Tag Archives: force control

ABR Jaco repo public release!


We’ve been working with Kinova’s Jaco^2 arm with joint torque sensors for the last year or so as part of our research at Applied Brain Research, and we put together a fun adaptive control demo and got to show it to Justin Trudeau. As you might have guessed based on previous posts, the robotic control used force control. Force control is available on the Jaco^2, but the API that comes with the arm has much too slow an update time for practical use for our application (around 100Hz, if I recall correctly).

So part of the work I did with Pawel Jaworski over the last year was to write an interface for force control to the Jaco^2 arm that had a faster control loop. Using Kinova’s low level API, we managed to get things going at about 250Hz, which was sufficient for our purposes. In the hopes of saving other people the trouble of having to redo all this work to begin to be able to play around with force control on the Kinova, we’ve made the repo public and free for non-commercial use. It’s by no means fully optimized, but it is well tested and hopefully will be found useful!

The interface was designed to plug into our ABR Control repo, so you’ll also need that installed to get things working. Once both repos are installed, you can either use the controllers in the ABR Control repo or your own. The interface has a few options, which are shown in the following demo script:

import abr_jaco2
from abr_control.controllers import OSC

robot_config = abr_jaco2.Config()
interface = abr_jaco2.Interface(robot_config)
ctrlr = OSC(robot_config)
# instantiate things to avoid creating 200ms delay in main loop
zeros = np.zeros(robot_config.N_LINKS)
ctrlr.generate(q=zeros, dq=zeros, target=zeros(3))
# run once outside main loop as well, returns the cartesian
# coordinates of the end effector
robot_config.Tx('EE', q=zeros)


target_xyz = [.57, .03 .87]  # (x, y, z) target (metres)

while 1:
    # returns a dictionary with q, dq
    feedback = interface.get_feedback() 
    # ee position
    xyz = robot_config.Tx('EE', q=q, target_pos = target_xyz)
    u = ctrlr.generate(feedback['q'], feedback['dq'], target_xyz)
    interface.send_forces(u, dtype='float32')

    error = np.sqrt(np.sum((xyz - TARGET_XYZ[ii])**2))

    if error < 0.02:

# switch back to position mode to move home and disconnect

You can see you have the option for position control, but you can also initiate torque control mode and then start sending forces to the arm motors. To get a full feeling of what is available, we’ve got a bunch of example scripts that show off more of the functionality.

Here are some gifs feature Pawel showing the arm operating under force control. The first just shows compliance of normal operational space control (on the left) and an adaptation example (on the right). In both cases here the arm is moving to and trying to maintain a target location, and Pawel is pushing it away.

You can see that in the adaptive example the arm starts to compensate for the push, and then when Pawel lets go of the arm it overshoots the target because it’s compensating for a force that no longer exists.

So it’s our hope that this will be a useful tool for those with a Kinova Jaco^2 arm with torque sensors exploring force control. If you end up using the library and come across places for improvement (there are many), contributions are very appreciated!

Also a big shout out to the Kinova support team that provided many hours of support during development! It’s an unusual use of the arm, and their engineers and support staff were great in getting back to us quickly and with useful advice and insights.

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Robot control part 4: Operation space control

In this post we’ll look at operational space control and how to derive the control equations. I’d like to mention again that these posts have all come about as a result of me reading and working through Samir Menon’s operational space control tutorial, where he works through an implementation example on a revolute-prismatic-prismatic robot arm.

Generalized coordinates vs operational space

The term generalized coordinates refers to a characterization of the system that uniquely defines its configuration. For example, if our robot has 7 degrees of freedom, then there are 7 state variables, such that when all these variables are given we can fully account for the position of the robot. In the previous posts of this series we’ve been describing robotic arms in joint space, and for these systems joint space is an example of generalized coordinates. This means that if we know the angles of all of the joints, we can draw out exactly what position that robot is in. An example of a coordinate system that does not uniquely define the configuration of a robotic arm would be one that describes only the x position of the end-effector.

