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Proceedings of the 2000 IEEE

InternationalConference on Robotics & Automation

San Francisco, CA April 2000

An Overview of Dexterous Manipulation

Allison M . Okamura, Niels Smaby and Mark R.. Cutkosky
Dexterous Manipulation Laboratory
Stanford University
touch@cdr.stanford. edu

Abstract this approach are now adequate for manipulations of

objects in controlled environments.
This puper f o r the ICRA 2000 Symposium on Dex- Examples of autonomous, robotic dexterous manip-
terous Manipulation presents a n oueriiieui of research ulation are still confined to the research laboratory.
in. dexterous manipulataon. W e first define robotic However, the modcl-based approach has already pro-
dexterous manipulation in comparison t o traditional vided considerable insight int,o the natiire of dext,erous
robotics and h u m a n manipulation. Next, kinematics, manipulation, both in robots and in humans [46]. A
contact types and forces are used t o formulate the dex- much-abridged history of the development of dexter-
terous manipulation problem. Dexterous motion plan- ous manipulation is shown in Figure 1.
ning is described, which includes grasp planning and
quality measures. W e look at mid- and low-level con-
trol fmmeuiorks, and then compare manipulation uer- 2 Formulation of the Dexterous
sus exploration,. Finally, we list accomplishments in Manipulation Problem
the different areas of dexterous manipulation research,
and highlight important areas f o r future work. Thc first step in moving an object from uric config-
iiration to another using rohotic fingers is t o formu-
late the dexterous manipulation (DM) problem (Fig-
1 Introduction ure 2). This problem sets the framework for determin-
ing the required actuator forces/torques to produce
Dexterous Manipulation is an area of robotics in the desired motions of the object. In keeping with an
which rriultiple manipulators, or fingers, cooperate to object-centered approach, we work backwards from
grasp and manipulate objects. A distinguishing char- the object to the manipulators.
acteristic of dexterous manipulation is that it is object- This development requires knowing the georrietric
centered. That is, the problem is formulated in terms relationships of the dexteroils manipiilator-object, sys-
of the object to be manipulated, how it should behave, tem, including the contact locations, t,he object, fin-
and what forces should be exerted upon it. gertip and link geometries, and the finger kinematics.
Although humans are not the only creatures capa- The difficulties associated wit,h cont,rolling dexter-
ble of manipulation, it is quintessentially a human ac- ous hands stem largely from the complex kinematics
tivity. The large fraction of the human motor cortex of manipulation with rolling and sliding fingertips.
devoted to Inanipulation and the number and sensi- The dynamic equations are dominated by these terms,
tivity of mechanoreceptors in our palms and fingertips especially as velocities are modest, aiitl terms like
are indications of the importance of manipulation in coriolis accelerations can he ignored.
humans. It should come as no surprise then that the
majority of robot hands designed for dexterous ma- 2.1 Kinematics
nipulation are anthropomorphic. Research has also
been done to classify human grasping and manipula- 2.1.1 Jacobian Relationships
tion with an eye to providing a knowledge-based ap-
The first, s k p in developing DM kinematics is to cal-
proach to grasp choice for robots [6, 20, 26, 1.51.
culate the required fingertip forces from a desired
While this approach has had some succcss in crnu-
force/torque wrench on the object,. The basis for this
lat,ing human grasp choices for particular ohject,s and calculation is the grasp Jacobian relationship [32].
tasks, other researchers have argued that robot hands,
and the circumstances in which they work, are fun-
damentally different from the human condition. A
model-based approach, based on the kinematics and The grasp Jacobian (or grasp map), G, can be ob-
dynamics of manipulating an object with the finger- tained by resolving each fingertip force to a common
tips, has therefore dominated the field. The results of coordinate frame cmbcddcd in thc object.

0-7803-5886-4/00/$1O.OO@ 2000 IEEE 255

Myoelectric devices Belgrade Hand
(Univ of Utah) (Tomovic, Boni)
Robot with force Pressure Sensor developed
sensing (Ernst) for robot grasp (Tomovic, Boni)

Rcmotc Ccntcr of Design of a mul!iplc

Compliance (RCC) Device rehension manipulator.
(Draper Labs) fSkinner)
Robot Hand with elastic
fingers (Hanafusa & Asada)

Work on,/ine Computcr Control of multi-

manipulation hegins Joint tin er system for
precise &ject handling (Okada)
Direct drive robot Figure 2: A typical dexterous manipulation problem:
developed (Asada) Formalizing the Grasp Problem,
introduction of the Gras Moving an object from configuration A t o configura-
Salisbury/ Stanford/JPL Hand Jacobian (Mason&Salis&lry)
tion B.

