This paper studies the effects of damping and stiffness feedback loop latencies on closed-loop system stability and performance. Phase margin stability analysis, step response performance and tracking accuracy are respectively simulated for a rigid actuator with impedance control. Both system stability and tracking performance are more sensitive to damping feedback than stiffness feedback latencies. Several comparative tests are simulated and experimentally implemented on a real-world actuator to verify our conclusion. This discrepancy in sensitivity motivates the necessity of implementing embedded damping, in which damping feedback is implemented locally at the low level joint controller. A direct benefit of this distributed impedance control strategy is the enhancement of closed-loop system stability. Using this strategy, feedback effort and thus closed-loop actuator impedance may be increased beyond the levels possible for a monolithic impedance controller. High impedance is desirable to minimize tracking error in the presence of disturbances. Specially, trajectory tracking accuracy is tested by a fast swing and a slow stance motion of a knee joint emulating NASA-JSC’s Valkyrie legged robot. When damping latencies are lowered beyond stiffness latencies, gravitational disturbance is rejected, thus demonstrating the accurate tracking performance enabled by a distributed impedance controller.

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