So generalized coordinates tell us everything we need to know about where the robot is, that’s great. The problem with generalized coordinates, though, is that planning trajectories in this space for tasks that we’re interested in performing tends not to be straight forward. For example, if we have a robotic arm, and we want to control the position of the end-effector, it’s not obvious how to control the position of the end-effector by specifying a trajectory for each of the arm’s joints to follow through joint space.

The idea behind operational space control is to abstract away from the generalized coordinates of the system and plan a trajectory in a coordinate system that is directly relevant to the task that we wish to perform. Going back to the common end-effector position control situation, we would like to operate our arm in 3D (x,y,z) Cartesian space. In this space, it’s obvious what trajectory to follow to move the end-effector between two positions (most of the time it will just be a straight line in each dimension). So our goal is to build a control system that lets us specify a trajectory in our task space and will transform this signal into generalized coordinates that it can then send out to the system for execution.

Operational space control of simple robot arm

Alright, we’re going to work through an example. The generalized coordinates for this example is going to be joint space, and the operational space is going to be the end-effector Cartesian coordinates relative to the a reference frame attached to the base. Recycling the robot from the second post in this series, here’s the set up we’ll be working with:

RR robot arm

Once again, we’re going to need to find the Jacobians for the end-effector of the robot. Fortunately, we’ve already done this:

\textbf{J} = \left[ \begin{array}{cc} -L_0 sin(\theta_0) - L_1 sin(\theta_0 + \theta_1) & - L_1 sin(\theta_0 + \theta_1) \\ L_0 cos(\theta_0) + L_1 cos(\theta_0 + \theta_1) & L_1 cos(\theta_0 + \theta_1) \\ 0 & 0 \\ 0 & 0 \\ 0 & 0 \\ 1 & 1 \end{array} \right]

Great! So now that we have \textbf{J}, we can go ahead and transform forces from end-effector (hand) space to joint space as we discussed in the second post:

\textbf{u} = \textbf{J}_{ee}^T(\textbf{q}) \; \textbf{F}_{\textbf{x}}.

Rewriting \textbf{F}_\textbf{x} as its component parts

\textbf{F}_{\textbf{x}} = \textbf{M}_{\textbf{x}_{ee}}(\textbf{q}) \; \ddot{\textbf{x}}_\textrm{des},

where \ddot{\textbf{x}} is end-effector acceleration, and \textbf{M}_{\textbf{x}_{ee}(\textbf{q})} is the inertia matrix in operational space. Unfortunately, this isn’t just the normal inertia matrix, so let’s take a look here at how to go about deriving it.

Inertia in operational space

Being able to calculate \textbf{M}(\textbf{q}) allows inertia to be cancelled out in joint-space by incorporating it into the control signal, but to cancel out the inertia of the system in operational space more work is still required. The first step will be calculating the acceleration in operational space. This can be found by taking the time derivative of our original Jacobian equation.

\frac{d}{d t}\dot{\textbf{x}} = \frac{d}{d t} (\textbf{J}_{ee}(\textbf{q}) \; \dot{\textbf{q}}),

\ddot{\textbf{x}} = \dot{\textbf{J}}_{ee}(\textbf{q}) \; \dot{\textbf{q}} + \textbf{J}_{ee} (\textbf{q})\; \ddot{\textbf{q}}.

Substituting in the dynamics of the system, as defined in the previous post, but ignoring the effects of gravity for now, gives:

\ddot{\textbf{x}} = \dot{\textbf{J}}_{ee}(\textbf{q}) \; \dot{\textbf{q}} + \textbf{J}_{ee} (\textbf{q})\; \textbf{M}^{-1}(\textbf{q}) [ \textbf{u} - \textbf{C}(\textbf{q}, \dot{\textbf{q}})].

