Momentum observer (MOB) can estimate external joint torque without requiring additional sensors, such as force/torque or joint torque sensors. However, the estimation performance of MOB deteriorates due to the model uncertainty which encompasses the modeling errors and the joint friction. Moreover, the estimation error is significant when MOB is applied to high-dimensional floating-base humanoids, which prevents the estimated external joint torque from being used for force control or collision detection in the real humanoid robot. In this paper, the pure external joint torque estimation method named MOB-Net, is proposed for humanoids. MOB-Net learns the model uncertainty torque and calibrates the estimated signal of MOB. The external joint torque can be estimated in the generalized coordinate including whole-body and virtual joints of the floating-base robot with only internal sensors (an IMU on the pelvis and encoders in the joints). Our method substantially reduces the estimation errors of MOB, and the robust performance of MOB-Net for the unseen data is validated through extensive simulations, real robot experiments, and ablation studies. Finally, various collision handling scenarios are presented using the estimated external joint torque from MOB-Net: contact wrench feedback control for locomotion, collision detection, and collision reaction for safety.
The ANA Avatar XPRIZE was a four-year competition to develop a robotic "avatar" system to allow a human operator to sense, communicate, and act in a remote environment as though physically present. The competition featured a unique requirement that judges would operate the avatars after less than one hour of training on the human-machine interfaces, and avatar systems were judged on both objective and subjective scoring metrics. This paper presents a unified summary and analysis of the competition from technical, judging, and organizational perspectives. We study the use of telerobotics technologies and innovations pursued by the competing teams in their avatar systems, and correlate the use of these technologies with judges' task performance and subjective survey ratings. It also summarizes perspectives from team leads, judges, and organizers about the competition's execution and impact to inform the future development of telerobotics and telepresence.
* 26 pages, preprint of article appearing in International Journal of
The estimation of external joint torque and contact wrench is essential for achieving stable locomotion of humanoids and safety-oriented robots. Although the contact wrench on the foot of humanoids can be measured using a force-torque sensor (FTS), FTS increases the cost, inertia, complexity, and failure possibility of the system. This paper introduces a method for learning external joint torque solely using proprioceptive sensors (encoders and IMUs) for a floating base robot. For learning, the GRU network is used and random walking data is collected. Real robot experiments demonstrate that the network can estimate the external torque and contact wrench with significantly smaller errors compared to the model-based method, momentum observer (MOB) with friction modeling. The study also validates that the estimated contact wrench can be utilized for zero moment point (ZMP) feedback control, enabling stable walking. Moreover, even when the robot's feet and the inertia of the upper body are changed, the trained network shows consistent performance with a model-based calibration. This result demonstrates the possibility of removing FTS on the robot, which reduces the disadvantages of hardware sensors. The summary video is available at https://youtu.be/gT1D4tOiKpo.
The robust balancing capability of humanoid robots against disturbances has been considered as one of the crucial requirements for their practical mobility in real-world environments. In particular, many studies have been devoted to the efficient implementation of the three balance strategies, inspired by human balance strategies involving ankle, hip, and stepping strategies, to endow humanoid robots with human-level balancing capability. In this paper, a robust balance control framework for humanoid robots is proposed. Firstly, a novel Model Predictive Control (MPC) framework is proposed for Capture Point (CP) tracking control, enabling the integration of ankle, hip, and stepping strategies within a single framework. Additionally, a variable weighting method is introduced that adjusts the weighting parameters of the Centroidal Angular Momentum (CAM) damping control over the time horizon of MPC to improve the balancing performance. Secondly, a hierarchical structure of the MPC and a stepping controller was proposed, allowing for the step time optimization. The robust balancing performance of the proposed method is validated through extensive simulations and real robot experiments. Furthermore, a superior balancing performance is demonstrated, particularly in the presence of disturbances, compared to a state-of-the-art Quadratic Programming (QP)-based CP controller that employs the ankle, hip, and stepping strategies. The supplementary video is available at https://youtu.be/CrD75UbYzdc
In this paper, we review the question of which action space is best suited for controlling a real biped robot in combination with Sim2Real training. Position control has been popular as it has been shown to be more sample efficient and intuitive to combine with other planning algorithms. However, for position control gain tuning is required to achieve the best possible policy performance. We show that instead, using a torque-based action space enables task-and-robot agnostic learning with less parameter tuning and mitigates the sim-to-reality gap by taking advantage of torque control's inherent compliance. Also, we accelerate the torque-based-policy training process by pre-training the policy to remain upright by compensating for gravity. The paper showcases the first successful sim-to-real transfer of a torque-based deep reinforcement learning policy on a real human-sized biped robot. The video is available at https://youtu.be/CR6pTS39VRE.
Unstructured environments are difficult for autonomous driving. This is because various unknown obstacles are lied in drivable space without lanes, and its width and curvature change widely. In such complex environments, searching for a path in real-time is difficult. Also, inaccurate localization data reduce the path tracking accuracy, increasing the risk of collision. Instead of searching and tracking the path, an alternative approach has been proposed that reactively avoids obstacles in real-time. Some methods are available for tracking global path while avoiding obstacles using the candidate paths and the artificial potential field. However, these methods require heuristics to find specific parameters for handling various complex environments. In addition, it is difficult to track the global path accurately in practice because of inaccurate localization data. If the drivable space is not accurately recognized (i.e., noisy state), the vehicle may not smoothly drive or may collide with obstacles. In this study, a method in which the vehicle drives toward drivable space only using a vision-based occupancy grid map is proposed. The proposed method uses imitation learning, where a deep neural network is trained with expert driving data. The network can learn driving patterns suited for various complex and noisy situations because these situations are contained in the training data. Experiments with a vehicle in actual parking lots demonstrated the limitations of general model-based methods and the effectiveness of the proposed imitation learning method.
Rapidly-exploring random tree (RRT) has been applied for autonomous parking due to quickly solving high-dimensional motion planning and easily reflecting constraints. However, planning time increases by the low probability of extending toward narrow parking spots without collisions. To reduce the planning time, the target tree algorithm was proposed, substituting a parking goal in RRT with a set (target tree) of backward parking paths. However, it consists of circular and straight paths, and an autonomous vehicle cannot park accurately because of curvature-discontinuity. Moreover, the planning time increases in complex environments; backward paths can be blocked by obstacles. Therefore, this paper introduces the continuous-curvature target tree algorithm for complex parking environments. First, a target tree includes clothoid paths to address such curvature-discontinuity. Second, to reduce the planning time further, a cost function is defined to construct a target tree that considers obstacles. Integrated with optimal-variant RRT and searching for the shortest path among the reached backward paths, the proposed algorithm obtains a near-optimal path as the sampling time increases. Experiment results in real environments show that the vehicle more accurately parks, and continuous-curvature paths are obtained more quickly and with higher success rates than those acquired with other sampling-based algorithms.