This extended abstract provides a short introduction on our recently developed perception-based controller for quadrupedal locomotion. Compared to our previous approach based on Visual Foothold Adaptation (VFA) and Model Predictive Control (MPC), our new framework combines a fast approximation of the safe foothold regions based on Neural Network regression, followed by a convex decomposition routine in order to generate safe landing areas where the controller can freely optimize the footholds location. The aforementioned framework, which combines prediction, convex decomposition, and MPC solution, is tested in simulation on our 140kg hydraulic quadruped robot (HyQReal).
We present a footstep planning policy for quadrupedal locomotion that is able to directly take into consideration a-priori safety information in its decisions. At its core, a learning process analyzes terrain patches, classifying each landing location by its kinematic feasibility, shin collision, and terrain roughness. This information is then encoded into a small vector representation and passed as an additional state to the footstep planning policy, which furthermore proposes only safe footstep location by applying a masked variant of the Proximal Policy Optimization (PPO) algorithm. The performance of the proposed approach is shown by comparative simulations on an electric quadruped robot walking in different rough terrain scenarios. We show that violations of the above safety conditions are greatly reduced both during training and the successive deployment of the policy, resulting in an inherently safer footstep planner. Furthermore, we show how, as a byproduct, fewer reward terms are needed to shape the behavior of the policy, which in return is able to achieve both better final performances and sample efficiency
Legged robots are increasingly entering new domains and applications, including search and rescue, inspection, and logistics. However, for such systems to be valuable in real-world scenarios, they must be able to autonomously and robustly navigate irregular terrains. In many cases, robots that are sold on the market do not provide such abilities, being able to perform only blind locomotion. Furthermore, their controller cannot be easily modified by the end-user, requiring a new and time-consuming control synthesis. In this work, we present a fast local motion planning pipeline that extends the capabilities of a black-box walking controller that is only able to track high-level reference velocities. More precisely, we learn a set of motion models for such a controller that maps high-level velocity commands to Center of Mass (CoM) and footstep motions. We then integrate these models with a variant of the A star algorithm to plan the CoM trajectory, footstep sequences, and corresponding high-level velocity commands based on visual information, allowing the quadruped to safely traverse irregular terrains at demand.
We propose a control pipeline for SAG (Searching, Approaching, and Grasping) of objects, based on a decoupled arm kinematic chain and impedance control, which integrates image-based visual servoing (IBVS). The kinematic decoupling allows for fast end-effector motions and recovery that leads to robust visual servoing. The whole approach and pipeline can be generalized for any mobile platform (wheeled or tracked vehicles), but is most suitable for dynamically moving quadruped manipulators thanks to their reactivity against disturbances. The compliance of the impedance controller makes the robot safer for interactions with humans and the environment. We demonstrate the performance and robustness of the proposed approach with various experiments on our 140 kg HyQReal quadruped robot equipped with a 7-DoF manipulator arm. The experiments consider dynamic locomotion, tracking under external disturbances, and fast motions of the target object.
Quadruped robots are machines intended for challenging and harsh environments. Despite the progress in locomotion strategy, safely recovering from unexpected falls or planned drops is still an open problem. It is further made more difficult when high horizontal velocities are involved. In this work, we propose an optimization-based reactive Landing Controller that uses only proprioceptive measures for torque-controlled quadruped robots that free-fall on a flat horizontal ground, knowing neither the distance to the landing surface nor the flight time. Based on an estimate of the Center of Mass horizontal velocity, the method uses the Variable Height Springy Inverted Pendulum model for continuously recomputing the feet position while the robot is falling. In this way, the quadruped is ready to attain a successful landing in all directions, even in the presence of significant horizontal velocities. The method is demonstrated to dramatically enlarge the region of horizontal velocities that can be dealt with by a naive approach that keeps the feet still during the airborne stage. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first time that a quadruped robot can successfully recover from falls with horizontal velocities up to 3 m/s in simulation. Experiments prove that the used platform, Go1, can successfully attain a stable standing configuration from falls with various horizontal velocity and different angular perturbations.
