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  1. Robot manipulation in cluttered environments of-ten requires complex and sequential rearrangement of multiple objects in order to achieve the desired reconfiguration of the target objects. Due to the sophisticated physical interactions involved in such scenarios, rearrangement-based manipulation is still limited to a small range of tasks and is especially vulnerable to physical uncertainties and perception noise. This paper presents a planning framework that leverages the efficiency of sampling-based planning approaches, and closes the manipulation loop by dynamically controlling the planning horizon. Our approach interleaves planning and execution to progressively approach the manipulation goal while correcting any errors or path deviations along the process. Meanwhile, our framework allows the definition of manipulation goals without requiring explicit goal configurations, enabling the robot to flexibly interact with all objects to facilitate the manipulation of the target ones. With extensive experiments both in simulation and on a real robot, we evaluate our framework on three manipulation tasks in cluttered environments: grasping, relocating, and sorting. In comparison with two baseline approaches, we show that our framework can significantly improve planning efficiency, robustness against physical uncertainties, and task success rate under limited time budgets. 
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  2. Constraining contacts to remain fixed on an object during manipulation limits the potential workspace size, as motion is subject to the hand’s kinematic topology. Finger gaiting is one way to alleviate such restraints. It allows contacts to be freely broken and remade so as to operate on different manipulation manifolds. This capability, however, has traditionally been difficult or impossible to practically realize. A finger gaiting system must simultaneously plan for and control forces on the object while maintaining stability during contact switching. This letter alleviates the traditional requirement by taking advantage of system compliance, allowing the hand to more easily switch contacts while maintaining a stable grasp. Our method achieves complete SO(3) finger gaiting control of grasped objects against gravity by developing a manipulation planner that operates via orthogonal safe modes of a compliant, underactuated hand absent of tactile sensors or joint encoders. During manipulation, a low-latency 6D pose object tracker provides feedback via vision, allowing the planner to update its plan online so as to adaptively recover from trajectory deviations. The efficacy of this method is showcased by manipulating both convex and non-convex objects on a real robot. Its robustness is evaluated via perturbation rejection and long trajectory goals. To the best of the authors’ knowledge, this is the first work that has autonomously achieved full SO(3) control of objects within-hand via finger gaiting and without a support surface, elucidating a valuable step towards realizing true robot in-hand manipulation capabilities. 
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  3. We consider the problem of in-hand dexterous manipulation with a focus on unknown or uncertain hand–object parameters, such as hand configuration, object pose within hand, and contact positions. In particular, in this work we formulate a generic framework for hand–object configuration estimation using underactuated hands as an example. Owing to the passive reconfigurability and the lack of encoders in the hand’s joints, it is challenging to estimate, plan, and actively control underactuated manipulation. By modeling the grasp constraints, we present a particle filter-based framework to estimate the hand configuration. Specifically, given an arbitrary grasp, we start by sampling a set of hand configuration hypotheses and then randomly manipulate the object within the hand. While observing the object’s movements as evidence using an external camera, which is not necessarily calibrated with the hand frame, our estimator calculates the likelihood of each hypothesis to iteratively estimate the hand configuration. Once converged, the estimator is used to track the hand configuration in real time for future manipulations. Thereafter, we develop an algorithm to precisely plan and control the underactuated manipulation to move the grasped object to desired poses. In contrast to most other dexterous manipulation approaches, our framework does not require any tactile sensing or joint encoders, and can directly operate on any novel objects, without requiring a model of the object a priori. We implemented our framework on both the Yale Model O hand and the Yale T42 hand. The results show that the estimation is accurate for different objects, and that the framework can be easily adapted across different underactuated hand models. In the end, we evaluated our planning and control algorithm with handwriting tasks, and demonstrated the effectiveness of the proposed framework. 
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