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A Dyadic Collaborative Manipulation Formalism for Optimizing Human-Robot Teaming

Theodoros Stouraitis, "A Dyadic Collaborative Manipulation Formalism for Optimizing Human-Robot Teaming", Edinburgh University, 2021.


Dyadic collaborative Manipulation (DcM) is a term we use to refer to a team of two individuals, the agent and the partner, jointly manipulating an object. The two indi- viduals partner together to form a distributed system, augmenting their manipula- tion abilities. Effective collaboration between the two individuals during joint action depends on: (i) the breadth of the agent’s action repertoire, (ii) the level of model ac- quaintance between the two individuals, (iii) the ability to adapt online of one’s own actions to the actions of their partner, and (iv) the ability to estimate the partner’s intentions and goals. Key to the successful completion of co-manipulation tasks with changing goals is the agent’s ability to change grasp-holds, especially in large object co-manipulation scenarios. Hence, in this work we developed a Trajectory Optimization (TO) method to enhance the repertoire of actions of robotic agents, by enabling them to plan and execute hybrid motions, i. e. motions that include discrete contact transitions, contin- uous trajectories and force profiles. The effectiveness of the TO method is investigated numerically and in simulation, in a number of manipulation scenarios with both a single and a bimanual robot. In addition, it is worth noting that transitions from free motion to contact is a chal- lenging problem in robotics, in part due to its hybrid nature. Additionally, disregard- ing the effects of impacts at the motion planning level often results in intractable im- pulsive contact forces. To address this challenge, we introduce an impact-aware multi- mode TO method that combines hybrid dynamics and hybrid control in a coherent fashion. A key concept in our approach is the incorporation of an explicit contact force transmission model into the TO method. This allows the simultaneous optimiza- tion of the contact forces, contact timings, continuous motion trajectories and compli- ance, while satisfying task constraints. To demonstrate the benefits of our method, we compared our method against standard compliance control and an impact-agnostic TO method in physical simulations. Also, we experimentally validated the proposed method with a robot manipulator on the task of halting a large-momentum object. Further, we propose a principled formalism to address the joint planning problem in DcM scenarios and we solve the joint problem holistically via model-based opti- mization by representing the human’s behavior as task space forces. The task of find- ing the partner-aware contact points, forces and the respective timing of grasp-hold changes are carried out by a TO method using non-linear programming. Using sim- ulations, the capability of the optimization method is investigated in terms of robot policy changes (trajectories, timings, grasp-holds) to potential changes of the collab- orative partner policies. We also realized, in hardware, effective co-manipulation of a large object by the human and the robot, including eminent grasp changes as well as optimal dyadic interactions to realize the joint task. To address the online adaptation challenge of joint motion plans in dyads, we pro- pose an efficient bilevel formulation which combines graph search methods with tra- jectory optimization, enabling robotic agents to adapt their policy on-the-fly in ac- cordance to changes of the dyadic task. This method is the first to empower agents with the ability to plan online in hybrid spaces; optimizing over discrete contact lo- cations, contact sequence patterns, continuous trajectories, and force profiles for co- manipulation tasks. This is particularly important in large object co-manipulation tasks that require on-the-fly plan adaptation. We demonstrate in simulation and with robot experiments the efficacy of the bilevel optimization by investigating the effect of robot policy changes in response to real-time alterations of the goal. This thesis provides insight into joint manipulation setups performed by human- robot teams. In particular, it studies computational models of joint action and exploits the uncharted hybrid action space, that is especially relevant in general manipulation and co-manipulation tasks. It contributes towards developing a framework for DcM, capable of planning motions in the contact-force space, realizing these motions while considering impacts and joint action relations, as well as adapting on-the-fly these motion plans with respect to changes of the goals.

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