Abstract:Navigation and motion control of a robot to a destination are tasks that have historically been performed with the assumption that contact with the environment is harmful. This makes sense for rigid-bodied robots where obstacle collisions are fundamentally dangerous. However, because many soft robots have bodies that are low-inertia and compliant, obstacle contact is inherently safe. As a result, constraining paths of the robot to not interact with the environment is not necessary and may be limiting. In this paper, we mathematically formalize interactions of a soft growing robot with a planar environment in an empirical kinematic model. Using this interaction model, we develop a method to plan paths for the robot to a destination. Rather than avoiding contact with the environment, the planner exploits obstacle contact when beneficial for navigation. We find that a planner that takes into account and capitalizes on environmental contact produces paths that are more robust to uncertainty than a planner that avoids all obstacle contact.
Authors: Joseph D. Greer, Laura H. Blumenschein, Ron Alterovitz, Elliot W. Hawkes, Allison M. Okamura (Facebook Reality Labs, Purdue University)