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  1. 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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  4. The process of modeling a series of hand-object parameters is crucial for precise and controllable robotic in-hand manipulation because it enables the mapping from the hand’s actuation input to the object’s motion to be obtained. Without assuming that most of these model parameters are known a priori or can be easily estimated by sensors, we focus on equipping robots with the ability to actively self-identify necessary model parameters using minimal sensing. Here, we derive algorithms, on the basis of the concept of virtual linkage-based representations (VLRs), to self-identify the underlying mechanics of hand-object systems via exploratory manipulation actions and probabilistic reasoning and, in turn, show that the self-identified VLR can enable the control of precise in-hand manipulation. To validate our framework, we instantiated the proposed system on a Yale Model O hand without joint encoders or tactile sensors. The passive adaptability of the underactuated hand greatly facilitates the self-identification process, because they naturally secure stable hand-object interactions during random exploration. Relying solely on an in-hand camera, our system can effectively self-identify the VLRs, even when some fingers are replaced with novel designs. In addition, we show in-hand manipulation applications of handwriting, marble maze playing, and cup stacking to demonstrate the effectiveness of the VLR in precise in-hand manipulation control.

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  5. Humans use all surfaces of the hand for contact-rich manipulation. Robot hands, in contrast, typically use only the fingertips, which can limit dexterity. In this work, we leveraged a potential energy–based whole-hand manipulation model, which does not depend on contact wrench modeling like traditional approaches, to design a robotic manipulator. Inspired by robotic caging grasps and the high levels of dexterity observed in human manipulation, a metric was developed and used in conjunction with the manipulation model to design a two-fingered dexterous hand, the Model W. This was accomplished by simulating all planar finger topologies composed of open kinematic chains of up to three serial revolute and prismatic joints, forming symmetric two-fingered hands, and evaluating their performance according to the metric. We present the best design, an unconventional robot hand capable of performing continuous object reorientation, as well as repeatedly alternating between power and pinch grasps—two contact-rich skills that have often eluded robotic hands—and we experimentally characterize the hand’s manipulation capability. This hand realizes manipulation motions reminiscent of thumb–index finger manipulative movement in humans, and its topology provides the foundation for a general-purpose dexterous robot hand.

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