Co-contractive stiffness control in an antagonistic robotic arm

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In order for robots to truly cooperate with humans in human-made environments, research is ongoing to create anthropomorphic robotic systems. Human performance is a good benchmark to aim for because human motor control is very versatile, compliant and energy efficient. This research aimed to build and operate an antagonistic robot arm that uses co-contraction to variate the stiffness of the arm in a way that is very similar to human motor control. For this we have built a 1-link robot arm driven by two motors with antagonistic springs that together determine both position and stiffness of the joint. The goal was to test and control the system and compare simulations to the real robot. Eventually the position of the motors that control the stretch of the springs could be controlled by a biologically plausible learning algorithm. The results of this research can help to create robots that are safe to operate alongside humans, and also have more human like movements and behaviour than current robots. The results can also improve our insight in human motor control and aid in developing better models for computational motor control.
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