Something someone might want to check out (off a mailing list) ....
The breakfast-making aficionados out there might want to look at University of
Rochester Computer Science Tech Report 416, "Contextually Dependent Control
Strategies for Manipulation". This is by Polly Pook, one of Ballard's students.
In the report she demonstrates a qualitative method for flipping a plastic
egg in a frying pan using an MIT/Utah hand on a Puma. There is no configuration
space planning, no stable grasp determination, and no CAD model of the either
the pan or egg. Instead there are a bunch of phases which are either fixed
action patterns or compliant moves. Transitions between phases are signalled
by changes in tendon tensions. Since each phase has a specific goal and
operates in a situation which has been highly constrained by previous phases,
very little sensory interpretation is required. Pretty neat - check it out.