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Mechanical and Civil Engineering Seminar

Tuesday, May 25, 2021
3:30pm to 5:30pm
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Online Event
Reduced Order Model Inspired Robotic Bipedal Walking: A Step-to-Step Dynamics Approximation Based Approach
Xiaobin Xiong, Graduate Student, Mechanical Engineering, Caltech,

Ph.D. Thesis Defense

Abstract: Controlling bipedal robotic walking is a challenging task. The dynamics is hybrid, nonlinear, high-dimensional, and typically underactuated. Complex physical constraints have to be satisfied in the walking generation. The stability in terms of not-falling is also hard to be encoded in the walking synthesis. Canonical approaches for enabling robotic walking typically rely on large-scale trajectory optimizations for generating optimal periodic behaviors on the full-dimensional model of the system; then the stabilities of the controlled behaviors are analyzed through the numerically derived Poincaré maps. This full-dimensional periodic behavior based synthesis, despite being theoretically rigorous, suffers from several disadvantages. The trajectory optimization problem is computationally challenging to solve. Non-trivial expert-tuning is required on the cost, constraints, and initial conditions to avoid infeasibilities and local optimality. It is cumbersome for realizing non-periodical behaviors, and the synthesized walking can be sensitive to model uncertainties.

In this thesis, we propose an alternative approach of walking synthesis that is based on reduced order modeling and dynamics approximation. We formulate a discrete step-to-step (S2S) dynamics of walking, where the step size is treated as the control input to stabilize the pre-impact horizontal center of mass (COM) state of the robot. Stepping planning thus is converted into a feedback control problem. To effectively and efficiently solve this feedback stepping planning problem, an underactuated Hybrid Linear Inverted Pendulum (H-LIP) model is proposed to approximate the dynamics of underactuated bipedal walking; the linear S2S dynamics of the H-LIP then approximates the robot S2S dynamics. The H-LIP based stepping controller is hence utilized to plan the desired step sizes on the robot to control its pre-impact horizontal COM state. Stable walking behaviors are consequently generating by realizing the desired step size in the output construction and stabilizing the output via optimization-based controllers. We evaluate this approach successfully on several bipedal walking systems with an increase in the system complexity: a planar five-linkage walker AMBER, an actuated version of the Spring Loaded Inverted Pendulum (aSLIP) in both 2D and 3D, and finally the 3D underactuated robot Cassie. The generated dynamic walking behaviors on these systems are shown to be highly versatile and robust. Furthermore, we show that this approach can be effectively extended to realizing more complex walking tasks such as global trajectory tracking and walking on rough terrain.

Please virtually attend this thesis defense:

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For more information, please contact Mikaela Laite by email at [email protected] or visit