Kinodynamic Planning for Spherical Tensegrity Locomotion with Effective Gait Primitives

TitleKinodynamic Planning for Spherical Tensegrity Locomotion with Effective Gait Primitives
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2019
AuthorsLittlefield, Z, Surovik, D, Vespignani, M, Bruce, J, Wang, W, Bekris, KE
JournalInternational Journal of Robotics Research (IJRR)
Date Publishedaccepted

Tensegrity-based robots can achieve locomotion through shape deformation and compliance. They are highly adaptable to their surroundings, have light weight, low cost and are physically robust. Their high dimensionality and strongly dynamic nature, however, complicate motion planning. Efforts to-date have primarily considered quasi-static reconfiguration and short-term dynamic motion of tensegrity robots, which do not fully exploit the underlying system dynamics in the long term. Longer-horizon planning has previously required costly search over the full space of valid control inputs. This work synthesizes new and existing approaches to produce dynamic long-term motion while balancing the computational demand. A numerical process based upon quasi-static assumptions is first applied to deform the system into an unstable configuration, causing forward motion. The dynamical characteristics of the result are then altered via a few simple parameters to produce a small but diverse set of useful behaviors. The proposed approach takes advantage of identified symmetries on the prototypical spherical tensegrity robot, which reduce the number of needed gaits but allow motion along different directions. These gaits are first combined with a standard search method to achieve long term planning in environments where the developed gaits are effective. For more complex environments, the various motion primitives are paired with the fall-back option of random valid actions and are used by an informed sampling-based kinodynamic motion planner with anytime properties. Evaluations using a physics-based model for the prototypical robot demonstrate that modest but efficiently-applied search effort can unlock the utility of dynamic tensegrity motion to produce high-quality solutions.