Robotics: Science and Systems IX

A Topological Approach to Using Cables to Separate and Manipulate Sets of Objects

Soonkyum Kim, Subhrajit Bhattacharya, Hordur Heidarsson, Gaurav Sukhatme, Vijay Kumar


In this paper we study the problem of manipulating and transporting multiple objects on the plane using a cable attached at each end to a mobile robot. This problem is motivated by the use of boats with booms in skimming operations for cleaning oil spills or removing debris on the surface of the water. The goal in this paper is to automate the task of separating the objects of interest from a collection of objects by manipulating them with cables that are actuated only at the ends, and then transporting them to specified destinations. Because the cable is flexible, the shape of the cable must be explicitly modeled in the problem. Further, the robots must cooperatively plan motions to achieve the required cable shape and gross position/orientation to separate the objects of interest and then transport them as specified. The theoretical foundation for the problem is derived from topological invariants, homology and homotopy. We first derive the necessary topological conditions for achieving the desired separation of objects. We then propose a distributed search-based planning technique for finding optimal robot trajectories for separation and transportation. We demonstrate the applicability of this method using a dynamic simulation platform with explicit models of the cable dynamics, the contact between the cable and one or more objects, and the surface drag on the cable and on the objects. We also describe our preliminary efforts to develop an experimental platform consisting of a system of two cooperating autonomous boats.



    AUTHOR    = {Soonkyum Kim AND Subhrajit Bhattacharya AND Hordur Heidarsson AND Gaurav Sukhatme AND Vijay Kumar}, 
    TITLE     = {A Topological Approach to Using Cables to Separate and Manipulate Sets of Objects}, 
    BOOKTITLE = {Proceedings of Robotics: Science and Systems}, 
    YEAR      = {2013}, 
    ADDRESS   = {Berlin, Germany}, 
    MONTH     = {June},
    DOI       = {10.15607/RSS.2013.IX.046}