Define the control signal

\textbf{u} = \textbf{J}_{ee}^T(\textbf{q}) \textbf{F}_\textbf{x},

where substituting in for \textbf{F}_\textbf{x}, the desired end-effector force, gives

\textbf{u} = \textbf{J}_{ee}^T(\textbf{q})\; \textbf{M}_{\textbf{x}_{ee}}(\textbf{q})\; \ddot{\textbf{x}}_\textrm{des},

where \ddot{\textbf{x}}_\textrm{des} denotes the desired end-effector acceleration. Substituting the above equation into our equation for acceleration in operational space gives

\ddot{\textbf{x}} = \dot{\textbf{J}}_{ee}(\textbf{q}) \; \dot{\textbf{q}} + \textbf{J}_{ee} (\textbf{q})\; \textbf{M}^{-1}(\textbf{q}) [ \textbf{J}_{ee}^T(\textbf{q})\; \textbf{M}_{\textbf{x}_{ee}}(\textbf{q})\; \ddot{\textbf{x}}_\textrm{des} - \textbf{C}(\textbf{q}, \dot{\textbf{q}})].

Rearranging terms leads to

\ddot{\textbf{x}} = \textbf{J}_{ee}(\textbf{q})\; \textbf{M}^{-1}(\textbf{q}) \; \textbf{J}_{ee}^T(\textbf{q})\; \textbf{M}_{\textbf{x}_{ee}}(\textbf{q})\; \ddot{\textbf{x}}_\textrm{des} + [\dot{\textbf{J}}_{ee}(\textbf{q}) \; \dot{\textbf{q}} - \textbf{J}_{ee}(\textbf{q})\textbf{M}^{-1}(\textbf{q}) \; \textbf{C}(\textbf{q}, \dot{\textbf{q}})],

the last term is ignored due to the complexity of modeling it, resulting in

\ddot{\textbf{x}} = \textbf{J}_{ee}(\textbf{q})\; \textbf{M}^{-1}(\textbf{q}) \textbf{J}_{ee}^T(\textbf{q})\; \textbf{M}_{\textbf{x}_{ee}}(\textbf{q})\; \ddot{\textbf{x}}_\textrm{des}.

At this point, to get the dynamics \ddot{\textbf{x}} to be equal to the desired acceleration \ddot{\textbf{x}}_\textrm{des}, the end-effector inertia matrix \textbf{M}_{\textbf{x}_{ee}} needs to be chosen carefully. By setting

\textbf{M}_{\textbf{x}_{ee}}(\textbf{q}) = [\textbf{J}_{ee}(\textbf{q}) \; \textbf{M}^{-1}(\textbf{q}) \; \textbf{J}_{ee}^T(\textbf{q})]^{-1},

we now get

\ddot{\textbf{x}} = \textbf{J}_{ee}(\textbf{q})\; \textbf{M}^{-1}(\textbf{q}) \textbf{J}_{ee}^T(\textbf{q})\; [\textbf{J}_{ee}(\textbf{q}) \; \textbf{M}^{-1}(\textbf{q}) \; \textbf{J}_{ee}^T(\textbf{q})]^{-1} \; \ddot{\textbf{x}}_\textrm{des},

\ddot{\textbf{x}} = \ddot{\textbf{x}}_\textrm{des}.

And that’s why and how the inertia matrix in operational space is defined!

The whole signal

Going back to the control signal we were building, let’s now add in a term to cancel the effects of gravity in joint space. This gives

\textbf{u} = \textbf{J}_{ee}^T(\textbf{q}) \textbf{M}_{\textbf{x}_{ee}}(\textbf{q}) \ddot{\textbf{x}}_\textrm{des} + \textbf{g}(\textbf{q}),

where \textbf{g}(\textbf{q}) is the same as defined in the previous post. This controller converts desired end-effector acceleration into torque commands, and compensates for inertia and gravity.

Defining a basic PD controller in operational space

\ddot{\textbf{x}}_\textrm{des} = k_p (\textbf{x}_{\textrm{des}} - \textbf{x}) + k_v (\dot{\textbf{x}}_{\textrm{des}} - \dot{\textbf{x}}),

and the full equation for the operational space control signal in joint space is:

\textbf{u} = \textbf{J}_{ee}^T(\textbf{q}) \; \textbf{M}_{\textbf{x}_{ee}}(\textbf{q}) [k_p (\textbf{x}_{\textrm{des}} - \textbf{x}) + k_v (\dot{\textbf{x}}_{\textrm{des}} - \dot{\textbf{x}})] + \textbf{g}(\textbf{q}).

