5 Simulation Control

5.3 Controllers and monitors

Application models can define custom controllers and monitors to control input values and monitor output values as a simulation progresses. Controllers are called every time step immediately before the advance() method, and monitors are called immediately after (Section 1.1.4). An example of controller usage is provided by ArtiSynth’s inverse modeling feature, which uses an internal controller to estimate the actuation signals required to follow a specified motion trajectory.

More precise details about controllers and monitors and how they interact with model advancement are given in the ArtiSynth Reference Manual.

5.3.1 Implementation

Applications may declare whatever controllers or monitors they require and then add them to the root model using the methods addController() and addMonitor(). They can be any type of ModelComponent that implements the Controller or Monitor interfaces. For convenience, most applications simply subclass the default implementations ControllerBase or MonitorBase and then override the necessary methods.

The primary methods associated with both controllers and monitors are:

  public void initialize (double t0);
  public void apply (double t0, double t1);
  public boolean isActive();

apply(t0, t1) is the “business” method and is called once per time step, with t0 and t1 indicating the start and end times t_{0} and t_{1} associated with the step. initialize(t0) is called whenever an application model’s state is set (or reset) at a particular time t_{0}. This occurs when a simulation is first started or after it is reset (with t_{0}=0), and also when the state is reset at a waypoint or during adaptive stepping.

isActive() controls whether a controller or monitor is active; if isActive() returns false then the apply() method will not be called. The default implementations ControllerBase and MonitorBase, via their superclass ModelAgentBase, also provide a setActive() method to control this setting, and export it as the property active. This allows controller and monitor activity to be controlled at run time.

To enable or disable a controller or monitor at run time, locate it in the navigation panel (under the RootModel’s controllers or monitors list), chose Edit properties ... from the right-click context menu, and set the active property as desired.

Controllers and monitors may be associated with a particular model (among the list of models owned by the root model). This model may be set or queried using

  void setModel (Model m);
  Model getModel();

If associated with a model, apply() will be called immediately before (for controllers) or after (for monitors) the model’s advance() method. If not associated with a model, then apply() will be called before or after the advance of all the models owned by the root model.

Controllers and monitors may also contain state, in which case they should implement the relevant methods from the HasState interface.

Typical actions for a controller include setting input forces or excitation values on components, or specifying the motion trajectory of parametric components (Section 3.1.3). Typical actions for a monitor include observing or recording the motion profiles or constraint forces that arise from the simulation.

When setting the position and/or velocity of a dynamic component that has been set to be parametric (Section 3.1.3), a controller should not set its position or velocity directly, but should instead set its target position and/or target velocity, since this allows the solver to properly interpolate the position and velocity during the time step. The methods to set or query target positions and velocities for Point-based components are

  setTargetPosition (Point3d pos);
  Point3d getTargetPosition ();       // read-only
  setTargetVelocity (Vector3d vel);
  Vector3d getTargetVelocity ();      // read-only

while for Frame-based components they are

  setTargetPosition (Point3d pos);
  setTargetOrientation (AxisAngle axisAng);
  setTargetPose (RigidTransform3d TFW);
  Point3d getTargetPosition ();       // read-only
  AxisAngle getTargetOrientation ();  // read-only
  RigidTransform3d getTargetPose();   // read-only
  setTargetVelocity (Twist vel);
  Twist getTargetVelocity ();         // read-only

5.3.2 Example: A controller to move a point

A model showing an application-defined controller is defined in


This simply extends SimpleMuscle (Section 4.4.2) and adds a controller which moves the fixed particle p1 along a circular path. The complete class definition is shown below:

1 package artisynth.demos.tutorial;
3 import java.io.IOException;
4 import maspack.matrix.*;
6 import artisynth.core.modelbase.*;
7 import artisynth.core.mechmodels.*;
8 import artisynth.core.gui.*;
10 public class SimpleMuscleWithController extends SimpleMuscleWithPanel
11 {
12    private class PointMover extends ControllerBase {
14       Point myPnt;      // point to be moved
15       Point3d myPos0;   // initial point position
17       public PointMover (Point pnt) {
18          myPnt = pnt;
19          myPos0 = new Point3d (pnt.getPosition());
20       }
22       public void apply (double t0, double t1) {
23          double ang = Math.PI*t1/2;            // angle associated with time t1
24          Point3d pos = new Point3d (myPos0);
25          pos.x += 0.5*Math.sin (ang);          // compute position for t1 ...
26          pos.z += 0.5*(1-Math.cos (ang));
27          myPnt.setTargetPosition (pos);        // ... and the set point’s target
28       }
29    }
31    public void build (String[] args) throws IOException {
32       super.build (args);
34       addController (new PointMover (p1));
35       // increase model bounding box for the viewer
36       mech.setBounds (-1, 0, -1, 1, 0, 1);
37    }
39 }

A controller called PointMover is defined by extending ControllerBase and overriding the apply() method. It stores the point to be moved in myPnt, and the initial position in myPos0. The apply() method computes a target position for the point that starts at myPos0 and then moves in a circle in the x-z plane with an angular velocity of \pi/2 rad/sec (lines 22-28).

The build() method calls super.build() to create the model used by SimpleMuscle, and then creates an instance of PointMover to move particle p1 and adds it to the root model (line 34). The viewer bounds are updated to make the circular motion more visible (line 36).

To run this example in ArtiSynth, select All demos > tutorial > SimpleMuscleWithController from the Models menu. When the model is run, the fixed particle p1 will trace out a circular path in the x-z plane.