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Home | Seminars and Symposia | Past seminars/symposia: Friday, April 22, 2016

DTC Seminar Series

Robotic Touch: From Deformable Grasping to Impulsive Manipulation


Yan-Bin Jia
Iowa State University

Friday, April 22, 2016
1:00 p.m. seminar

402 Walter Library

Robots interact with the outside world through continual or instantaneous contact. Though robotic grasping of rigid objects has been studied for nearly three decades, relatively little effort has ventured into the very task for deformable objects. Similarly, despite a wealth of results from dynamic manipulation and robot dynamics and control, impulsive forces have rarely been considered. This talk will present the work from my group over the past few years on deformable grasping and impulsive manipulation — two skills important for measuring robotic dexterity, but yet seriously under-researched due to the lack of computational foundations and tools for analysis and synthesis.

Deformation of an object being grasped by a robotic hand results in a changing wrench space, growing contact areas and pointwise varying contact modes inside these areas. Grasping strategies need to shift from the traditional force-centered paradigm to one that is displacement-oriented. I will begin with an event-driven algorithm that employs two fingers to squeeze a 2D object until a grip is formed. The result is supported by a finite element analysis, and several energy-based grasp quality measures. Then I will move on to describe a strategy that picks up soft 3D objects by squeezing them until they are “felt” to be liftable, through repeated virtual tests during such a squeeze.

Our investigation on impulsive manipulation has progressed from computational modeling of simultaneous impacts with compliance to planning the pre-impact motion of a robotic manipulator in order to purposefully alter the trajectory of a moving object. A collision event with multiple impacts can be modeled as transitions among discrete states. Each state describes a different topology of the collision and evolves under the control of a separate system of ordinary differential equations in terms of impulses subject to energy-based restitution, Coulomb friction, and compliance. The talk will end with our undergoing work on impact planning for a robotic arm to bat flying objects to a target location.


Yan-Bin Jia is a Professor of Computer Science at Iowa State University. His research interests in robotics include impact and impulsive manipulation, grasping of rigid and deformable objects, path planning, and tactile shape sensing. Dr. Jia received the US National Science Foundation (NSF) CAREER Award in 2002. A regular panelist of the NSF, he has also served as an associate editor of the IEEE Transactions on Automation Science and Engineering (2008-2011), a co-editor of a Special Issue of the International Journal of Robotics Research (IJRR, 2000), and a member of the Conference Editorial Board of the IEEE Robotics and Automation Society (2006-2008, 2014). His papers, to most of which he has been the sole or primary contributor, have included the best paper or student paper award finalists of IEEE International Conferences on Robotics (1996, 1998) and IEEE Transactions on Robotics (2010), as well as 220 pages published in IJRR.

In 2006-2007, Dr. Jia was visiting associate professors in the Department of Computer Science at Stanford University, and The Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU). He received the B.S. degree in Computer Science from the University of Science and Technology of China in 1988, and the M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Robotics from CMU in 1993 and 1997, respectively.