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2013


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SoftCubes: towards a soft modular matter

Yim, S., Sitti, M.

In Robotics and Automation (ICRA), 2013 IEEE International Conference on, pages: 530-536, 2013 (inproceedings)

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Project Page [BibTex]

2013


Project Page [BibTex]


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Magnetically Actuated Soft Capsule With the Multimodal Drug Release Function

Yim, S., Goyal, K., Sitti, M.

IEEE/ASME Trans. on Mechatronics, 18(4):1413-1418, IEEE, 2013 (article)

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Project Page [BibTex]

Project Page [BibTex]


Random Forests for Real Time {3D} Face Analysis
Random Forests for Real Time 3D Face Analysis

Fanelli, G., Dantone, M., Gall, J., Fossati, A., van Gool, L.

International Journal of Computer Vision, 101(3):437-458, Springer, 2013 (article)

Abstract
We present a random forest-based framework for real time head pose estimation from depth images and extend it to localize a set of facial features in 3D. Our algorithm takes a voting approach, where each patch extracted from the depth image can directly cast a vote for the head pose or each of the facial features. Our system proves capable of handling large rotations, partial occlusions, and the noisy depth data acquired using commercial sensors. Moreover, the algorithm works on each frame independently and achieves real time performance without resorting to parallel computations on a GPU. We present extensive experiments on publicly available, challenging datasets and present a new annotated head pose database recorded using a Microsoft Kinect.

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data and code publisher's site pdf DOI Project Page [BibTex]

data and code publisher's site pdf DOI Project Page [BibTex]


Markerless Motion Capture of Multiple Characters Using Multi-view Image Segmentation
Markerless Motion Capture of Multiple Characters Using Multi-view Image Segmentation

Liu, Y., Gall, J., Stoll, C., Dai, Q., Seidel, H., Theobalt, C.

Transactions on Pattern Analysis and Machine Intelligence, 35(11):2720-2735, 2013 (article)

Abstract
Capturing the skeleton motion and detailed time-varying surface geometry of multiple, closely interacting peoples is a very challenging task, even in a multicamera setup, due to frequent occlusions and ambiguities in feature-to-person assignments. To address this task, we propose a framework that exploits multiview image segmentation. To this end, a probabilistic shape and appearance model is employed to segment the input images and to assign each pixel uniquely to one person. Given the articulated template models of each person and the labeled pixels, a combined optimization scheme, which splits the skeleton pose optimization problem into a local one and a lower dimensional global one, is applied one by one to each individual, followed with surface estimation to capture detailed nonrigid deformations. We show on various sequences that our approach can capture the 3D motion of humans accurately even if they move rapidly, if they wear wide apparel, and if they are engaged in challenging multiperson motions, including dancing, wrestling, and hugging.

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data and video pdf DOI Project Page [BibTex]

data and video pdf DOI Project Page [BibTex]


Viewpoint and pose in body-form adaptation
Viewpoint and pose in body-form adaptation

Sekunova, A., Black, M., Parkinson, L., Barton, J. J. S.

Perception, 42(2):176-186, 2013 (article)

Abstract
Faces and bodies are complex structures, perception of which can play important roles in person identification and inference of emotional state. Face representations have been explored using behavioural adaptation: in particular, studies have shown that face aftereffects show relatively broad tuning for viewpoint, consistent with origin in a high-level structural descriptor far removed from the retinal image. Our goals were to determine first, if body aftereffects also showed a degree of viewpoint invariance, and second if they also showed pose invariance, given that changes in pose create even more dramatic changes in the 2-D retinal image. We used a 3-D model of the human body to generate headless body images, whose parameters could be varied to generate different body forms, viewpoints, and poses. In the first experiment, subjects adapted to varying viewpoints of either slim or heavy bodies in a neutral stance, followed by test stimuli that were all front-facing. In the second experiment, we used the same front-facing bodies in neutral stance as test stimuli, but compared adaptation from bodies in the same neutral stance to adaptation with the same bodies in different poses. We found that body aftereffects were obtained over substantial viewpoint changes, with no significant decline in aftereffect magnitude with increasing viewpoint difference between adapting and test images. Aftereffects also showed transfer across one change in pose but not across another. We conclude that body representations may have more viewpoint invariance than faces, and demonstrate at least some transfer across pose, consistent with a high-level structural description. Keywords: aftereffect, shape, face, representation

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pdf from publisher abstract pdf link (url) Project Page [BibTex]

pdf from publisher abstract pdf link (url) Project Page [BibTex]


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Optimal distribution of contact forces with inverse-dynamics control

Righetti, L., Buchli, J., Mistry, M., Kalakrishnan, M., Schaal, S.

