Geometric Phases and Robotic Locomotion

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Scott D. Kelly and Richard M. Murray
J. Robotic Systems, 12(6):417-431

Robotic locomotion is based in a variety of instances upon cyclic changes in the shape of a robot mechanism. Certain variations in shape exploit the constrained nature of a robot's interaction with its environment to generate net motion. This is true for legged robots, snakelike robots, and wheeled mobile robots undertaking maneuvers such as parallel parking. In this paper we explore the use of tools from differential geometry to model and analyze this class of locomotion mechanisms in a unified way. In particular, we describe locomotion in terms of the geometric phase associated with a connection on a principal bundle, and address issues such as controllability and choice of gait. We also provide an introduction to the basic mathematical concepts which we require and apply the theory to numerous example systems.

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