Hurray! That was relatively simple. The great thing about this, though, is that it’s the same process for any robot arm! So go out there and start building controllers! Find your robot’s mass matrix and gravity term in generalized coordinates, the Jacobian for the end effector, and you’re in business.


So, this feels a little anticlimactic without an actual simulation / implementation of operational space, but don’t worry! As avid readers (haha) will remember, a while back I worked out how to import some very realistic MapleSim arm simulations into Python for use with some Python controllers. This seems a perfect application opportunity, so that’s next! A good chance to work through writing the controllers for different arms and also a chance to play with controllers operating in null spaces and all the like.

Actual simulation implementations will also be a good chance to play with trying to incorporate those other force terms into the control equation, and get to see the results without worrying about breaking an actual robot. In actual robots a lot of the time you leave out anything where your model might be inaccurate because the last thing to do is falsely compensate for some forces and end up injecting energy into your system, making it unstable.

There’s still some more theory to work through though, so I’d like to do that before I get to implementing simulations. One more theory post, and then we’ll get back to code!

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Robot control part 2: Jacobians, velocity, and force

Jacobian matrices are a super useful tool, and heavily used throughout robotics and control theory. Basically, a Jacobian defines the dynamic relationship between two different representations of a system. For example, if we have a 2-link robotic arm, there are two obvious ways to describe its current position: 1) the end-effector position and orientation (which we will denote \textbf{x}), and 2) as the set of joint angles (which we will denote \textbf{q}). The Jacobian for this system relates how movement of the elements of \textbf{q} causes movement of the elements of \textbf{x}. You can think of a Jacobian as a transform matrix for velocity.

Formally, a Jacobian is a set of partial differential equations:

\textbf{J} = \frac{\partial \textbf{x}}{\partial \textbf{q}}.

With a bit of manipulation we can get a neat result:

\textbf{J} = \frac{\partial \textbf{x}}{\partial t} \; \frac{\partial t}{\partial \textbf{q}} \rightarrow \frac{\partial \textbf{x}}{\partial \textbf{t}} = \textbf{J} \frac{\partial \textbf{q}}{\partial t},


\dot{\textbf{x}} = \textbf{J} \; \dot{\textbf{q}},

where \dot{\textbf{x}} and \dot{\textbf{q}} represent the time derivatives of \textbf{x} and \textbf{q}. This tells us that the end-effector velocity is equal to the Jacobian, \textbf{J}, multiplied by the joint angle velocity.

Why is this important? Well, this goes back to our desire to control in operational (or task) space. We’re interested in planning a trajectory in a different space than the one that we can control directly. Iin our robot arm, control is effected through a set of motors that apply torque to the joint angles, BUT what we’d like is to plan our trajectory in terms of end-effector position (and possibly orientation), generating control signals in terms of forces to apply in (x,y,z) space. Jacobians allow us a direct way to calculate what the control signal is in the space that we control (torques), given a control signal in one we don’t (end-effector forces). The above equivalence is a first step along the path to operational space control. As just mentioned, though, what we’re really interested in isn’t relating velocities, but forces. How can we do this?

Energy equivalence and Jacobians
Conservation of energy is a property of all physical systems where the amount of energy expended is the same no matter how the system in question is being represented. The planar two-link robot arm shown below will be used for illustration.

RR robot arm

Let the joint angle positions be denoted \textbf{q} = [q_0, q_1]^T, and end-effector position be denoted \textbf{x} = [x, y, 0]^T.

Work is the application of force over a distance

\textbf{W} = \int \textbf{F}^T \textbf{v} \; dt,

where \textbf{W} is work, \textbf{F} is force, and \textbf{v} is velocity.

Power is the rate at which work is performed

\textbf{P} = \frac{\textbf{W}}{t},

where \textbf{P} is power.
Substituting in the equation for work into the equation for power gives:

\textbf{P} = \frac{\textbf{W}}{t} = \frac{\textbf{F}^T \textbf{d}}{t} = \textbf{F}^T \frac{\textbf{d}}{t} = \textbf{F}^T\textbf{v}.

