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Gait design for limbless obstacle aided locomotion using geometric mechanics

by   Baxi Chong, et al.

Limbless robots have the potential to maneuver through cluttered environments that conventional robots cannot traverse. As illustrated in their biological counterparts such as snakes and nematodes, limbless locomotors can benefit from interactions with obstacles, yet such obstacle-aided locomotion (OAL) requires properly coordinated high-level self-deformation patterns (gait templates) as well as low-level body adaptation to environments. Most prior work on OAL utilized stereotyped traveling-wave gait templates and relied on local body deformations (e.g., passive body mechanics or decentralized controller parameter adaptation based on force feedback) for obstacle navigation, while gait template design for OAL remains less studied. In this paper, we explore novel gait templates for OAL based on tools derived from geometric mechanics (GM), which thus far has been limited to homogeneous environments. Here, we expand the scope of GM to obstacle-rich environments. Specifically, we establish a model that maps the presence of an obstacle to directional constraints in optimization. In doing so, we identify novel gait templates suitable for sparsely and densely distributed obstacle-rich environments respectively. Open-loop robophysical experiments verify the effectiveness of our identified OAL gaits in obstacle-rich environments. We posit that when such OAL gait templates are augmented with appropriate sensing and feedback controls, limbless locomotors will gain robust function in obstacle rich environments.


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