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The Physics and Control of Balancing on a Point

Roy Featherstone
Australian National University

September 1, 2016 at  3:30 PM
McConnell Engineering Room 437


In the field of robotics, the task of actively balancing on a narrow support, such as a point or line, is usually seen as a control problem; and it has been solved many times using various ideas from control theory. This talk takes a fresh look at the problem from a physical point of view, which yields both a simple model of the physical process of balancing and a simple control system to accomplish it. For the special case of balancing in a plane, the robot's behaviour is characterized by just two numbers, and the controller's gains are trivial functions of these numbers. The resulting control system is able to balance the robot in such a way that a single joint can perform two tasks at once: balance the robot and simultaneously follow a commanded motion trajectory. Several examples of balancing behaviours will be shown and explained, including the technique of leaning in anticipation of a future motion command.

A short bio

Dr. Featherstone obtained his first degree from the University of Southampton, and his Ph.D. from the University of Edinburgh on the subject of robot dynamics algorithms. He has since worked for many organizations, including Philips Laboratories, Oxford University and the Australian National University, and he is currently a Visiting Professor at the Italian Institute of Technology in Genoa. Dr. Featherstone is one of the world's leading experts in the field of rigid-body dynamics, and a Fellow of the IEEE. He is the inventor of the articulated-body algorithm and the spatial vector algebra, as well as many other concepts and algorithms, and he is the author of two books on the subject. His current research concerns the creation of an exceptionally high-performance hopping and balancing machine, called Skippy, which aims to exhibit a degree of athleticism far beyond any existing robot.