The architecture of a robotics software framework tremendously influences the effort and time it takes for end users to test new concepts in a simulation environment and to control real hardware. Many years of activity in the field allowed us to sort out crucial requirements for a framework tailored for robotics: modularity and extensibility, source code reusability, feature richness, and user-friendliness. We implemented these requirements and collected best practices in Locosim, a cross-platform framework for simulation and real hardware. In this paper, we describe the architecture of Locosim and illustrate some use cases that show its potential.
The VINUM project seeks to address the shortage of skilled labor in modern vineyards by introducing a cutting-edge mobile robotic solution. Leveraging the capabilities of the quadruped robot, HyQReal, this system, equipped with arm and vision sensors, offers autonomous navigation and winter pruning of grapevines reducing the need for human intervention. At the heart of this approach lies an architecture that empowers the robot to easily navigate vineyards, identify grapevines with unparalleled accuracy, and approach them for pruning with precision. A state machine drives the process, deftly switching between various stages to ensure seamless and efficient task completion. The system's performance was assessed through experimentation, focusing on waypoint precision and optimizing the robot's workspace for single-plant operations. Results indicate that the architecture is highly reliable, with a mean error of 21.5cm and a standard deviation of 17.6cm for HyQReal. However, improvements in grapevine detection accuracy are necessary for optimal performance. This work is based on a computer-vision-based navigation method for quadruped robots in vineyards, opening up new possibilities for selective task automation. The system's architecture works well in ideal weather conditions, generating and arriving at precise waypoints that maximize the attached robotic arm's workspace. This work is an extension of our short paper presented at the Italian Conference on Robotics and Intelligent Machines (I-RIM).
There is a dramatic shortage of skilled labor for modern vineyards. The Vinum project is developing a mobile robotic solution to autonomously navigate through vineyards for winter grapevine pruning. This necessitates an autonomous navigation stack for the robot pruning a vineyard. The Vinum project is using the quadruped robot HyQReal. This paper introduces an architecture for a quadruped robot to autonomously move through a vineyard by identifying and approaching grapevines for pruning. The higher level control is a state machine switching between searching for destination positions, autonomously navigating towards those locations, and stopping for the robot to complete a task. The destination points are determined by identifying grapevine trunks using instance segmentation from a Mask Region-Based Convolutional Neural Network (Mask-RCNN). These detections are sent through a filter to avoid redundancy and remove noisy detections. The combination of these features is the basis for the proposed architecture.
This work is on vision-based planning strategies for legged robots that separate locomotion planning into foothold selection and pose adaptation. Current pose adaptation strategies optimize the robot's body pose relative to given footholds. If these footholds are not reached, the robot may end up in a state with no reachable safe footholds. Therefore, we present a Vision-Based Terrain-Aware Locomotion (ViTAL) strategy that consists of novel pose adaptation and foothold selection algorithms. ViTAL introduces a different paradigm in pose adaptation that does not optimize the body pose relative to given footholds, but the body pose that maximizes the chances of the legs in reaching safe footholds. ViTAL plans footholds and poses based on skills that characterize the robot's capabilities and its terrain-awareness. We use the 90 kg HyQ and 140 kg HyQReal quadruped robots to validate ViTAL, and show that they are able to climb various obstacles including stairs, gaps, and rough terrains at different speeds and gaits. We compare ViTAL with a baseline strategy that selects the robot pose based on given selected footholds, and show that ViTAL outperforms the baseline.
Online trajectory optimization techniques generally depend on heuristic-based contact planners in order to have low computation times and achieve high replanning frequencies. In this work, we propose ContactNet, a fast acyclic contact planner based on a multi-output regression neural network. ContactNet ranks discretized stepping regions, allowing to quickly choose the best feasible solution, even in complex environments. The low computation time, in the order of 1 ms, makes possible the execution of the contact planner concurrently with a trajectory optimizer in a Model Predictive Control (MPC) fashion. We demonstrate the effectiveness of the approach in simulation in different complex scenarios with the quadruped robot Solo12.