Shape sensing of deformable objects for robot manipulation

Abstract : Deformable objects are ubiquitous in our daily lives. On a given day, we manipulate clothes into uncountable configurations to dress ourselves, tie the shoelaces on our shoes, pick up fruits and vegetables without damaging them for our consumption and fold receipts into our wallets. All these tasks involve manipulating deformable objects and can be performed by an able person without any trouble, however robots have yet to reach the same level of dexterity. Unlike rigid objects, where robots are now capable of handling objects with close to human performance in some tasks; deformable objects must be controlled not only to account for their pose but also their shape. This extra constraint, to control an object's shape, renders techniques used for rigid objects mainly inapplicable to deformable objects. Furthermore, the behavior of deformable objects widely differs among them, e.g. the shape of a cable and clothes are significantly affected by gravity while it might not affect the configuration of other deformable objects such as food products. Thus, different approaches have been designed for specific classes of deformable objects.In this thesis we seek to address these shortcomings by proposing a modular approach to sense the shape of an object while it is manipulated by a robot. The modularity of the approach is inspired by a programming paradigm that has been increasingly been applied to software development in robotics and aims to achieve more general solutions by separating functionalities into components. These components can then be interchanged based on the specific task or object at hand. This provides a modular way to sense the shape of deformable objects.To validate the proposed pipeline, we implemented three different applications. Two applications focused exclusively on estimating the object's deformation using either tactile or force data, and the third application consisted in controlling the deformation of an object. An evaluation of the pipeline, performed on a set of elastic objects for all three applications, shows promising results for an approach that makes no use of visual information and hence, it could greatly be improved by the addition of this modality.
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Jose Manuel Sanchez Loza. Shape sensing of deformable objects for robot manipulation. Automatic. Université Clermont Auvergne, 2019. English. ⟨NNT : 2019CLFAC012⟩. ⟨tel-02294752⟩

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