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Section: New Results

Morphological computation in Acroban the humanoid and physical human-robot interaction

Participants : Olivier Ly, Pierre-Yves Oudeyer, Matthieu Lapeyre, Jérôme Béchu, Paul Fudal, Haylee Fogg.

We realized substantial advancement with the humanoid platform Acroban and its use to study various scientific topics. Our goal was to study three main issues: 1) Compliance and semi-passive dynamics in the framework of dynamic walking in humanoid robots and more generally its impact in terms of semi-passive interactive motor primitives and their robustness to unknown external perturbations; 2) the advantage of a bio-inspired multi-articulated vertebral column in the dynamics of these motor primitives; 3) Intuitive and compliant physical human-robot interaction. The platform uses mechatronic components that allow us to adjust dynamically the compliance of actuators, which combines with the intrinsic mechanical compliance of the structure due to the use of elastics and springs. We have explored how these capabilities can allow us to enforce morphological computation in the design of robust dynamic locomotion. Compliance also allows us to design semi-passive motor primitives using the torso as a system of accumulation/release of potential/kinetic energy. The platform is also considered in the context of physical human-robot interaction. We have shown that is possible to produce robust and playful whole-body physical interaction with humans, and yet based on standard affordable components. This is made possible by the combination of adequate morphology and materials, full-body compliance, semi-passive and self-organized stable dynamics, as well as the possibility to experiment new motor primitives by trial-and-error thanks to light-weightedness. In addition to opening new technological avenues for the future of personal robotics, we also show how a complex analogical human-robot interface allowing a human to “lead the robot by the hand” can spontaneously emerge thanks to morphological computation. Finally, we have begun to study the strong positive emotional reactions that Acroban triggers, with children in particular, in spite of its metallic non-roundish visual appearance, and we propose the hypothesis of the “Luxo Jr. Effect”. These results have been partially presented in SIGGRAPH'2010, and several related articles are submitted. A dedicated web page with videos is available at: http://flowers.inria.fr/acroban.php .


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