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  1. Tensegrity robots, composed of rigid rods and flexible cables, exhibit high strength-to-weight ratios and significant deformations, which enable them to navigate unstructured terrains and survive harsh impacts. They are hard to control, however, due to high dimensionality, complex dynamics, and a coupled architecture. Physics-based simulation is a promising avenue for developing locomotion policies that can be transferred to real robots. Nevertheless, modeling tensegrity robots is a complex task due to a substantial sim2real gap. To address this issue, this paper describes a Real2Sim2Real (R2S2R) strategy for tensegrity robots. This strategy is based on a differentiable physics engine that can be trained given limited data from a real robot. These data include offline measurements of physical properties, such as mass and geometry for various robot components, and the observation of a trajectory using a random control policy. With the data from the real robot, the engine can be iteratively refined and used to discover locomotion policies that are directly transferable to the real robot. Beyond the R2S2R pipeline, key contributions of this work include computing non-zero gradients at contact points, a loss function for matching tensegrity locomotion gaits, and a trajectory segmentation technique that avoids conflicts in gradient evaluation during training. Multiple iterations of the R2S2R process are demonstrated and evaluated on a real 3-bar tensegrity robot. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available October 1, 2024
  2. This work proposes a robotic pipeline for picking and constrained placement of objects without geometric shape priors. Compared to recent efforts developed for similar tasks, where every object was assumed to be novel, the proposed system recognizes previously manipulated objects and performs online model reconstruction and reuse. Over a lifelong manipulation process, the system keeps learning features of objects it has interacted with and updates their reconstructed models. Whenever an instance of a previously manipulated object reappears, the system aims to first recognize it and then register its previously reconstructed model given the current observation. This step greatly reduces object shape uncertainty allowing the system to even reason for parts of objects, which are currently not observable. This also results in better manipulation efficiency as it reduces the need for active perception of the target object during manipulation. To get a reusable reconstructed model, the proposed pipeline adopts: i) TSDF for object representation, and ii) a variant of the standard particle filter algorithm for pose estimation and tracking of the partial object model. Furthermore, an effective way to construct and maintain a dataset of manipulated objects is presented. A sequence of real-world manipulation experiments is performed. They show how future manipulation tasks become more effective and efficient by reusing reconstructed models of previously manipulated objects, which were generated during their prior manipulation, instead of treating objects as novel every time. 
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