Felt Wyatt, Chin Khai Yi, and Remy C. David. Soft Robotics. 2017. https://doi.org/10.1089/soro.2016.0056
This paper experimentally investigates the potential of using flexible, inductance-based contraction sensors in the closed-loop motion control of soft robots. Accurate motion control remains a highly challenging task for soft robotic systems. Precise models of the actuation dynamics and environmental
interactions are often unavailable. This renders open-loop control impossible, while closed-loop control suffers from a lack of suitable feedback. Conventional motion sensors, such as linear
or rotary encoders, are difficult to adapt to robots that lack discrete mechanical joints. The rigid nature of these sensors runs contrary to the aspirational benefits of soft systems. As truly soft sensor solutions are still in their infancy, motion control of soft robots has so far relied on laboratory-based sensing systems such as motion capture, EM tracking, or Fiber Bragg Gratings. In this paper, we used embedded flexible sensors known as Smart Braids to sense the contraction of McKibben muscles through changes in inductance. We evaluated closed-loop control on two systems: a revolute joint and a planar, one degree of freedom continuum manipulator. In the revolute joint, our proposed controller compensated for elasticity in the actuator connections. The Smart Braid feedback allowed motion control with a steady-state RMS error of 1.5 degrees. In the continuum manipulator, Smart Braid feedback enabled tracking of the desired tip angle with a steady-state RMS error of 1.25 degrees. This work demonstrates that Smart Braid sensors can provide accurate position feedback in closed-loop motion control suitable for field applications of soft robotic systems.