Soft robots are inherently safer than traditional robots due to their compliance and high power density ratio resulting in lower accidental impact forces. Thus they are a natural option for human-robot interaction. This thesis specifically looked at human-robot co-manipulation which is defined as a human and a robot working together to move an object too large or awkward to be safely maneuvered by a single agent. To better understand how humans communicate while co-manipulating an object, this work looked at haptic interaction of human-human dyadic co-manipulation trials and studied some of the trends found in that interaction. These trends point to ways robots can effectively work with human partners in the future. Before successful human-robot co-manipulation with large-scale soft robots can be achieved, low-level joint angle control is needed. Low-level model predictive control of soft robot joints requires a sufficiently accurate model of the system. This thesis introduces a recursive Newton-Euler method for deriving the dynamics that is sufficiently accurate and accounts for flexible joints in an intuitive way. This model has been shown to be accurate to a median absolute error of 3.15 degrees for a three-link three-joint six degree of freedom soft robot arm. Once a sufficiently accurate model was developed, a gain-based evolutionary model predictive control (MPC) technique was formulated based on a previous evolutionary MPC technique. This new method is referred to as model evolutionary gain-based predictive control or MEGa-PC. This control law is compared to nonlinear evolutionary model predictive control (NEMPC). The new technique allows intentionally decreasing the control frequency to 10 Hz while maintaining control of the system. This is proven to help MPC solve more difficult problems by having the ability to extend the control horizon. This new controller is also demonstrated to work well on a three-joint three-link soft robot arm. Although complete physical human-robot co-manipulation is outside the scope of this thesis, this thesis covers three main building blocks for physical human and soft robot co-manipulation: human-human haptic communication, soft robot modeling, and model evolutionary gain-based predictive control.



College and Department

Mechanical Engineering



Date Submitted


Document Type





model predictive control, physical human-robot interaction, multi-agent control, soft robot modeling



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Engineering Commons