Control and Motion Planning for Nonprehensile Dynamic Manipulation

A Special Issue proposal by


The robotic manipulation problem aims at finding a set of suitable controls to lead the configuration of an object to a desired pose. However, can we do such an action only by grasping? In truth, thanks to the high dexterity of the human hand, a manipulation task can be achieved also in nonprehensile –the object is not grasped –and dynamic –dynamics is exploited to control the motion– ways. However, this class of manipulation problems is still rather far from being fully solved and applied in robotic applications. The control design must carefully take into account dynamic models of both the robot and the object, posing thus new challenges in high-speed sensing, motion planning and control.

This Special Issue aims at collecting the latest results achieved by the researchers working in motion planning and control of robots for nonprehensile dynamic tasks involving manipulation. Moreover, people working on hybrid and switching dynamical systems may find several points in common with the subjects addressed within the letters submitted to such Special Issue. The proposed topic is thus strongly multidisciplinary with a potential wide audience working on these topics.


The state of the art of robotic manipulation is still rather far from the human dexterity in the execution of complex motions such as in nonprehensile dynamic manipulation tasks. This may reduce the opportunities for wide adoption of robots within human co-habited environments.  Nonprehensile manipulation is considered as the most complex category of manipulation, requiring adhoc controllers and specialized hardware. Since the object is not caged between fingertips, the part is moved exploiting its dynamics, and it is possible to increase the workspace by throwing and catching the object. As examples, think of a juggler, or a pizza maker or even of a surgeon pushing away organs, arteries, or making sutures. In several industrial applications, it is not directly possible to manipulate the object through firm/fine/precise manipulation, therefore only nonprehensile manipulation is allowed (e.g., using vibratory platforms). In case of deformable objects, for instance, the related tasks become even more challenging.

 Research should then focus much more on such aspects, and this Special Issue may be the opportunity to increase the attention towards this field. The sought ambition is to provide the groundwork to stir the current idea of robot manipulation that is still too much conceived as simple pick-and-place applications.

 This Special Issue is thus aimed at presenting the latest results and the different methods employed so far to cope with robotic nonprehensile manipulation tasks. This might be the starting point within the research community to arise future discussions regarding possible expectations, open-topics, longterm goals and enhance collaboration among research teams.

Topics of Interest

• Nonprehensile dynamic manipulation
• Nonlinear control of hybrid dynamic systems
• Impedance and force control in robotic dynamic manipulation tasks
• Motion planning for nonprehensile robot manipulation

The Special Issue will cover both motion planning and control aspects to achieve the object manipulation in a nonprehensile way. Moreover, the shared connections with other similar control problems, like piece-wise smooth and impacting systems are welcome.


Special Issue Call Publication: May 18, 2017
Special Issue Submission Opens: July 20, 2017
Special Issue Submission Closes: August 6, 2017
First Decision Communicated to Authors: October 30, 2017
Final Decision Communicated to Authors: January 3, 2017
Accepted RAL Papers appear on Xplore: January 22, 2018


This proposed journal special issue is supported by IEEE RAS Technical Committee on Algorithms for Planning and Control of Robot Motion and by the IEEE RAS Technical Committee on Robotic Hands, Grasping and Manipulation.

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