SUBJECT: Ph.D. Dissertation Defense
BY: Marc Killpack
TIME: Friday, November 1, 2013, 11:00 a.m.
PLACE: Whitaker Building, 4114
TITLE: Model Predictive Control with Haptic Feedback for Robot Manipulation in Cluttered Scenarios
COMMITTEE: Dr. Charles C. Kemp, Co-Chair (BME)
Dr. Wayne J. Book, Co-Chair (ME)
Dr. Jun Ueda (ME)
Dr. Lena Ting (ME)
Dr. Magnus B. Egerstedt (ECE)
Dr. C. Karen Liu (CS)


Current robot manipulation and control paradigms have largely been developed for static or highly structured environments such as those common in factories. For most techniques in robot trajectory generation, such as heuristic-based geometric planning, this has led to putting a high cost on contact with the world. This approach and methodology can be prohibitive to robots operating in many unmodeled and dynamic environments. This dissertation presents work on using haptic based feedback (torque and tactile sensing) to formulate a controller for robot manipulation in clutter. We define ``clutter'' as any environment in which we expect the robot to make both incidental and purposeful contact while maneuvering and manipulating. The controllers developed in this dissertation take the form of single or multi-time step Model Predictive Control (a form of optimal control which incorporates feedback) which attempts to regulate contact forces at multiple locations on a robot arm while reaching to a goal. The results and conclusions in this dissertation are based on extensive testing in simulation (tens of thousands of trials) and testing in realistic scenarios with real robots incorporating tactile sensing. The approach is novel in the sense that it allows contact and explicitly incorporate the contact and predictive model of the robot arm in calculating control effort at every time step. The expected broader impact of this research is progress towards a new foundation of reactive feedback controllers that will include a higher likelihood of success in many constrained and dynamic scenarios such as reaching into containers without line of sight, maneuvering in cluttered search and rescue situations or working with unpredictable human co-workers.