This paper presents a unique real-time obstacle avoidance approach for manipulators and mobile robots based on the artificial potential field concept. Collision avoidance, tradi tionally considered a high level planning problem, can be effectively distributed between different levels of control, al lowing real-time robot operations in a complex environment. This method has been extended to moving obstacles by using a time-varying artificial patential field. We have applied this obstacle avoidance scheme to robot arm mechanisms and have used a new approach to the general problem of real-time manipulator control. We reformulated the manipulator con trol problem as direct control of manipulator motion in oper ational space—the space in which the task is originally described—rather than as control of the task's corresponding joint space motion obtained only after geometric and kine matic transformation. Outside the obstacles' regions of influ ence, we caused the end effector to move in a straight line with an upper speed limit. The artificial potential field ap proach has been extended to collision avoidance for all ma nipulator links. In addition, a joint space artificial potential field is used to satisfy the manipulator internal joint con straints. This method has been implemented in the COSMOS system for a PUMA 560 robot. Real-time collision avoidance demonstrations on moving obstacles have been performed by using visual sensing.