This PhD thesis addresses the following issues: What are the most prominent physical restrictions that make legged locomotion difficult? Which dynamic models (RBD, Centroidal, SRBD, LIPM) can be used to capture the physics of legged locomotion and what is the trade-off between them? How can Trajectory Optimization help to generate universal solutions? What criteria can be used to compare motion planning algorithms? How to use the SRBD to optimize for the full 6D-base, end-effectors and gait in milliseconds? (code, slides).
We present a single Trajectory Optimization for- mulation for legged locomotion that automatically determines the gait-sequence, step-timings, footholds, swing-leg motions and 6D body motion over non-flat terrain, without any additional modules. Our phase-based parameterization of feet motion and forces allows to optimize over the discrete gait sequence using only continuous decision variables. The system is represented using a simplified Centroidal dynamics model that is influenced by the feet’s location and forces. We explicitly enforce friction cone constraints, depending on the shape of the terrain. The NLP solver generates highly dynamic motion-plans with full flight-phases for a variety of legged systems with arbitrary morphologies in an efficient manner. We validate the feasibility of the generated plans in simulation and on the real quadruped robot ANYmal. Additionally, the entire solver software TOWR used to generate these motions is made freely available.
This paper combines the fast Zero-Moment-Point (ZMP) approaches that work well in practice with the broader range of capabilities of a Trajectory Optimization formulation, by optimizing over body motion, footholds and Center of Pressure simultaneously. We introduce a vertex-based representation of the support-area constraint, which can treat arbitrarily oriented point-, line-, and area-contacts uniformly. This generalization allows us to create motions such quadrupedal walking, trotting, bounding, pacing, combinations and transitions between these, limping, bipedal walking and push-recovery all with the same approach. This formulation constitutes a minimal representation of the physical laws (unilateral contact forces) and kinematic restrictions (range of motion) in legged locomotion, which allows us to generate various motion in less than a second. We demonstrate the feasibility of the generated motions on a real quadruped robot.
We present an algorithm that generates walking motions for quadruped robots without the use of an explicit footstep planner by simultaneously optimizing over both the Center of Mass (CoM) trajectory and the footholds. Feasibility is achieved by imposing stability constraints on the CoM related to the Zero Moment Point and explicitly enforcing kinematic constraints between the footholds and the CoM position. Given a desired goal state, the problem is solved online by a Nonlinear Programming solver to generate the walking motion. Experimental trials show that the algorithm is able to generate walking gaits for multiple steps in milliseconds that can be executed on a real quadruped robot.
We present a framework for dynamic quadrupedal locomotion over challenging terrain, where the choice of appropriate footholds is crucial for the success of the behaviour. We build a model of the environment on-line and on-board using an efficient occupancy grid representation. We use Any-time-Repairing A* (ARA*) to search over a tree of possible actions, choose a rough body path and select the locally-best footholds accordingly. We run a n-step lookahead optimization of the body trajectory using a dynamic stability metric, the Zero Moment Point (ZMP), that generates natural dynamic whole-body motions. A combination of floating-base inverse dynamics and virtual model control accurately executes the desired motions on an actively compliant system. Experimental trials show that this framework allows us to traverse terrains at nearly 6 times the speed of our previous work, evaluated over the same set of trials.
We present a framework for quadrupedal locomotion over highly challenging terrain where the choice of appropriate footholds is crucial for the success of the behaviour. We use a path planning approach which shares many similarities with the results of the DARPA Learning Locomotion challenge and extend it to allow more flexibility and increased robustness. During execution we incorporate an on-line force- based foothold adaptation mechanism that updates the planned motion according to the perceived state of the environment. This way we exploit the active compliance of our system to smoothly interact with the environment, even when this is inaccurately perceived or dynamically changing, and update the planned path on-the-fly. In tandem we use a virtual model controller that provides the feed-forward torques that allow increased accuracy together with highly compliant behaviour on an otherwise naturally very stiff robotic system. We leverage the full set of benefits that a high performance torque controlled quadruped robot can provide and demonstrate the flexibility and robustness of our approach on a set of experimental trials of increasing difficulty.