Revisiting Contact - Turning a problem into a solution


Physical contact used to be a problem in robotic manipulation research. Today, it seems to be the solution. For example, object manipulation behaviours which maximize contact and exploit contact constraints with the environment are very robust. Furthermore, physical interaction with the environment facilitates perception by creating rich, informative sensory signals that would otherwise not be present. Evidence both in humans and robots shows that these two principles of (i) exploiting contact constraints and (ii) interactive perception are essential for robust manipulation and perception under uncertainty. Yet, autonomous generation of the underlying behaviours or chaining them together remains a challenge. Existing, traditional contact models are based on a powerful and concise mathematical formalization. They make simplifying assumptions such as stable, non-slipping point contacts or Coulomb friction that ensure computational tractability. While this allows elegant solutions to multi-contact planning, many of these assumptions do not translate well into the real world that is riddled by uncertainty. The simplification may also limit the opportunities to exploit contact as they consider only contacts between hand and the object, ignore contacts of surface patches, sliding contacts, and seldom consider the perceptual information gain from contact interaction.

The central question of this workshop is how we bridge the gap between the traditional, model-based approaches and the promising contact-seeking behaviours that recently emerged as an alternative for achieving robust manipulation and perception.

This workshop brings together researchers from different areas such as autonomous grasping and manipulation, robotic hand development, soft manipulation, whole-body control for legged robots and interactive perception. All of these topics share that at their core they are concerned with the problem of making and breaking contact. Through presentations and discussions, we will establish a shared understanding of the challenges we as a community must address to fully develop this novel view of perception and manipulation.

Call for Contributions

We are soliciting extended abstracts in the RSS format (2-4 pages plus references). Accepted contributions will be presented as a short spotlight talk and in a poster session. Two particularly relevant contributions will be selected to be presented in 15 minute talks. We are also soliciting live demos to be given during the poster session. Live demos may accompany a submitted paper but they are not required to (i.e. standalone demos of existing work will be considered).

Topics include (but are not limited to)

  • Exploitation of contact constraints
  • Soft manipulation
  • Novel approaches to grasp and manipulation planning
  • Multimodal and interactive perception
  • Haptic (contact and force) sensing
  • Whole-body, multi-contact planning and control
  • Perception of contact
  • Novel contact models
  • Design and characterization of contact-exploiting, compliant hands
  • Scene perception for the exploitation of contact
  • Novel sensor designs for contact-rich interactions

Important Dates

  • Extended abstract submission: May 20 May 23, 2017 (Anywhere on Earth)
  • Notification of acceptance: June 3 June 6, 2017
  • Camera-ready paper due: June 16 June 21, 2017
  • Workshop day: July 15, 2017


Please e-mail submissions and / or demo proposals to:


We had to move! Room 32-144 - First Floor - Building 32 (PDF) - Stata Center at MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA.

09:00 09:15 Welcome and Introduction
Oliver Brock (co-organizer)
09:15 09:45 Reactive Robotic Manipulation
Alberto Rodriguez (invited talk)
09:45 10:15 Exploiting contact interactions for whole-body behaviors: optimization, robustness and open issues
Ludovic Righetti (invited talk)
10:15 10:25 Poster Spotlights A (1 minute each)
  1. Towards a geometric identification of compliant motions in learning from demonstration (PDF)
    Markku Suomalainen, Ville Kyrki
  2. Tactile-Vision Integration for Task-Compatible Fine-Part Manipulation (PDF)
    Mabel Zhang, Renaud Detry, Kostas Daniilidis
  3. Exploiting Contact for Efficient Motion Planning Under Uncertainty (PDF)
    Arne Sieverling, Clemens Eppner, Oliver Brock
  4. Sampling-based Planning and Local Reactive Strategies for Environment Manipulation (PDF)
    Marco Morales, Samuel Rodriguez, Shawna Thomas, Nancy M. Amato
  5. Exact Bounds on the Contact Driven Motion of a Sliding Object, With Applications to Robotic Pulling (PDF)
    Eric Huang, Ankit Bhatia, Byron Boots, Matt Mason
  6. First Analysis of Environment Design for Contact Motion Planning (PDF)
    Jessica Abele, Oliver Brock
  7. Learning Traversability using Contact Transition Models for Humanoid Navigation in Uneven Terrain (PDF)
    Yu-Chi Lin, Dmitry Berenson
  8. Multimodal Registration Using Stereo Imaging and Contact Sensing (PDF)
    Rangaprasad Arun Srivatsan, Prasad Vagdargi, Nicolas Zevallos, Howie Choset
  9. DEMO: The Sensorized RBO Hand 2 - Using Task Knowledge to Efficiently Sensorize Soft Actuators (PDF)
    Vincent Wall, Gabriel Zöllner, Oliver Brock

