Optimisation of Body-ground Contact for Augmenting Whole-Body Loco-manipulation of Quadruped Robots

02/24/2020 ∙ by Wouter Wolfslag, et al. ∙ 0

Legged robots have great potential to perform loco-manipulation tasks, yet it is challenging to keep the robot balanced while it interacts with the environment. In this paper we study the use of additional contact points for maximising the robustness of loco-manipulation motions. Specifically, body-ground contact is studied for enhancing robustness and manipulation capabilities of quadrupedal robots. We propose to equip the robot with prongs: small legs rigidly attached to the body which ensure body-ground contact occurs in controllable point-contacts. The effect of these prongs on robustness is quantified by computing the Smallest Unrejectable Force (SUF), a measure of robustness related to Feasible Wrench Polytopes. We apply the SUF to assess the robustness of the system, and propose an effective approximation of the SUF that can be computed at near-real-time speed. We design a hierarchical quadratic programming based whole-body controller that controls stable interaction when the prongs are in contact with the ground. This novel concept of using prongs and the resulting control framework are all implemented on hardware to validate the effectiveness of the increased robustness and newly enabled loco-manipulation tasks, such as obstacle clearance and manipulation of a large object.

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