Robotics: Science and Systems XVII

An End-to-End Differentiable Framework for Contact-Aware Robot Design

Jie Xu, Tao Chen, Lara Zlokapa, Michael Foshey, Wojciech Matusik, Shinjiro Sueda, Pulkit Agrawal


The current dominant paradigm for robotic manipulation involves two separate stages: manipulator design and control. Because the robot's morphology and how it can be controlled are intimately linked; joint optimization of design and control can significantly improve performance. Existing methods for co-optimization are limited and fail to explore a rich space of designs. The primary reason is the trade-off between the complexity of designs that is necessary for contact-rich tasks against the practical constraints of manufacturing; optimization; contact handling; etc. We overcome several of these challenges by building an end-to-end differentiable framework for contact-aware robot design. The two key components of this framework are: a novel deformation-based parameterization that allows for the design of articulated rigid robots with arbitrary; complex geometry; and a differentiable rigid body simulator that can handle contact-rich scenarios and computes analytical gradients for a full spectrum of kinematic and dynamic parameters. On multiple manipulation tasks; our framework outperforms existing methods that either only optimize for control or for design using alternate representations or co-optimize using gradient-free methods.



    AUTHOR    = {Jie Xu AND Tao Chen AND Lara Zlokapa AND Michael Foshey AND Wojciech Matusik AND Shinjiro Sueda AND Pulkit Agrawal}, 
    TITLE     = {{An End-to-End Differentiable Framework for Contact-Aware Robot Design}}, 
    BOOKTITLE = {Proceedings of Robotics: Science and Systems}, 
    YEAR      = {2021}, 
    ADDRESS   = {Virtual}, 
    MONTH     = {July}, 
    DOI       = {10.15607/RSS.2021.XVII.008}