A Case Study in Approximate Linearization: The Acrobot Example

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Richard M. Murray and John Hauser
ERL Technical Memo, May 1991

The acrobot is a simple mechanical system patterned after a gymnast performing on a single parallel bar. By swinging her legs, a gymnast is able to bring herself into an inverted position with her center of mass above the part and is able to perform manuevers about this configuration. This report studies the use of nonlinear control techniques for designing a controller to operate in a neighborhood of the manifold of inverted equilibrium points. The techniques described here are of particular interest because the dynamic model of the acrobot violates many of the necessary conditions required to apply current methods in linear and nonlinear control theory.

The approach used in this report is to approximate the system in such a way that the behavior of the system about the manifold of equilibrium points is correctly captured. In particular, we construct an approximating system which agrees with the linearization of the original system on the equilibrium manifold and is full state linearizable. For this class of approximations, controllers can be constructed using recent techniques from differential geometric control theory. We show that application of control laws derived in this manner results in approximate trajectory tracking for the system under certain restrictions on the class of desired trajectories. Simulation results based on a simplified model of the acrobot are included.