Planning Reaching and Grasping Movements: The Problem of Obstacle Avoidance

in Motor Control
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In this article, we review a model of the movement-planning processes that people use for direct reaching, reaching around obstacles, and grasping, and we present observations of subjects' repeated movements of the hand to touch 2 target locations, circumventing an intervening obstacle. The model defines an obstacle as a posture that, if adopted, would intersect with any part of the environment (including the actor himself or herself). The model finds a trajectory that is likely to bring the end-effector to me target by means of a one- or two-stage planning process. Each stage exploits the principles of instance retrieval and instance generation. In the first stage, a goal posture is identified, and the trajectory of a direct transition to that posture is tested for collision. If that direct movement has no collision, the movement to the target is immediately executed in joint space. If. however, the direct movement is foreseen to result in a collision, a second planning stage is invoked. The second planning stage identifies a via posture, movement through which will probably avoid the collision. Movement to and from the via posture is then superimposed on the main movement to the target so that the combined movement reaches the target without colliding with intervening obstacles. We describe the details of instance retrieval and instance generation for each of these planning stages and compare the model's performance with the observed kinematics of direct movements as well as movements around an obstacle. Then we suggest how the model might contribute to the study of movements in people with motor disorders such as spastic hemiparesis.

J. Vaughan is with the Department of Psychology at Hamilton College. Clinton. NY 13323. D.A. Rosenbaum is with the Department of Psychology at Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA 16802-3408. R.G.J. Meulenbroek is with the Nijmegen Institute for Cognition and Information, P.O. Box 9104, 6500 HE Nijmegen, The Netherlands.