Utah/MIT Hand Grasp Choice Algorithms Joint Contact Object

(Laugier & Pertin, Jameson)
cdencc Grasp Taxonomies Grasp/
!Hogan) Contact Kinematiis (Cutkosky)
ForceITorque JhT

Velocity Jh
Space U
Contact E uations Grasp/Contact Kinematics
(2ontana)l (Ken & Roth)

Early 1990s
Figure 3: The role of the hand and grasp Jacobians.
G p s g p l i t y Touch Sensors
Mcasurcs (Li ashy) (Allen, Howe, Maekawa ) For the fingers, r is the vector of joint torques and 9 is
the vector of joint velocities. For the contacts, f, is the
Late 1990s vector of contact forces and xc is the vector of contact
Phase Based Grasp Gaiting (Leveroni) point, velocities. For the object, the result,ant, force
Manipulation (Hyde)
Mani ulatiodExploration vector and the vector of object velocities are shown.
Grasp Force of UAnown Ob ects
Optimizations (Buss) (Allen, Bicchi, dkamura, Pai)

2000 I
These individual Jacobians are brought together t o
form the hand Jacobian.
Figure 1: An abridged time line of the development, of
robotic dexterous manipulation.
o o r
Typically the fingertip forces are represented in a
coordinate frame at, the instantaneous cont.act point, on
.JF ...

1 ftiz

the surface of the object. Then, knowing each contact

type (see the sections below), the number of allowable A conceptual picture of the roles of the grasp and
force directions at each contact is determined. For a hand Jacobians is shown in Figure 3 [28]. This figure
detailed treatment of this topic see [22, 32, 341. shows the force/tmqiie antl kinematic relationships as
In order to produce these forces a t the fingertips, linear mappings using the hand and grasp Jacobians.
we now develop a hand Jacobian, which will allow us The kinematic arid force relationships described by
to calculate the joint torques from the contact forces the above equations antl Figure 3 RR not, necessarily
[22]. The hand Jacobian, Jh, is based on the standard one to one. The syst,em may be over-constjrained (i.e.
Jacobian, which relates end effector forces to individ- the fingers may not be able t o accommodate or re-
ual joint torques for a robotic manipulator (in this case sist all object motions or forces) or the system may
one for each finger). be under-constrained (i.e. there are multiple choices
for finger joint velocities or torques). Typically, an
under-constrained system is desired for dexterous ma-
nipulation tasks.

Relative velocities Velocities of contact
of contact points on frames on objects
each of the two objects ( I and 2) and spin


j :) il


Figure 4: Contact variables (adapted from [33]).

