Active Sensing for Dynamic, Non-holonomic, Robust Visual Servoing

We consider the problem of visually servoing a legged vehicle with unicycle-like nonholonomic constraints subject to second-order fore-aft dynamics in its horizontal plane. We target applications to rugged environments characterized by complex terrain likely to perturb significantly the robot’s nominal dynamics. At the same time, it is crucial that the camera avoid “obstacle” poses where absolute localization would be compromised by even partial loss of landmark visibility. Hence, we seek a controller whose robustness against disturbances and obstacle avoidance capabilities can be assured by a strict global Lyapunov function. Since the nonholonomic constraints preclude smooth point stabilizability we introduce an extra degree of sensory freedom, affixing the camera to an actuated panning axis mounted on the robot’s back. Smooth stabilizability to the robot-orientation-indifferent goal cycle no longer precluded, we construct a controller and strict global Lyapunov function with the desired properties. We implement several versions of the scheme on a RHex robot maneuvering over slippery ground and document its successful empirical performance.

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