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I got some new intuition:

  1. This, I think, does not influence the physical interpretation of the results.

The difference in sign might be true for the forces in the world frame. The forces given by the contact sensor are given in the link frame. I still get difference to the normal when I project the forces to the world frame, and am not really sure where this comes from. My guess is that the normal is the surface normal, and the force vector is a vector within the friction cone.

Also, I found that the HAPTIX sensor simulation processes these forces, as shown here. Is this closer to what the actual sensor would sense?