Toward a Dynamical Pick and Place

We report on our initial efforts to build robot feedback controllers that develop increased capability from simpler constituent controllers. Previous work with our three degree of freedom robot has resulted in a machine that exhibits various dynamically dexterous skills of superlative ability but very narrow behavioral scope. We focus here on the development of both a formalism and practice for the composition of constituent controllers. The composite should yield automatically purposive combinations of these skills that reach goals no one of the defining controllers could have achieved in isolation. The specific task we initially target, the “dynamical pick and place”, requires the robot to acquire balls that have been “randomly” thrown into its work space and set them safely at rest in a specified location. We present a brief overview of the constituent behaviors and a mechanism for their combination along with documentation of our preliminary empirical successes.