Cambridge, MA, USA – July 15, 2017

The performance of modern legged robots still pales in comparison to their biological counterparts in terms of speed, robustness, versatility, and efficiency. The technical challenges that fuel this gap touch on topics ranging from actuator design to contact modeling and hybrid optimal control. This workshop aims to bring together researchers working on a span of topics at the frontier of legged robotics research relating to design, modeling, estimation, and control.

The dynamic properties of legged locomotion (i.e. nonlinear, underactuated, and hybrid) pose significant theoretical, computational, and physical challenges. Traditional approaches to tackling this dynamic complexity have used a combination of model simplification and factoring of planning, estimation, and control into a sequence of computationally-expedient sub-problems. By ignoring aspects of the robot dynamics and/or removing the ability to reason about feedback during planning, these simplifications degrade performance. However, we still lack a detailed understanding as to what dynamic complexity/computation trade-off is necessary to achieve a given behavior specification, and how these choices are affected by robot design.

This workshop includes a presentation from Boston Dynamics, discussing the challenges in dynamic legged locomotion from the perspective of a company.

The workshop will be framed by the following questions and technical topics:

  • What is the impact of model simplifications and assumptions on the efficiency, robustness, and performance of the solutions?
  • What are the key physical limitations of modern legged robots?
  • Should we be designing control systems and hardware together?
  • Are we overlooking the complexity of the contact model or are current approximations sufficient?
  • Topics:
    • Trajectory optimization for legged locomotion
    • Modeling frictional contact for planning, feedback control, and estimation
    • Planning in reduced spaces (e.g., centroidal dynamics, SLIP)
    • Feedback motion planning; optimizing robustness
    • Model-predictive control (e.g., DDP variants)
    • Verification/analysis of motions involving rigid contact
    • Actuator and mechanism design for legged robots
    • Whole-body state estimation

Invited speakers:

  1. Aaron Ames – California Institute of Technology
  2. Katie Byl – University of California Santa Barbara
  3. Jonathan Hurst – Oregon State University
  4. Marco Hutter – Swiss Federal Institute of Technology
  5. Sangbae Kim– Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  6. Marc Raibert – Boston Dynamics
  7. Nils Smit/David Remy – University of Michigan
  8. Russ Tedrake – Massachusetts Institute of Technology


Diego Pardo []
Postdoc, Agile & Dexterous Robotics Laboratory
Swiss Federal Institute of Technology ETH

Michael Posa []
Ph.D. Candidate, Robot Locomotion Group
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Scott Kuindersma []
Assistant Professor of Engineering and Computer Science
Harvard University


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