Because of energy equivalence, work is performed at the same rate regardless of the characterization of the system. Rewriting this terms of end-effector space gives:

\textbf{P} = \textbf{F}_\textbf{x}^T \dot{\textbf{x}},

where \textbf{F}_\textbf{x} is the force applied to the hand, and \dot{\textbf{x}} is the velocity of the hand. Rewriting the above in terms of joint-space gives:

\textbf{P} = \textbf{F}_\textbf{q}^T \dot{\textbf{q}},

where \textbf{F}_\textbf{q} is the torque applied to the joints, and \dot{\textbf{q}} is the angular velocity of the joints. Setting these two equations (in end-effector and joint space) equal to each other and substituting in our equation for the Jacobian gives:

\textbf{F}_{q_{hand}}^T \dot{\textbf{q}} = \textbf{F}_\textbf{x}^T \dot{\textbf{x}},

\textbf{F}_{q_{hand}}^T \dot{\textbf{q}} = \textbf{F}_\textbf{x}^T \textbf{J}_{ee}(\textbf{q}) \; \dot{\textbf{q}},

\textbf{F}_{q_{hand}}^T \textbf{F}_\textbf{x}^T \textbf{J}_{ee}(\textbf{q}),

\textbf{F}_{q_{hand}} = \textbf{J}_{ee}^T(\textbf{q}) \textbf{F}_\textbf{x}.

where \textbf{J}_{ee}(\textbf{q}) is the Jacobian for the end-effector of the robot, and \textbf{F}_{q_{hand}} represents the forces in joint-space that affect movement of the hand. This says that not only does the Jacobian relate velocity from one state-space representation to another, it can also be used to calculate what the forces in joint space should be to effect a desired set of forces in end-effector space.

Building the Jacobian

First, we need to define the relationship between the (x,y,z) position of the end-effector and the robot’s joint angles, (q_0, q_1). However will we do it? Well, we know the distances from the shoulder to the elbow, and elbow to the wrist, as well as the joint angles, and we’re interested in finding out where the end-effector is relative to a base coordinate frame…OH MAYBE we should use those forward transformation matrices from the previous post. Let’s do it!

The forward transformation matrix

Recall that transformation matrices allow a given point to be transformed between different reference frames. In this case, the position of the end-effector relative to the second joint of the robot arm is known, but where it is relative to the base reference frame (the first joint reference frame in this case) is of interest. This means that only one transformation matrix is needed, transforming from the reference frame attached to the second joint back to the base.

The rotation part of this matrix is straight-forward to define, as in the previous section:

^1_0\textbf{R} = \left[ \begin{array}{ccc} cos(q_0) & -sin(q_0) & 0 \\ sin(q_0) & cos(q_0) & 0 \\ 0 & 0 & 1 \end{array} \right].

The translation part of the transformation matrices is a little different than before because reference frame 1 changes as a function of the angle of the previous joint’s angles. From trigonometry, given a vector of length r and an angle q the x position of the end point is defined r \; cos(q), and the y position is r \; sin(q). The arm is operating in the (x,y) plane, so the z position will always be 0.

Using this knowledge, the translation part of the transformation matrix is defined:

^1_0\textbf{D} = \left[ \begin{array}{c} L_0 cos(q_0) \\ L_0 sin(q_0) \\ 0 \end{array} \right].

Giving the forward transformation matrix:

^1_0\textbf{T} = \left[ \begin{array}{cc} ^1_0\textbf{R} & ^1_0\textbf{D} \\ \textbf{0} & \textbf{1} \end{array} \right] = \left[ \begin{array}{cccc} cos(q_0) & -sin(q_0) & 0 & L_0 cos(q_0) \\ sin(q_0) & cos(q_0) & 0 & L_0 sin(q_0)\\ 0 & 0 & 1 & 0 \\ 0 & 0 & 0 & 1 \end{array} \right],

which transforms a point from reference frame 1 (elbow joint) to reference frame 0 (shoulder joint / base).

The point of interest is the end-effector which is defined in reference frame 1 as a function of joint angle, q_1 and the length of second arm segment, L_1:

\textbf{x} = \left[ \begin{array}{c} L_1 cos(q_1) \\ L_1 sin(q_1) \\ 0 \\ 1 \end{array} \right].

