Toward A Systems Theory for the Composition of Dynamically Dexterous

We report on our efforts to develop robot controller composition techniques in the context of dexterous “batting” maneuvers. A robot with a flat paddle is required to strike repeatedly at a falling ball until it is brought to zero velocity at a a specified position. The robot’s workspace is cluttered with obstacles that disconnect the freespace formed when the ball and paddle remain in contact – the machine is forced to “let go” for a time in order to bring the ball to the desired state. The controller compositions that we create will guarantee that a ball introduced in the “safe workspace” remains there and is ultimately brought to the goal. We believe that the developing systems discipline described here may be extended to build a variety of useful dexterous machines that are similarly single-minded in their pursuit of the user’s goal behavior and ability to surmount unanticipated perturbations along the way.

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