Exploiting Variable Stiffness in Explosive Movement Tasks

David J. Braun, Matthew Howard, Sethu Vijayakumar

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference paper

26 Citations (Scopus)


It is widely recognised that compliant actuation is advantageous to robot control once high-performance, explosive tasks, such as throwing, hitting or jumping are considered. However, the benefit of intrinsic compliance comes with high control complexity. Specifically, coordinating the motion of the system through a compliant actuator and finding a task-specific impedance profile that leads to better performance is non-trivial. Here, we utilise optimal control to devise time-varying torque and stiffness profiles for highly dynamic movements in compliantly actuated robots. The proposed methodology is applied to a ball-throwing task where we demonstrate that: (i) the method is able to tailor impedance strategies to specific task objectives and system dynamics, (ii) the ability to vary stiffness leads to better performance in this class of movements, (iii) in systems with variable physical compliance, our methodology is able to exploit the energy storage capabilities of the actuators. We illustrate these in several numerical simulations, and in hardware experiments on a device with variable physical stiffness.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationRobotics
Subtitle of host publicationScience and Systems VII
EditorsHugh Durrant-Whyte, Nicholas Roy, Pieter Abbeel
Place of PublicationCambridge, MA
PublisherMIT Press
Number of pages8
ISBN (Print)9780262517799
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2012


Dive into the research topics of 'Exploiting Variable Stiffness in Explosive Movement Tasks'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this