Biologically inspired kinematic synergies enable linear balance control of a humanoid robot
Despite many efforts, balance control of humanoid robots in the presence of unforeseen external or internal forces has remained an unsolved problem. The difficulty of this problem is a consequence of the high dimensionality of the action space of a humanoid robot, due to its large number of degrees of freedom (joints), and of non-linearities in its kinematic chains. Biped biological organisms face similar difficulties, but have nevertheless solved this problem. Experimental data reveal that many biological organisms reduce the high dimensionality of their action space by generating movements through linear superposition of a rather small number of stereotypical combinations of simultaneous movements of many joints, to which we refer as kinematic synergies in this paper. We show that by constructing two suitable non-linear kinematic synergies for the lower part of the body of a humanoid robot, balance control can in fact be reduced to a linear control problem, at least in the case of relatively slow movements. We demonstrate for a variety of tasks that the humanoid robot HOAP-2 acquires through this approach the capability to balance dynamically against unforeseen disturbances that may arise from external forces or from manipulating unknown loads.