Figure 5: The contact frames for rolling. u1 and u2

2.1.2 Rolling and Sliding are the contact frames for objects 1arid 2. After rolling
occurs, the new contact, frames are U; and U;.
In general, fingertips may roll and slide upon the sur-
face of the object as they manipulate it. Including
rolling and sliding constraints in the DM problem in- Frictioiiless Point contact Soft-finger
point contact with friction contact
volves the application of differential geometry and a
parameterization of the fingertip and object surfaces.
This analysis takes as inputs the relative velocities
(linear and angular) of contact coordinate frames on
the fingertip and object, and outputs parameterized
velocities t,hat describe the motions of the contact Friction
frames over the fingertip and object surfaces (Fig-
ure 4). The case of rolling without sliding results in
Figure 6 : Common contact types and their associated
a non-holonomic constraint: velocities of the contact
forces/moments, with friction constraint equations.
points on the fingertip and object must be equal. Fig-
ure 5 shows a typiral example of the progression of
the finger and object contact coordinate frames for a
finger rolling on the surface of an object. For a de- strongly influenced, even dominated, by the contact
tailed treatment of the differential geometry involved conditions [7]. The most commonly used contact, mod-
in rolling see [33]. The velocity constraints necessary els are: point contact, without, friction, point contact
t o maintain contact, prevent sliding, prevent spinning, with friction, and soft finger contact (Figure 6). The
or ensure planar rolling are listed in Table 1. point contact without friction can only resist a unidi-
Although sliding is common when humans manipu- rectional force normal to the surface; adding friction
late objects with their fingers, it is rare in robotic ma- allows it t o resist tangential forces, up to thc friction
nipulation. As discussed in Secticjn 6, one difficiilt,y is limit. A soft, fingertip can aAditionally resist, moments
that reliable tactile sensors are generally not available about, the surface normal. For point contacts, t,he stan-
t o keep track of the contact locations on the finger- dard friction cone defined by Coulomb friction de-
tips and indicate the onset of slip. For a more detailed termines the ratio of tangent,ial t o normal force that
treat,ment of sliding manipulation see [4, 21, 411. The can be sustained without slipping. A somewhat more
analysis of friction to prevent unwanted sliding is cov- complicated friction limit surface can similarly be de-
ered in the next section. fined for soft contacts [13, 501.
The t,ypes of contacts and their arrangement, also
2.2 Contact Types, Manipulability, and determine whet,her an object, is immobilized in the
Force and Form Closure fingertips. The most, conservative approach is to re-
quire form closure, or complete kinematic restraint.
Early in the st,iidy of dexterous manipulat,ion it, More commonly, friction is required and force closure
was recognized that, the kinematics and dynamics are is maintained such that, with sufficient grasp forces,
the object ca.ri resist, any directiori of disturbing force
or moment, [32, 401. (There are also i1nport,ant7non-
Maintain contact I U, = 0
force closure manipulations - pushes, tips, eitc. [29] .)
No sliding
I U% = 0, wY = 0 For the fingertips t,o impart arbitrary motions to the
No spin w, = 0 object, the grasp must also he manipulable [28]. A
more detailed discussion of these issues is provided in
the Contact and Grasp Symposium [25].

