Skip to Main Content
During exploration through tortuous unstructured passages by continuum robots, methods are required to minimize the force interaction between the environment and the robot along its length. This paper presents and evaluates an algorithm for compliant motion control of continuum robots subjected to multiple unknown contacts with the environment. A mapping of external wrenches to a generalized force in the configuration space of a multisegment continuum robot is presented and related to measured joint-level actuation forces. These measurements are applied as inputs to a low-level compliant motion controller. Friction and modeling uncertainties, presenting an unknown nonlinear deviation from the nominal system model, are corrected via a feed-forward estimate provided by a support vector machine. The controller is evaluated on Ø9 and Ø5 mm multisegment continuum robots. We quantify the minimal interaction forces needed to generate compliant motion and demonstrate the ability of the controller to minimize interaction forces during insertion through tortuous passages.