To find the position of our end-effector in terms of the origin reference frame multiply the point \textbf{x} by the transformation ^1_0\textbf{T}:

^1_0\textbf{T} \; \textbf{x} = \left[ \begin{array}{cccc} cos(q_0) & -sin(q_0) & 0 & L_0 cos(q_0) \\ sin(q_0) & cos(q_0) & 0 & L_0 sin(q_0)\\ 0 & 0 & 1 & 0 \\ 0 & 0 & 0 & 1 \end{array} \right] \; \left[ \begin{array}{c} L_1 cos(q_1) \\ L_1 sin(q_1) \\ 0 \\ 1 \end{array} \right],

^1_0\textbf{T} \textbf{x} = \left[ \begin{array}{c} L_1 cos(q_0) cos(q_1) - L_1 sin(q_0) sin(q_1) + L_0 cos(q_0) \\ L_1 sin(q_0) cos(q_1) + L_1 cos(q_0) sin(q_1) + L_0 sin(q_0) \\ 0 \\ 1 \end{array} \right]

where, by pulling out the L_1 term and using the trig identities

cos(\alpha)cos(\beta) - sin(\alpha)sin(\beta) = cos(\alpha + \beta),


sin(\alpha)cos(\beta) + cos(\alpha)sin(\beta) = sin(\alpha + \beta),

the position of our end-effector can be rewritten:

\left[ \begin{array}{c} L_0 cos(q_0) + L_1 cos(q_0 + q_1) \\ L_0 sin(q_0) + L_1 sin(q_0 + q_1) \\ 0 \end{array} \right],

which is the position of the end-effector in terms of joint angles. As mentioned above, however, both the position of the end-effector and its orientation are needed; the rotation of the end-effector relative to the base frame must also be defined.

Accounting for orientation

Fortunately, defining orientation is simple, especially for systems with only revolute and prismatic joints (spherical joints will not be considered here). With prismatic joints, which are linear and move in a single plane, the rotation introduced is 0. With revolute joints, the rotation of the end-effector in each axis is simply a sum of rotations of each joint in their respective axes of rotation.

In the example case, the joints are rotating around the z axis, so the rotation part of our end-effector state is

\left[ \begin{array}{c} \omega_x \\ \omega_y \\ \omega_z \end{array} \right] = \left[ \begin{array}{c} 0 \\ 0 \\ q_0 + q_1 \end{array} \right],

where \omega denotes angular rotation. If the first joint had been rotating in a different plane, e.g. in the (x, z) plane around the y axis instead, then the orientation would be

\left[ \begin{array}{c} \omega_x \\ \omega_y \\ \omega_z \end{array} \right] = \left[ \begin{array}{c} 0 \\ q_0 \\ q_1 \end{array} \right].

Partial differentiation

Once the position and orientation of the end-effector have been calculated, the partial derivative of these equations need to be calculated with respect to the elements of \textbf{q}. For simplicity, the Jacobian will be broken up into two parts, J_v and J_\omega, representing the linear and angular velocity, respectively, of the end-effector.

The linear velocity part of our Jacobian is:

\textbf{J}_v(\textbf{q}) = \left[ \begin{array}{cc} \frac{\partial x}{\partial q_0} & \frac{\partial x}{\partial q_1} \\ \frac{\partial y}{\partial q_0} & \frac{\partial y}{\partial q_1} \\ \frac{\partial z}{\partial q_0} & \frac{\partial z}{\partial q_1} \end{array} \right] = \left[ \begin{array}{cc} -L_0 sin(q_0) - L_1 sin(q_0 + q_1) & - L_1 sin(q_0 + q_1) \\ L_0 cos(q_0) + L_1 cos(q_0 + q_1) & L_1 cos(q_0 + q_1) \\ 0 & 0 \end{array} \right].

