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A lightweight robotic arm with pneumatic muscles for robot learning

Dieter Buchler; Heiko Ott; Jan Peters
In: Danica Kragic; Antonio Bicchi; Alessandro De Luca (Hrsg.). 2016 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation. IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA-2016), May 16-21, Stockholm, Sweden, Pages 4086-4092, IEEE, 2016.


Versatile motor skills for hitting and throwing motions can be observed in humans already in early ages. Future robots require high power-to-weight ratios as well as inherent long operational lifetimes without breakage in order to achieve similar perfection. Robustness due to passive compliance and high-speed catapult-like motions as possible with fast energy release are further beneficial characteristics. Such properties can be realized with antagonistic muscle-based designs. Additionally, control algorithms need to exploit the full potential of the robot. Learning control is a promising direction due to its the potential to capture uncertainty and control of complex systems. The aim of this paper is to build a robotic arm that is capable of generating high accelerations and sophisticated trajectories as well as enable exploration at such speeds for robot learning approaches. Hence, we have designed a light-weight robot arm with moving masses below 700 g with powerful antagonistic compliant actuation with pneumatic artificial muscles. Rather than recreating human anatomy, our system is designed to be easy to control in order to facilitate future learning of fast trajectory tracking control. The resulting robot is precise at low speeds using a simple PID controller while reaching high velocities of up to 12 m/s in task space and 1500 deg/s in joint space. This arm will enable new applications in fast changing and uncertain task like robot table tennis while being a sophisticated and reproducible test-bed for robot skill learning methods. Construction details are available.

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