High-speed robotics typically involves fast dynamic trajectories with large accelerations. Kinematic optimization using compact representations can lead to an efficient online computation of these dynamic movements, however successful execution requires accurate models or aggressive tracking with high-gain feedback. Learning to track such references in a safe and reliable way, whenever accurate models are not available, is an open problem. Stability issues surrounding the learning performance, in the iteration domain, can prevent the successful implementation of model-based learning approaches. To this end, we propose a new adaptive and cautious Iterative Learning Control (ILC) algorithm where the stability of the control updates is analyzed probabilistically: the covariance estimates of the adapted local linear models are used to increase the probability of update monotonicity, exercising caution during learning. The resulting learning controller can be implemented efficiently using a recursive approach. We evaluate it extensively in simulations as well as in our robot table tennis setup for tracking dynamic hitting movements. Testing with two seven degree of freedom anthropomorphic robot arms, we show improved and more stable tracking performance over high-gain PD-control, model-free ILC (simple PD feedback type) and model-based ILC without cautious adaptation.
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