The angular velocity part of our Jacobian is:

\textbf{J}_\omega(\textbf{q}) = \left[ \begin{array}{cc} \frac{\partial \omega_x}{\partial q_0} & \frac{\partial \omega_x}{\partial q_1} \\ \frac{\partial \omega_y}{\partial q_0} & \frac{\partial \omega_y}{\partial q_1} \\ \frac{\partial \omega_z}{\partial q_0} & \frac{\partial \omega_z}{\partial q_1} \end{array} \right] = \left[ \begin{array}{cc} 0 & 0 \\ 0 & 0 \\ 1 & 1 \end{array} \right].

The full Jacobian for the end-effector is then:

\textbf{J}_{ee}(\textbf{q}) = \left[ \begin{array}{c} \textbf{J}_v(\textbf{q}) \\ \textbf{J}_\omega(\textbf{q}) \end{array} \right] = \left[ \begin{array}{cc} -L_0 sin(q_0) - L_1 sin(q_0 + q_1) & - L_1 sin(q_0 + q_1) \\ L_0 cos(q_0) + L_1 cos(q_0 + q_1) & L_1 cos(q_0 + q_1) \\ 0 & 0 \\ 0 & 0 \\ 0 & 0 \\ 1 & 1 \end{array} \right].

Analyzing the Jacobian

Once the Jacobian is built, it can be analysed for insight about the relationship between \dot{\textbf{x}} and \dot{\textbf{q}}.

For example, there is a large block of zeros in the middle of the Jacobian defined above, along the row corresponding to linear velocity along the z axis, and the rows corresponding to the angular velocity around the x and y axes. This means that the z position, and rotations \omega_x and \omega_y are not controllable. This can be seen by going back to the first Jacobian equation:

\dot{\textbf{x}} = \textbf{J}_{ee}(\textbf{q})\;\dot{\textbf{q}}.

No matter what the values of \dot{\textbf{q}}, it is impossible to affect \omega_x, \omega_y, or z, because the corresponding rows during the above multiplication with the Jacobian are \textbf{0}. These rows of zeros in the Jacobian are referred to as its `null space’. Because these variables can’t be controlled, they will be dropped from both \textbf{F}_\textbf{x} and \textbf{J}(\textbf{q}).

Looking at the variables that can be affected it can be seen that given any two of x, y, \omega_z the third can be calculated because the robot only has 2 degrees of freedom (the shoulder and elbow). This means that only two of the end-effector variables can actually be controlled. In the situation of controlling a robot arm, it is most useful to control the (x,y) coordinates, so \omega_z will be dropped from the force vector and Jacobian.

After removing the redundant term, the force vector representing the controllable end-effector forces is

\textbf{F}_\textbf{x} = \left[ \begin{array}{c}f_x \\ f_y\end{array} \right],

where f_x is force along the x axis, f_y is force along the y axis, and the Jacobian is written

\textbf{J}_{ee}(\textbf{q}) = \left[ \begin{array}{cc} -L_0 sin(q_0) - L_1 sin(q_0 + q_1) & - L_1 sin(q_0 + q_1) \\ L_0 cos(q_0) + L_1 cos(q_0 + q_1) & L_1 cos(q_0 + q_1) \end{array} \right].

If instead f_{\omega_z}, i.e. torque around the z axis, were chosen as a controlled force then the force vector and Jacobian would be (assuming force along the x axis was also chosen):

\textbf{F}_\textbf{x} = \left[ \begin{array}{c} f_x \\ f_{\omega_z}\end{array} \right],
\textbf{J}_{ee}(\textbf{q}) = \left[ \begin{array}{cc} -L_0 sin(q_0) - L_1 sin(q_0 + q_1) & - L_1 sin(q_0 + q_1) \\ 1 & 1 \end{array} \right].

But we’ll stick with control of the x and y forces instead, as it’s a little more straightforward.

Using the Jacobian

With our Jacobian, we can find out what different joint angle velocities will cause in terms of the end-effector linear and angular velocities, and we can also transform desired (x,y) forces into (\theta_0, \theta_1) torques. Let’s do a couple of examples. Note that in the former case we’ll be using the full Jacobian, while in the latter case we can use the simplified Jacobian specified just above.

