Tensegrity robots have many unique properties useful for robots intended to operate in natural settings, yet the exploration of how to build and control such robots is just beginning. Many of their positive qualities, such as multipath force distribution, compliance, and their oscillatory nature, also make them very challenging for traditional control approaches.
The NASA Tensegrity Robotics Toolkit (NTRT) is an open-source collection of C++ and MATLAB software modules for the modeling, simulation, and control of Tensegrity robots. Tensegrity robots are a biologically inspired approach to building robots based on the tension networks of tensegrity structures, which have no rigid connections between elements. The NTRT was created to enable the rapid co-exploration of structures and controls in a physics-based simulation environment; the development of tensegrity robotics algorithms such as structural analysis, kinematics, and motion planning; and the validation of the algorithms and controls on hardware prototypes of the tensegrity robots.
The NTRT comprises the following modules: The NTRT Simulator Core Module (integrates with physics engine and provides tensegrity specific classes and abstractions), the NTRT Tensegrity Builder Module (provides support tools for constructing tensegrity structures), the NTRT Models and Controllers Library (library of specific tensegrity robot models and associated controllers), the NTRT Kinematics Module (provides kinematic and other analytic tools), the NTRT Motion Planning Module (provides motion planning tools), the NTRT Learning Module (provides a framework for learning new controllers and parameter tuning), and the NTRT Hardware Interface Module (provides adaptors and tools to interface with hardware prototypes).
NTRT is designed to work with the free open-source Bullet Physics Engine in order to provide a physics-based simulation environment for the evaluation of new tensegrity robot structures and controls. The NTRT may be downloaded at: http://ti.arc.nasa.gov/tech/asr/intelligent-robotics/tensegrity/ntrt.