    The demo will be shown in both poster sessions.

10:30 11:30 Poster Session A and Coffee Break (ends 11:00)
The session includes posters A1 - A8 and the demo A9.
11:30 12:00 Soft Contact Planning and Control
Karen Liu (invited talk)
12:00 12:15 Grasping with Soft Hands
Antonio Bicchi (invited talk)
12:15 12:30 Discussion Session
12:30 14:00 Lunch
14:00 14:15 Variational Contact-Implicit Trajectory Optimization (PDF)
Zachary Manchester, Scott Kuindersma (submitted work)
14:15 14:25 Poster Spotlights B (1 minute each)
  1. Learning Controller Success Rate for an SE(2) Robot in Contact-Rich Environments (PDF)
    Ruikun Luo, Dmitry Berenson
  2. 6DOF Grasp Planning by Optimizing a Deep Learning Scoring Function (PDF)
    Yilun Zhou, Kris Hauser
  3. Towards Motion Plans That React to Contact Events (PDF)
    Előd Páll, Arne Sieverling, Oliver Brock
  4. Multi-contact Frictional Rigid Dynamics using Impulse Decomposition (PDF)
    Sheng Li, Tianxiang Zhang, Guoping Wang, Hanqiu Sun, Dinesh Manocha
  5. Particle-filter-based estimation of the location and force of robot collisions using torque measurements (PDF)
    Joao Bimbo, Claudio Pacchierotti, Nikos G. Tsagarakis, Domenico Prattichizzo
  6. Learning to Hop: Reinforcement Learning Applied to Dynamic Contact Interactions (PDF)
    Julian Viereck, Felix Grimmiger, Alexander Herzog, Ludovic Righetti
  7. Towards Exploiting Contacts for Dual-Arm Manipulation with Humanoid Robots (PDF)
    Aykut Özgün Önol, Philip Long, Taskin Padir
  8. Pushing Revisited: Differential Flatness, Trajectory Planning and Stabilization (PDF)
    Jiaji Zhou, Matthew T. Mason
14:30 15:30 Poster Session B and Coffee Break (starts 15:00)
The session includes posters B1 - B8 and the demo A9.
15:30 16:00 Morphological Computation: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
Keyan Ghazi-Zahedi (invited talk)
16:00 16:15 Physics-Based Selection of Actions That Maximize Motion for Interactive Perception (submitted work) (PDF)
Roberto Martín-Martín, Clemens Eppner, Oliver Brock (submitted work)
16:15 16:45 Learning and Verifying Contacts for Manipulation Modes
Oliver Kroemer (invited talk)
16:45 17:15 Perceptual Understanding of Contact: one-shot learning of interaction
Yiannis Aloimonos (invited talk)
17:15 17:45 Panel Discussion
(all invited speakers)

Information for poster presenters:

Your poster
Workshop posters are paper posters and not interactive. The conference provides 30in x 20in (762mm x 508mm - a bit smaller than ISO A1) boards , as well as easels to hold them. Please prepare your posters in portrait and include your poster number (see schedule). We will provide thumb tacks to attach your poster to the board.

Your poster spotlight
Please email a PPTX or PDF file less than 5MB in size to by July 12, 6pm in the time zone of the conference. We recommend using a single slide, as the organizers will be advancing the slides. Please include your poster number (see schedule) on each of your slides. The timing of 1 minute per spotlight is strict. The projector has format 16:9.


Jeannette Bohg (Contact Person)

Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems


Oliver Brock

TU Berlin