Example 1

Given known joint angle velocities with arm configuration

\textbf{q} = \left[ \begin{array}{c} \frac{\pi}{4} \\ \frac{3 \pi}{8} \end{array}\right] \;\;\;\; \dot{\textbf{q}} = \left[ \begin{array}{c} \frac{\pi}{10} \\ \frac{\pi}{10} \end{array} \right]

and arm segment lengths L_i = 1, the (x,y) velocities of the end-effector can be calculated by substituting in the system state at the current time into the equation for the Jacobian:

\dot{\textbf{x}} = \textbf{J}_{ee}(\textbf{q}) \; \dot{\textbf{q}},

\dot{\textbf{x}} = \left[ \begin{array}{cc} - sin(\frac{\pi}{4}) - sin(\frac{\pi}{4} + \frac{3\pi}{8}) & - sin(\frac{\pi}{4} + \frac{3\pi}{8}) \\ cos(\frac{\pi}{4}) + cos(\frac{\pi}{4} + \frac{3\pi}{8}) & cos(\frac{\pi}{4} + \frac{3\pi}{8}) \\ 0 & 0 \\ 0 & 0 \\ 0 & 0 \\ 1 & 1 \end{array} \right] \; \left[ \begin{array}{c} \frac{\pi}{10} \\ \frac{\pi}{10} \end{array} \right],

\dot{\textbf{x}} = \left[ -0.8026, -0.01830, 0, 0, 0, \frac{\pi}{5} \right]^T.

And so the end-effector is linear velocity is (-0.8026, -0.01830, 0)^T, with angular velocity is (0, 0, \frac{\pi}{5})^T.

Example 2

Given the same system and configuration as in the previous example as well as a trajectory planned in (x,y) space, the goal is to calculate the torques required to get the end-effector to move as desired. The controlled variables will be forces along the x and y axes, and so the reduced Jacobian from the previous section will be used. Let the desired (x,y) forces be

\textbf{F}_\textbf{x} = \left[ \begin{array}{c} 1 \\ 1 \end{array}\right],

to calculate the corresponding joint torques the desired end-effector forces and current system state parameters are substituted into the equation relating forces in in end-effector and joint space:

\textbf{F}_\textbf{q} = \textbf{J}^T_{ee}(\textbf{q}) \textbf{F}_\textbf{x},

\textbf{F}_\textbf{q} = \left[ \begin{array}{cc} -sin(\frac{\pi}{4}) -sin(\frac{\pi}{4} + \frac{3\pi}{8}) & cos(\frac{\pi}{4}) + cos(\frac{\pi}{4} + \frac{3\pi}{8}) \\ -sin(\frac{\pi}{4} + \frac{3\pi}{8}) & cos(\frac{\pi}{4} + \frac{3\pi}{8}) \end{array} \right] \left[ \begin{array}{c} 1 \\ 1 \end{array} \right],

\textbf{F}_\textbf{q} = \left[ \begin{array}{c} -1.3066 \\ -1.3066 \end{array}\right].

So given the current configuration to get the end-effector to move as desired, without accounting for the effects of inertia and gravity, the torques to apply to the system are \textbf{F}_\textbf{q} = [-1.3066, -1.3066]^T.

And now we are able to transform end-effector forces into torques, and joint angle velocities into end-effector velocities! What a wonderful, wonderful tool to have at our disposal! Hurrah for Jacobians!


In this post I’ve gone through how to use Jacobians to relate the movement of joint angle and end-effector system state characterizations, but Jacobians can be used to relate any two characterizations. All you need to do is define one in terms of the other and do some partial differentiation. The above example scenarios were of course very simple, and didn’t worry about compensating for anything like gravity. But don’t worry, that’s exactly what we’re going to look at in our exciting next chapter!

Something that I found interesting to consider is the need for the orientation of the end-effector and finding the angular velocities. Often in simpler robot arms, we’re only interested in the position of the end-effector, so it’s easy to write off orientation. But if we had a situation where there was a gripper attached to the end-effector, then suddenly the orientation becomes very important, often determining whether or not an object can be picked up or not.

And finally, if you’re interested in reading more about all this, I recommend checking out ‘Velocity kinematics – The manipulator Jacobian’ available online, it’s a great resource.

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