Controlling a Bipedal Humanoid Robot Using LabVIEW

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"Using NI hardware, the LabVIEW Real-Time Module, third-party add-ons, and learning resources and training materials from the NI website, our team developed a user-friendly graphical interface and the hardware platform within one semester, demonstrating the bipedal robot walking motion and achieving our objectives."

- Teck Chew Wee, Temasek Polytechnic, School of Engineering

The Challenge:
Generating and controlling a smooth walking gait for a bipedal humanoid robot using LabVIEW.

The Solution:
Combining LabVIEW graphical programming structure advantages and NI USB products to develop a user-friendly graphic interface that produces synchronized joint movement, reads sensory data feedback, processes information, and generates a smooth walking gait for a bipedal robot. The walking gaits are implemented on a midsize (1.6 m, 55 kg) bipedal robot.

Author(s):
Teck Chew Wee - Temasek Polytechnic, School of Engineering
Biao Kang - Temasek Polytechnic, School of Engineering
Sai Qu - Temasek Polytechnic, School of Engineering
Lu Zhang - Temasek Polytechnic, School of Engineering

Bipedal Humanoid Robot Gait Background

Bipedal humanoid robots were developed more than 30 years ago. A stable walking motion in a bipedal humanoid robot requires effective gait balancing and powerful posture-correction algorithms. But despite research efforts, it is still an extremely challenging task to develop and implement intelligent motion algorithms to control a bipedal robot, particularly with regards to adaptability, vigorousness, and stability.

Controlling a bipedal humanoid robot is challenging, due to its difficult-to-stabilize, constrained dynamic characteristics, especially with its walking gait trajectories. This project aims to:

  • Develop a user-friendly graphical interface to implement control algorithms to produce a stable static and dynamic walking posture
  • Design and build a teenager-sized bipedal humanoid robot for both educational learning and academic research


ROS and Control Software

Our initial approach used robot operating system (ROS), an open-source C++ base programming language. After a few weeks of testing and evaluation, we realized that the learning curve is steep for students without a solid programming foundation, and debugging the codes is also challenging. One of our objectives is to implement a user-friendly programming platform for educational learning. Furthermore, ROS is not a real-time OS, though it can integrate with real-time code.

Our team decided to use LabVIEW to develop the control software because it is user-friendly, so students can visualize and debug the code easily. Using NI hardware, the LabVIEW Real-Time Module, third-party add-ons, and learning resources and training materials from the NI website, our team developed a user-friendly graphical interface and the hardware platform within one semester, demonstrating the bipedal robot walking motion and achieving our objectives.

System Architecture

The overall architecture is depicted in Figure 1. We used a PXI-8101 as the main controller and NI LabVIEW to control the hardware interface. We programmed the wireless LAN using the LabVIEW Internet Toolkit. A USB-6210 captures force and torque sensor data. We evaluated and designed our motion simulations using n for SolidWorks to perform motion study. The NI SoftMotion Module helped create and configure the robot joints in the SolidWorks assembly, and we used SoftMotion function blocks to create the motion trajectories.  The LabVIEW MathScript RT Module executed codes made with The MathWorks, Inc. MATLAB® to generate gait trajectory, which simplified cross-platform software installation difficulties.

Hardware Architecture

The hardware architecture is depicted in Figure 2 . The main controller is a PXI-8101, and the motor drivers communicate through controller area network (CAN) bus using a USB-8473. The force and torque and other sensory data are connected to two USB-6210 devices to provide feedback to the controller unit.

Software Architecture

The software architecture is depicted in Figure 3. The submodules communicate through the CAN bus protocol. We developed the USBcam vision system module using NI Vision Acquisition Software and the LabVIEW Vision Development Module. We implemented data transmission between the base station and the bipedal robot using the NI Internet Toolkit, which efficiently reduced our development time.

LabVIEW as a Total Design Solution

LabVIEW provided a total design solution for our project, making it possible to perform motion simulation with SolidWorks and execute codes created with MATLAB. We successfully developed and implemented the software and hardware architecture on the bipedal robot in one semester; experiments show that the overall system works well. We significantly reduced development time using NI off-the-shelf products and third-party support libraries. With the LabVIEW graphical programming approach, students were able to develop and debug the program easily and quickly identify problems. Our robot was on display during the SRG 2014 Singapore Robotic Games.

For more information, view our video.

MATLAB®  is a registered trademark of The MathWorks, Inc.

Author Information:
Teck Chew Wee
Temasek Polytechnic, School of Engineering
21 Tampines Ave 1, Singapore
529757
Singapore
teckchew@tp.edu.sg

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