[robotics-worldwide] PhD positions in balancing and dynamic walking of humanoid robots, Italian Institute of Technology

Zhibin Li Zhibin.Li at iit.it
Sat Sep 8 00:23:05 PDT 2012

Call for PhD students in balancing and dynamic walking of humanoid robots, Department of Advanced Robotics, Italian Institute of Technology.

Videos of the COmpliant huMANoid COMAN: https://sites.google.com/site/alexrobotics/robot-videos

Deadline: September 21, 2012.
Official IIT announcement: http://www.iit.it/en/openings/phd-calls
Online Application website: http://www.studenti.unige.it/postlaurea/dottorati/xxviiiciclo/IITen
For robotics discipline, please find PhD themes in Annex 4.

Theme 3.13: Dynamic walking and running of compliant humanoid robots on rough terrain
Tutor: Dr. Zhibin LI, Dr. Nikos Tsagarakis.
Number of available positions: 1

The application of humanoids in the human environment requires the mobility of walking and running on the reconstructed terrain in contrast to a prepared and known lab environment. There are a plenty of existing methods, such as the ZMP based pattern generation, which can provide dynamically feasible trajectories for walking and running on a flat ground. However, most of the methods are designed for the humanoid robots with stiff actuations. Due to the high stiffness of the actuators, the capability of adapting the rough and uneven terrain is very limited. Moreover, a more agile and dynamic movement requires a more compliant interaction with the environment in order to reduce the impacts. These essential demands can be solved by designing the smart mechanism that exploits the intrinsic compliance as the nature shows in biological land animals.

With the new compliant hardware and the task of walking on the rough terrain, there is a raising demand of a new control methodology that makes use of the physical compliance for smooth interaction and provides the feasible controllers to generate variety types of walking and running gaits. Differ from the engineering approaches from which a lot of artificial constraints are unnatural imposed, such as the ZMP method, the new research would investigate the results from the passive dynamic walkers and the nonlinearity of the step-to-step transitions. Typically for humans, walking and running do not necessarily involve symmetric or periodic alternation of legs. The limit cycle approach investigates the cyclic gaits which demonstrate self-stability.  The proposed research topic will focus on the extraction of the fundamental principles of the limit cycle method previously applied on passive dynamic walkers (typically gravity powered walking). A number of methods for controlling the kinetic energy will be studied and further extend it to a more general principle for dynamic walking and running. The implementation and experimental validation will be finally conducted on the rough terrain. The research platform for testing the hypotheses is the series of the compliant humanoid robot COMAN.

Theme 3.14: Stabilization and balance control of the compliant humanoid robots
Tutor: Dr. Zhibin LI, Dr. Nikos Tsagarakis.
Number of available positions: 1

While operating in human environment, the humanoid robots permanently have the risk of colliding with unexpected objects and falling. To tackle the collisions and prevent a fall are crucial regarding the safety for both humans and robots. The stabilization of the proposed research will focus on the passivity based compliance control to attenuate the undesired oscillations and movements caused by impacts during the robots’ interaction with the environment, especially for the robots with physical compliant materials.

The balancing control will investigate different strategies to maintain the equilibrium. For small and moderate disturbances, the robot could balance without taking steps. However, since the capability of keeping balance is limited given a fixed size of the support area, the robot must exploit other strategies such as taking steps when the increasing disturbance is able to topple the robot. The proposed research will develop the balance control using both the simplified model and a full body dynamics model. The feedbacks for the balance control will require the sensor fusion of a number of different signals, such as the linkage positions (proprioception), the reaction forces acting in feet (haptics) and the inertial measurement (inner ears). The algorithms are expected to be tolerant to parameter variations and robust to different types of disturbances (external pushes and terrain surface variations). The research platform for testing the algorithms is the series of the compliant humanoid robot COMAN.

Candidates are expected to have good knowledge and experience in:
1. Rigid body dynamics, mechanics;
2. Classical and modern control theory;
3. Programming skills (Matlab, C/C++);
4. Good English proficiency.

Candidates are encouraged to send their CV prior to application. For further details concerning the research project, please contact: Dr. Zhibin LI, email: zhibin.li at iit.it; Dr. Nikos Tsagarakis, email: nikos.tsagarakis at iit.it.

Dr. Zhibin LI
Zhibin LI, PhD
Postdoctoral researcher
Humanoids & Human Centred Mechatronics
Department of Advanced Robotics
Italian Institute of Technology
Homepage: https://sites.google.com/site/alexrobotics/
Youtube channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/Alebotics

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