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This paper presents a unique real-time obstacle avoidance approach for manipulators and mobile robots based on the "artificial potential field" concept. In this approach, collision avoidance, traditionally considered a high level planning problem, can be effectively distributed between different levels of control, allowing real-time robot operations in a complex environment. We have applied this obstacle avoidance scheme to robot arm using a new approach to the general problem of real-time manipulator control. We reformulated the manipulator control problem as direct control of manipulator motion in operational space-the space in which the task is originally described-rather than as control of the task's corresponding joint space motion obtained only after geometric and kinematic transformation. This method has been implemented in the COSMOS system for a PUMA 560 robot. Using visual sensing, real-time collision avoidance demonstrations on moving obstacles have been performed.