2.3 Internal and External Forces regrasps is kriown as a yrusp yuit. 111 planning, it is
also important to realize that, a new grasp cannot
With three or more fingers, there arc generally morc always be found if the object is moved locally until a
than enough cont,act,sto manipulate the object, while finger reaches a workspace limit; often a regrasp must
resisting external forces and moments on it. The re- occur before the limit is reached.
dundancy results in internal forces that lie in the null
space of the grasp map, G [32, 48, 511. These internal 3.2 Grasp Optimizations and Quality
forces are typically used to keep the normal compo- Measures
nents of the contact forces large enough to prevent
slipping, independent of producing thc required extcr-
nal force and moment, (including inertial forces). The Manipulators used for dexterous manipulation typ-
analisis and opt,imization of grasqp forces has received ically have kinematic redundancy. In addition, there
extensive treatment in the literature, as discussed fur- are usually multiple choices for contact locations that
ther in the next section. will achieve force closure on an object. Furthermore,
for each choice of contact locations, there are many so-
liitions for applying contact forces that will sat,isfy the
external force requirements while providing sufficient
3 Dexterous Grasp and Motion internal forces t o prevent slipping.
Planning Therefore, there can be an infinite number of possi-
ble grasps for a manipulation. The task of picking the
In dexterous motion planning, there are two main best grasp has resulted in a rich area of research.
objectives t o consider: There are many different ways t o choose the optimal
contact, locations, contact forces, and finger poses for a
planning thc motion of the object t o achieve a particular manipulator, object and task combination.
desired configuration or accomplish a, which
In order to choose the best grasp, a metric can be
includes planning the contact locations and mo-
used t o measure the quality of a given grasp, which
tions of the fingers;
will often depend on task requirements. An example of
analyzing the grasp and choosing an optimal set such a measure was developed by Li and Sastry [28],
of cont,act forces. who separated the task requirements into two parts:
wrench (or force) requirement and twist (or motion)
This discussion overlaps with grasp planning and op- requirement. Each is represented by task ellipsoids,
t,imization work reviewed in the Contact and Grasp whose axes indicate the relative magnitude require-
Symposium [25]. ments for the elements of the wrench or twist vec-
tor. Another measure of grasp quality is calculated by
3.1 Grasp Planning for Desired Object treating the fingerslobject combination as a parallel-
Motion chain mechanism and evaluating the manzpulabilzty of
the object with respect to the palm [22]. A cornparison
In this section we address methods for finding a se- of such grasp measures with the considerations that af-
quence of local motions and regrasps that will result in fect human grasp choice is provided in [6]. More recent
a final desired object motion. Solutions to this prob- work has considered the dynamic stability of the grasp
lem are found using robot hand kinematics, reachabil- with respect to external disturbances [49].
ity analysis and regraspinglgaiting. While researchers have formulated good conceptual
Given a desired object motion, one must first deter- quality measures for grasps, using these mcasurcs for
mine whether the fingers can move the object wittholit automatic grasp choice remains difficult. Marly suc-
regrasping. This can be accomplished by a reachabil- cessful optimization techniques have been developed
ity analysis [22]. Using the range of possible manipula- for specifying contact forces given known contact, loca-
tions for a given hand and object, a workspace can be tions and task requirements [ll]. Some of these are ef-
constructed that is a function of the hand and object ficient enough for real time computation [5]. Searching
and whether the contacts are rolling or sliding. for the optimal contact locations is inherently more dif-
The range of motion that can be imparted to an ficult, because the quality measure is typically a non-
object without regrasping is limited by the finger convex (and non-linear) function over thc search space
joints, interferences among the finger links and the and tliiis standard ronvpx optimization techniqiies can
object, and the limited range of contact locations not be used. There have been attempts a t contact
that can achieve a stable grasp. For motion planning, location synt#hesis,but no algorithm has been widely
one useful approach is t o construct a grasp map, a adopted. (Early investigations of this problem can be
graphical representation of all stable grasps, that found in [17] and [35].) Some of the more successful au-
can be consulted t o determine whether regrasping tonomous contact location choice systems are knowl-
is needed [27]. A sequence of finger motions and edge based [26, 431.
High-Level Task planning, discrete event formed using Jacobians and a Lagrange or Newton-
systems, grasp choice Euler dynamics formulation, an operational space dy-
Mid-Level Phases, transitions, event detec- namic model of the system is created:
Low-Level Operational space dynamics, co- A(x)X + P(X,X ) + p(x) = F, (4)
operative object impedance con-
where A(.) is the mass matrix, p(x,X) is the term
trol, kinematics, forces
for centxifiigal and Coriolis forces, p(x) is the term for
Table 2: Levels of Control for Dexterous Manipulation gravity, and F is the operational space force.
Using this framework, a control structure can be
chosen for dynamic decoupling and motion control.
4 Dynamics and Control Frameworks For example, a basic PD (proportional-derivative) con-
troller of the form
Like legged locomotion, dexterous manipulation has
the characteristics of a hybrid discrete/continuous sys-
tem. The control of dexterous manipulation can be
F = -k,(X-X,) (5)
decomposed into three main levels, as shown in Table
2. High-level control includes tasklmotion planning
and grasp choice, which have been reviewed already. may be used to move the operat(iona1 point, to a goal
Mid-level control includes manipulation phases (for ex- position xg when no particular trajectory is required.
ample whether the fingers are operating independently In dexterous manipulation it is often less impor-
or cooperatively) piinctuated by discret,e events such tant to follow a precise trajectory than it is t o re-
as making or breaking contact. The low level concerns spond gracefully to disturbances such as unexpected
the dynamics and control formulation for each phase. contacts with the environrnent. Impedance control
[lo], in which we specify the apparent mass, stiffness
4.1 Mid-Level Control and damping of the grasped object,, has therefore been
a popular control law.
Research in neurophysiology has shown that hu- The control block diagram in Figure 7 shows a
mans grasping and manipulating objects receive sig- control framework using object impedance control for
nals from specialized skin cells that trigger shifts be- rolling manipulation. This diagram shows the path of
tween phases (e.g., approach, grasp, lift) of a information from commands, through control laws, to
manipulation task [HI. A similar approach can be application on the dexterous hand [14]. Many exten-
applied t o the middle level of control for robotic dex- sions are possible. For example, explicit, control of the
terous manipulation [14]. contact trajectories in rolling manipulation is possible
Different manipulation phases often require differ- using the controller presented in 1421.
ent control laws. For example, the control may switch
from fingertip motion control to object force control as
the fingers close upon an object. Smooth transitions 5 Manipulation Versus Exploration
between phases are needed, particularly when event
detection relies on dynamic sensors that are inherently As shown by Klatzky and Lederman [24], manipula-
sensitive to vibrations and motion discontinuities. tion and exploration go hand in hand. We can obtain
Knowing when a particular event,, such as a finger a precise definition for each separately: Pure manip-
making contact with an object, has occurred is often ulation occurs when the objcct is complctcly known.
a difficult task in the presence of other events thats Piire exploration happens when the ohject, is fix-
result in similar sensor signals. Thus, context-sensitive tured and is not, known. Most dexterous manipulation
event detection and sensor fusion are used to define the is a combination of the two. And in a non-ideal world,
probability that a particular event has occurred [9, 141. we need manipulation for exploration and vice versa.
Robotic exploration through manipulation is a re-
4.2 Dynamics and Low-Level Control cent area of research. Bicchi, et al. [3] manipulate
by rolling, building a modcl of thc objcct as thcy go.
In comparison to mid-level cont(ro1, the low-level ,Maekawa uses a ta.ctile swsor to permit object explo-
control of dexterous manipulation has received thor- ration and manipulation without, any prior model [31].
ough attention in previous work. This is primarily Okamura, et al. manipulate an object. for which the
because the strategies are a direct extension of those general shape is known but surface features remain
used or single and cooperating robot arms. to be explored [38, 371. Allen uses exploration with
The operational space dynamics formulation [23] robot fingers, sometimes in combination with vision,
is particularly suited for dexterous manipulation. to build up an object model using mathematical shape
Through joint spaceloperational space relationships descriptions (sup(:rquadrics) [l]. Pais ACME (ACtivc
Commands Control Laws Application and Feedback

