Articulated Actuation towards Human Capabilities for Robots

Wesley Roozing1, Navvab Kashiri2, Tom Verstraten3, Bram Vanderborght3, Nikos Tsagarakis2, Stefano Stramigioli1

  • 1University of Twente
  • 2Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia
  • 3Vrije Universiteit Brussel

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The great strides made in both the design and control of robotic systems over the last two decades have lead to the development of robotics actuators capable of executing fine force/impedance regulation while often exhibiting better efficiency than skeletal muscles. Yet as a whole, robotic platforms are still vastly outperformed by their biological counterparts which are able to drive their joints in a synergistic manner. The complex musculoskeletal system found in many animals is comprised of a combination of rigid and soft structures that together show an embodied intelligence, that allows for compound behaviours such as walking to come out with simple control signals. At the same time, more complicated tasks are accomplished by control based on well-tuned internal dynamics models. Compared to traditional robots, developing such musculoskeletal systems will require new bio-inspired design paradigms and novel soft materials and structures. Understanding and implementing the passive and active actuation synergy of animal/human musculoskeletal systems in robotic platforms and exploiting intrinsic dynamics is therefore essential to achieve behaviour that reaches levels of efficiency and power/velocity beyond those achievable by the individual components. This in turn leads to capabilities that are unattainable by current robots. This workshop will explore what is needed to progress the state-of-the-art to reach the capabilities seen in biological systems, by considering how design and control can be integrated. Firstly, it will study what can be learned from the biomechanical properties of prime examples from the animal kingdom. Secondly, it will ask the question how systems that exhibit desirable dynamics can be synthesised, and what those dynamics are for the capabilities that we want the robots to exhibit. Lastly, it will explore how such designed dynamics can be harnessed and exploited in control to obtain synergetic behaviour that displays capabilities matching or outperforming those of biological systems.

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