Generic Neural Locomotion Control Framework for Legged Robots

Mathias Thor*, Tomas Kulvicius, Poramate Manoonpong

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

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In this article, we present a generic locomotion control framework for legged robots and a strategy for control policy optimization. The framework is based on neural control and black-box optimization. The neural control combines a central pattern generator (CPG) and a radial basis function (RBF) network to create a CPG-RBF network. The control network acts as a neural basis to produce arbitrary rhythmic trajectories for the joints of robots. The main features of the CPG-RBF network are: 1) it is generic since it can be applied to legged robots with different morphologies; 2) it has few control parameters, resulting in fast learning; 3) it is scalable, both in terms of policy/trajectory complexity and the number of legs that can be controlled using similar trajectories; 4) it does not rely heavily on sensory feedback to generate locomotion and is thus less prone to sensory faults; and 5) once trained, it is simple, minimal, and intuitive to use and analyze. These features will lead to an easy-to-use framework with fast convergence and the ability to encode complex locomotion control policies. In this work, we show that the framework can successfully be applied to three different simulated legged robots with varying morphologies and, even broken joints, to learn locomotion control policies. We also show that after learning, the control policies can also be successfully transferred to a real-world robot without any modifications. We, furthermore, show the scalability of the framework by implementing it as a central controller for all legs of a robot and as a decentralized controller for individual legs and leg pairs. By investigating the correlation between robot morphology and encoding type, we are able to present a strategy for control policy optimization. Finally, we show how sensory feedback can be integrated into the CPG-RBF network to enable online adaptation.

Original languageEnglish
Article number9174772
JournalIEEE Transactions on Neural Networks and Learning Systems
Issue number9
Pages (from-to)4013-4025
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2020


  • Generic control
  • learning
  • legged robots
  • locomotion control
  • neurorobotics
  • policy optimization


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