Figure 7: Control block diagram for manipulation wikh rolling.

MEasurement) facility can be used to obtain a rich set vital to accomplish any task where uncertainties
of object, measurements, including shape, reflectance, are present. To illustrate the point, consider what
sound, and contact forces [39]. happens when your fingers are cold and numb.
Simple tasks likc buttoning a jacket become dif-
ficult. The main problcm is not with your mus-
6 Accomplishments and Future Work cles (which are mainly in the forearms, and com-
paratively warm) but. with the cutaneous sensors
While the of study dexterous manipulation and which have become anaesthetized. In robotic dex-
robotic fingers has matured in the last decade, thcrc terous manipulation, tactile sensors are the pri-
remain significant, research problems to be solved. In mary sources of information (although some work
this section, we review the major accomplishments in has been done on combining vision sensors with
dexterous manipulation (both in hardware and soft- dexterous manipulation/haptic cxploratiori [2]).
ware/algorithms) and highlight areas for future work. Tactile sensors can be divided into two categories:
extrinsic and intrinsic. Extrinsic sensors can sense
6.1 Hardware contact location and, in some cases, contact pres-
sures and shear stresses. Examples include capac-
Hand design. Many robotic hands have been de- itive arrays, pin arrays, micromachined force sen-
signed over the last two decades. With a few no- sor arrays, and optical measurement systems (i.e.,
table exceptions (e.g, [S, 31) most of these have CCD). Problems with these sensors include sensi-
been anthropomorphic designs with three [32, 363 t,ivity to noise, delicacy, poor resolution, slow data
or four [16] multi-jointed fingers drivcn by cables. acqiiisit,ion and processing, difficulties in manu-
The size and shape of the hand workspace is of- facturing, large numbers of wires, and cost [12].
ten carefully chosen for specific tasks [32, 451. In Intrinsic sensors use global measiirements from
recent, years the focus of research has shifted from which cont,act information can be extracted. In-
hand design to development of the hardware com- trinsic sensors include force/st,rain sensors [32],
ponents and algorithms for manipulation. optical sensors (i.e. PSD), and joint torque sens-
Actuotion. Actuators for dexterous rnanipulation ing [19]. While these sensors are often robust and
should be small and lightweight, in comparison t,o fast, they providc limitcd iriformation. For cxam-
the robotic hand. In many hand designs, back- ple, the optical waveguide tact,ile sensor designed
drivable systems are used so that small motion by Maekawa, et al. gives the centroid and inten-
errors will not result in high interaction forces. sity of all contact, locations [30]. Intrinsic sensors
Low friction is also desirable for better control. also cannot, differentiat,e between one and multiple
Large motors are located remotely, and complex contacts.
cabling systems are often used t o transmit motor
Miniaturization. The miniaturization of manip-
torques to the fingertips. Small actuators with
ulation is another area with promise. Manipula-
high specific force or torque will be needed if ca-
tions occurring on a very small scale are domi-
bles are to be eliminated.
nated by friction and Van dcr Waals forces. Sta-
Sensing. Sensors are essential for dexterous n a - ble grasping is often not necessary; at this level
nipulation, as feedback of contact information is objects can stick directly to tjhe manipulator [44].
6.2 Software and Algorithms D. L. Brock. Enhancing the dexteritv of a rohot hand
using controlled slip. Proc. IEEE ICRA, pages 249-
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