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We present a general method of estimating a snake robotâ€™s motion over flat ground using only knowledge of the robotâ€™s shape changes over time. Estimating world motion of snake robots is often difficult because of the complex way a robotâ€™s cyclic shape changes (gaits) interact with the surrounding environment. By using the virtual chassis to separate the robotâ€™s internal shape changes from its external motions through the world, we are able to construct a motion model based on the differential motion of the robotâ€™s modules between time steps. In this way, we effectively treat the snake robot like a wheeled robot where the bottom-most modules propel the robot in much the way the bottom of the wheels would propel the chassis of a car. Experimental results using a 16-DOF snake robot are presented to demonstrate the effectiveness of this method for a variety of gaits that have been designed to traverse flat ground.
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