technical advances of two distinct types of space robotic systems, orbital robots and surface robots, is provided. In particular, Sect. 55.1 describes orbital robots, and Sect. 55.2 describes surface robots. In Sect. 55.3, the mathematical modeling of the dynamics and control using reference equations are discussed. Finally, advanced topics for future space exploration missions are addressed in Sect. 55.4.

DLR predictive simulation compensating 6-second round-trip delay

Author  Gerd Hirzinger, Klaus Landzettel

Video ID : 331

This brief video shows results of the ROTEX experiment on the fully automatic grasping of a small free-floating cube with flattened edges by the ground computers which evaluated the stereo images from the robot gripper, estimated the motion, predicted it for the 6 s communication round-trip delay, and sent up the commands for grasping. In the view are the results of predictive simulation (right-hand side) and the delayed true-camera measurements (left-hand side).

Chapter 11 — Robots with Flexible Elements

Alessandro De Luca and Wayne J. Book

Design issues, dynamic modeling, trajectory planning, and feedback control problems are presented for robot manipulators having components with mechanical flexibility, either concentrated at the joints or distributed along the links. The chapter is divided accordingly into two main parts. Similarities or differences between the two types of flexibility are pointed out wherever appropriate.

For robots with flexible joints, the dynamic model is derived in detail by following a Lagrangian approach and possible simplified versions are discussed. The problem of computing the nominal torques that produce a desired robot motion is then solved. Regulation and trajectory tracking tasks are addressed by means of linear and nonlinear feedback control designs.

For robots with flexible links, relevant factors that lead to the consideration of distributed flexibility are analyzed. Dynamic models are presented, based on the treatment of flexibility through lumped elements, transfer matrices, or assumed modes. Several specific issues are then highlighted, including the selection of sensors, the model order used for control design, and the generation of effective commands that reduce or eliminate residual vibrations in rest-to-rest maneuvers. Feedback control alternatives are finally discussed.

In each of the two parts of this chapter, a section is devoted to the illustration of the original references and to further readings on the subject.

Cartesian impedance control with damping on

Author  Alin Albu-Schaeffer

Video ID : 134

This 2010 video shows the performance of a Cartesian impedance controller for the torque-controlled KUKA-LWR robot holding an extra payload when the damping term is active in the controller. The transient response to a contact force (a human pushing on the end-effector) is very short and free of oscillations. This is one of two coordinated videos, the other being for the case with controller damping turned off. Reference: A. Albu-Schaeffer, C. Ott, G. Hirzinger: A unified passivity-based control framework for position, torque and impedance control of flexible joint robots, Int. J. Robot. Res. 26(1), 23-39 (2007) doi: 10.1177/0278364907073776

Chapter 30 — Sonar Sensing

Lindsay Kleeman and Roman Kuc

Sonar or ultrasonic sensing uses the propagation of acoustic energy at higher frequencies than normal hearing to extract information from the environment. This chapter presents the fundamentals and physics of sonar sensing for object localization, landmark measurement and classification in robotics applications. The source of sonar artifacts is explained and how they can be dealt with. Different ultrasonic transducer technologies are outlined with their main characteristics highlighted.

Sonar systems are described that range in sophistication from low-cost threshold-based ranging modules to multitransducer multipulse configurations with associated signal processing requirements capable of accurate range and bearing measurement, interference rejection, motion compensation, and target classification. Continuous-transmission frequency-modulated (CTFM) systems are introduced and their ability to improve target sensitivity in the presence of noise is discussed. Various sonar ring designs that provide rapid surrounding environmental coverage are described in conjunction with mapping results. Finally the chapter ends with a discussion of biomimetic sonar, which draws inspiration from animals such as bats and dolphins.

Side-looking multipulse sonar moving down cinder-block hallway

Author  Roman Kuc

Video ID : 303

Rather than producing a single TOF reading per emission, the multipulse sonar produces multiple spikes by quickly resetting the sonar-detector integrator, thereby producing a spike density related to the echo amplitude. A side-looking sonar scans a cinder-block wall containing a door and window jambs. The resulting spikes have been processed to differentiate the first cinder-block wall, the cider-block surface and localize the window and door jambs. The red circles indicate the initial TOF values and illustrate the additional echo waveform data produced by the multipulse sonar. Reference: R. Kuc: Recognizing retro-reflectors with an obliquely-oriented multi-point sonar and acoustic flow, Int. J. Robot. Res. 22(2), 129-145, (2003); doi:10.1177/0278364903022002004.