Conference Paper

Safe fall: Humanoid robot fall direction change through intelligent stepping and inertia shaping

Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, 02139 U.S.A.
DOI: 10.1109/ROBOT.2009.5152755 Conference: Robotics and Automation, 2009. ICRA '09. IEEE International Conference on
Source: IEEE Xplore

ABSTRACT Although fall is a rare event in the life of a humanoid robot, we must be prepared for it because its consequences are serious. In this paper we present a fall strategy which rapidly modifies the robot's fall direction in order to avoid hitting a person or an object in the vicinity. Our approach is based on the key observation that during “toppling” the rotational motion of a robot necessarily occurs at the leading edge or the leading corner of its support base polygon. To modify the fall direction the robot needs to change the position and orientation of this edge or corner vis-a-vis the prohibited direction. We achieve it through intelligent stepping as soon as a fall is detected. We compute the optimal stepping location which results in the safest fall. Additional improvement to the fall controller is achieved through inertia shaping techniques aimed at controlling the centroidal inertia of the robot. We demonstrate our results through the simulation of an Asimo-like humanoid robot. To our knowledge, this is the first implementation of a controller that attempts to change the fall direction of a humanoid robot.

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    ABSTRACT: Purpose – This paper aims to present a step-exchange strategy for balance control of a walking biped robot when a lateral impact acts suddenly. A step-out strategy has been recently proposed for balance control when an unknown lateral force acts to a biped robot during walking. This step-out strategy causes a robot to absorb the impact kinetic energy and efficiently maintain balance without falling down. Nevertheless, it was found that the previous strategies have drawbacks that the two foots should always be on the ground (double-support mode) after being balanced and the authors think it is difficult to continue walking after being balanced. Unlike the existing balance strategies, the proposed step-exchange strategy is to not only maintain balance but also to lift one leg in the air (single-support mode) after being balanced so that it is easy for a biped robot to keep walking after being balanced. Design/methodology/approach – In the proposed step-exchange strategy, forward Newton–Euler equation, angular momentum and energy conservation equation were derived. Hill-climbing algorithm is utilized for numerically finding a solution. To verify the proposed strategy, a biped robot by Open Dynamics Engine was stimulated, and experiments with a real biped robot (LRH-1) were also conducted. Findings – The proposed step-exchange strategy enables a walking biped robot under a lateral impact to keep balance and to keep a single-support mode after exchanging a leg. It is helpful for a biped robot to continue walking without any stop. It is found that the proposed step-exchange strategy can be applicable for maintaining balance even if a biped robot is moving. Even though this proposal seems immature yet, it is the first attempt to exchange the supporting foot itself. This strategy is very straightforward and intuitive because humans are also likely to exchange their supporting foot onto the opposite side when an unexpected force is acting. Research limitations/implications – The proposed step-exchange strategy described in this paper can be applicable in the situation when the external force is applied in the +Y direction, the left leg is the swing leg and the right leg is the stance leg, or it can also be applicable in the situation when the external force is applied in −Y direction, the right leg is the swing leg and the left leg is the stance leg (Figure 2 for ±Y force direction). If an impact force acts to the side of the swing leg, the other step-exchange strategy is needed. The authors are studying this issue as a future work. Originality/value – The authors have originated the proposed step-exchange strategy for balance control of a walking biped robot under lateral impact. The strategy is genuine and superior in comparison with the state-of-the-art strategy because not only can a biped robot be balanced but it can also easily continue walking by using the step-exchange strategy.
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