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Volume 26 Issue 11-12 - Publication Date: 1 November- December June 2007
 
Biomimetic Centering for Undulatory Robots
 
M. Sfakiotakis and D. P. Tsakiris Institute of Computer Science—FORTH, Vassilika Vouton P.O. Box 1385, GR-71110 Heraklion, Greece
 
Substantial work exists in the robotics literature on the mechanical design, modeling, gait generation and implementation of undulatory robotic prototypes. However, there appears to have been relatively limited work on closing the control loop for such robotic locomotors using sensory information from on-board exteroceptive sensors, in order to realize more complex undulatory behaviors. In this paper we consider a biologically inspired sensor-based “centering” behavior for undulatory robots traversing corridor-like environments. Such behaviors have been observed and studied in bees, and robotic analogs were originally developed for non-holonomic mobile robots. Adaptation to the significantly more complex dynamics of undulatory locomotors highlights a number of issues related to the use of sensors (possibly distributed over the elongated body of the mechanism) for the generation of reactive undulatory behaviors and also related to biomimetic neuromuscular control and to the formation control of multi-undulatory swarms. These issues are explored in simulation by means of computational tools specifically geared towards undulatory locomotion in robotics and biology. Moreover, a series of undulatory robotic prototypes has been developed, which are able to propel themselves on a variety of hard and granular substrates, by means of both head-to-tail (“eel-like”) and tail-to-head (“polychaete-like”) undulatory waves. The undulatory centering behavior is demonstrated experimentally in several layouts of corridor-like environments using these robotic prototypes equipped with infrared distance sensors.
 
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Example 1: Simulation of an undulatory mechanism navigating in a complex corridor by combining reactive centering and envelope modulation. The dotted lines (red and blue) denote the sensed distances from sensors mounted on the mechanism, which are all used for envelope modulation. Sensors at the head link of the mechanism (dotted red lines) are also used for steering. (13 MB) mov
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Example 2: Simulation of a swarm of four undulatory robots, which maintains its cohesion while traversing a corridor environment by combining reactive centering with formation control. (12 MB) mov
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Example 3:Experiments with an undulatory robot implementing the reactive centering behavior in a straight-line corridor. (12 MB) mov
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Example 4: Experiments with an undulatory robot implementing the reactive centering behavior in a Z-shaped corridor. (24.5 MB) mov
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Example 5: Experiments with an undulatory robot implementing the reactive centering behavior along a curved N-shaped corridor. (27.4 MB) mov
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Example 6: Experiments with an undulatory robot implementing the reactive centering behavior along a rectangular course. (21.4 MB) mpg
 
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