Distributed Feedback Control Algorithms for Cooperative Locomotion: From Bipedal to Quadrupedal Robots
Kamidi, Vinaykarthik Reddy
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This thesis synthesizes general and scalable distributed nonlinear control algorithms with application to legged robots. It explores both naturally decentralized problems in legged locomotion, such as the collaborative control of human-lower extremity prosthesis and the decomposition of high-dimensional controllers of a naturally centralized problem into a net- work of low-dimensional controllers while preserving equivalent performance. In doing so, strong nonlinear interaction forces arise, which this thesis considers and sufficiently addresses. It generalizes to both symmetric and asymmetric combinations of subsystems. Specifically, this thesis results in two distinct distributed control algorithms based on the decomposition approach. Towards synthesizing the first algorithm, this thesis presents a formal foundation based on de- composition, Hybrid Zero Dynamics (HZD), and scalable optimization to develop distributed controllers for hybrid models of collaborative human-robot locomotion. This approach con- siders a centralized controller and then decomposes the dynamics and parameterizes the feedback laws to synthesize local controllers. The Jacobian matrix of the Poincaré map with local controllers is studied and compared with the centralized ones. An optimization problem is then set up to tune the parameters of the local controllers for asymptotic stability. It is shown that the proposed approach can significantly reduce the number of controller parameters to be optimized for the synthesis of distributed controllers, deeming the method computationally tractable. To evaluate the analytical results, we consider a human amputee with the point of separation just above the knee and assume the average physical parameters of a human male. For the lower-extremity prosthesis, we consider the PRleg, a powered knee-ankle prosthetic leg, and together, they form a 19 Degrees of Freedom (DoF) model. A multi-domain hybrid locomotion model is then employed to rigorously assess the performance of the afore-stated control algorithm via numerical simulations. Various simulations involving the application of unknown external forces and altering the physical parameters of the human model unbeknownst to the local controllers still result in stable amputee loco- motion, demonstrating the inherent robustness of the proposed control algorithm. In the later part of this thesis, we are interested in developing distributed algorithms for the real-time control of legged robots. Inspired by the increasing popularity of Quadratic programming (QP)-based nonlinear controllers in the legged locomotion community due to their ability to encode control objectives subject to physical constraints, this thesis exploits the idea of distributed QPs. In particular, this thesis presents a formal foundation to systematically decompose QP-based centralized nonlinear controllers into a network of lower-dimensional local QPs. The proposed approach formulates a feedback structure be- tween the local QPs and leverages a one-step communication delay protocol. The properties of local QPs are analyzed, wherein it is established that their steady-state solutions on periodic orbits (representing gaits) coincide with that of the centralized QP. The asymptotic convergence of local QPs' solutions to the steady-state solution is studied via Floquet theory. Subsequently, to evaluate the effectiveness of the analytical results, we consider an 18 DoF quadrupedal robot, A1, as a representative example. The network of distributed QPs mentioned earlier is condensed to two local QPs by considering a front-hind decomposition scheme. The robustness of the distributed QP-based controller is then established through rigorous numerical simulations that involve exerting unmodelled external forces and intro- ducing unknown ground height variations. It is further shown that the proposed distributed QPs have reduced sensitivity to noise propagation when compared with the centralized QP. Finally, to demonstrate that the resultant distributed QP-based nonlinear control algorithm translates equivalently well to hardware, an extensive set of blind locomotion experiments on the A1 robot are undertaken. Similar to numerical simulations, unknown external forces in the form of aggressive pulls and pushes were applied, and terrain uncertainties were introduced with the help of arbitrarily displaced wooden blocks and compliant surfaces. Additionally, outdoor experiments involving a wide range of terrains such as gravel, mulch, and grass at various speeds up to 1.0 (m/s) reiterate the robust locomotion observed in numerical simulations. These experiments also show that the computation time is significantly dropped when the distributed QPs are considered over the centralized QP.
General Audience Abstract
Inspiration from animals and human beings has long driven the research of legged loco- motion and the subsequent design of the robotic counterparts: bipedal and quadrupedal robots. Legged robots have also been extended to assist human amputees with the help of powered prostheses and aiding people with paraplegia through the development of exoskeleton suits. However, in an effort to capture the same robustness and agility demonstrated by nature, our design abstractions have become increasingly complicated. As a result, the en- suing control algorithms that drive and stabilize the robot are equivalently complicated and subjected to the curse of dimensionality. This complication is undesirable as failing to compute and prescribe a control action quickly destabilizes and renders the robot uncontrollable. This thesis addresses this issue by seeking nature for inspiration through a different perspective. Specifically, through some earlier biological studies on cats, it was observed that some form of locality is implemented in the control of animals. This thesis extends this observation to the control of legged robots by advocating an unconventional solution. It proposes that a high-dimensional, single-legged agent be viewed as a virtual composition of multiple, low-dimensional subsystems. While this outlook is not new and forms precedent to the vast literature of distributed control, the focus has always been on large-scale systems such as power networks or urban traffic networks that preserve sparsity, mathematically speaking. On the contrary, legged robots are underactuated systems with strong interaction forces acting amongst each subsystem and dense mathematical structures. This thesis considers this problem in great detail and proposes developments that provide theoretical stability guarantees for the distributed control of interconnected legged robots. As a result, two distinctly different distributed control algorithms are formulated. We consider a naturally decentralized structure appearing in the form of a human-lower extremity prosthesis to synthesize distributed controllers using the first control algorithm. Subsequently, the resultant local controllers are rigorously validated through extensive full- order simulations. In order to validate the second algorithm, this thesis considers the problem of quadrupedal locomotion as a representative example. It assumes for the purposes of control synthesis that the quadruped is comprised of two subsystems separated at the geometric center, resulting in a front and hind subsystem. In addition to rigorous validation via numerical simulations, in the latter part of this thesis, to demonstrate that distributed controllers preserve practicality, rigorous and extensive experiments are undertaken in indoor and outdoor settings on a readily available quadrupedal robot A1.
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