Body Stiffness Control for Using Body-Environment Interaction with a Closed-Link Deformable Mobile Robot
Yuichiro Sueoka, Naoto Takebe, Yasuhiro Sugimoto, and Koichi Osuka
Department of Mechanical Engineering, Osaka University
2-1 Yamadaoka, Suita, Osaka 565-0871, Japan
It is necessary for the robot to use interactions from the environment through the body in order to adaptively move through various environments. When the robot is faced with a narrow path or a space with many pillars, it should be able to use its interaction with the environment to thin its own shape, i.e., it should have a flexible body. In contrast, in the case where we want the robot to move forward powerfully on a slope or uneven terrain (small steps), it is preferable for the robot to rigidify its own body and exert a strong propulsive force in response to interactions from the environment. In this paper, we present an idea of a mobile robot that can adjust its body flexibility (stiffness) to realize such adaptive behavior, and furthermore, we demonstrate its validity through experiments. Specifically, we propose a closed-link deformable mobile robot whose stiffness can be adjusted by indirectly driving joints. We design a function that increases the stiffness of the body by controlling the joints to follow the target angle quickly, and a function that decreases the stiffness of the body by controlling the joints to follow the angle slowly. The effectiveness of a robot that can adjust its stiffness is demonstrated through experiments of traversing narrow paths and steps. We also discuss propulsion control that takes advantage of the deformable mobile robot and its applicability to uneven slopes due to the flexibility of the links.
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