Balancing and Step Recovery Capturability via Sums-of-Squares Optimization

Authors: Michael Posa, Twan Koolen, Russ Tedrake

A fundamental requirement for legged robots is to maintain balance and prevent potentially damaging falls whenever possible. As a response to outside disturbances, fall prevention can be achieved by a combination of active balancing actions, e.g. through ankle torques and upper-body motion, and through reactive step placement. While it is widely accepted that stepping is required to respond to large disturbances, the limits of active motions on balancing and step recovery are only well understood for the simplest of walking models. Recent advances in convex optimization-based verification and control techniques enable a more complete understanding of the limits and capabilities of more complex models. In this work, we present an algorithmic approach for formal analysis of the viable-capture basins of walking robots, calculating both inner and outer approximations and corresponding push recovery control strategies. Extending beyond the classic Linear Inverted Pendulum Model (LIPM), we analyze a series of centroidal momentum based planar walking models, examining the effects of center of mass height, angular momentum, and impact dynamics during stepping on capturability. This formal analysis enables an explicit calculation of the differences between these models, and assessment of whether the simplest models ultimately sacrifice capability, and thus stability, when designing push recovery control policies.