The International Journal of Robotics Research, 32(3):280-298, March 2013 (article)

Abstract
The development of legged robots for complex environments requires controllers that guarantee both high tracking performance and compliance with the environment. More specifically the control of the contact interaction with the environment is of crucial importance to ensure stable, robust and safe motions. In this contribution we develop an inverse-dynamics controller for floating-base robots under contact constraints that can minimize any combination of linear and quadratic costs in the contact constraints and the commands. Our main result is the exact analytical derivation of the controller. Such a result is particularly relevant for legged robots as it allows us to use torque redundancy to directly optimize contact interactions. For example, given a desired locomotion behavior, we can guarantee the minimization of contact forces to reduce slipping on difficult terrains while ensuring high tracking performance of the desired motion. The main advantages of the controller are its simplicity, computational efficiency and robustness to model inaccuracies. We present detailed experimental results on simulated humanoid and quadruped robots as well as a real quadruped robot. The experiments demonstrate that the controller can greatly improve the robustness of locomotion of the robots.1

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Tank-like module-based climbing robot using passive compliant joints

Seo, T., Sitti, M.

IEEE/ASME Transactions on Mechatronics, 18(1):397-408, 2013 (article)

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[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Flapping wings via direct-driving by DC motors

Azhar, M., Campolo, D., Lau, G., Hines, L., Sitti, M.

In Robotics and Automation (ICRA), 2013 IEEE International Conference on, pages: 1397-1402, 2013 (inproceedings)

pi

[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Three dimensional independent control of multiple magnetic microrobots

Diller, E., Giltinan, J., Jena, P., Sitti, M.

In Robotics and Automation (ICRA), 2013 IEEE International Conference on, pages: 2576-2581, 2013 (inproceedings)

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[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Enhanced fabrication and characterization of gecko-inspired mushroom-tipped microfiber adhesives

Song, J., Mengüç, Y., Sitti, M.

Journal of Adhesion Science and Technology, 27(17):1921-1932, Routledge, 2013 (article)

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Project Page [BibTex]

Project Page [BibTex]


Class-Specific Hough Forests for Object Detection
Class-Specific Hough Forests for Object Detection

Gall, J., Lempitsky, V.

In Decision Forests for Computer Vision and Medical Image Analysis, pages: 143-157, 11, (Editors: Criminisi, A. and Shotton, J.), Springer, 2013 (incollection)

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code Project Page [BibTex]

code Project Page [BibTex]


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A Perching Mechanism for Flying Robots Using a Fibre-Based Adhesive

Daler, L., Klaptocz, A., Briod, A., Sitti, M., Floreano, D.

In Robotics and Automation (ICRA), 2013 IEEE International Conference on, 2013 (inproceedings)

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[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Micro-scale mobile robotics

Diller, E., Sitti, M.

Foundations and Trends in Robotics, 2(3):143-259, Now Publishers Incorporated, 2013 (article)

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[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Survey and Introduction to the Focused Section on Bio-Inspired Mechatronics

Sitti, M., Menciassi, A., Ijspeert, A., Low, K. H., Kim, S.

Mechatronics, IEEE/ASME Transactions on, 18(2):409-418, DOI: 10.1109/TMECH.2012. 2233492, 2013 (article)

pi

[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Bonding methods for modular micro-robotic assemblies

Diller, E., Zhang, N., Sitti, M.

In Robotics and Automation (ICRA), 2013 IEEE International Conference on, pages: 2588-2593, 2013 (inproceedings)

pi

[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Learning Task Error Models for Manipulation

Pastor, P., Kalakrishnan, M., Binney, J., Kelly, J., Righetti, L., Sukhatme, G. S., Schaal, S.

In 2013 IEEE Conference on Robotics and Automation, IEEE, Karlsruhe, Germany, 2013 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Precise kinematic forward models are important for robots to successfully perform dexterous grasping and manipulation tasks, especially when visual servoing is rendered infeasible due to occlusions. A lot of research has been conducted to estimate geometric and non-geometric parameters of kinematic chains to minimize reconstruction errors. However, kinematic chains can include non-linearities, e.g. due to cable stretch and motor-side encoders, that result in significantly different errors for different parts of the state space. Previous work either does not consider such non-linearities or proposes to estimate non-geometric parameters of carefully engineered models that are robot specific. We propose a data-driven approach that learns task error models that account for such unmodeled non-linearities. We argue that in the context of grasping and manipulation, it is sufficient to achieve high accuracy in the task relevant state space. We identify this relevant state space using previously executed joint configurations and learn error corrections for those. Therefore, our system is developed to generate subsequent executions that are similar to previous ones. The experiments show that our method successfully captures the non-linearities in the head kinematic chain (due to a counterbalancing spring) and the arm kinematic chains (due to cable stretch) of the considered experimental platform, see Fig. 1. The feasibility of the presented error learning approach has also been evaluated in independent DARPA ARM-S testing contributing to successfully complete 67 out of 72 grasping and manipulation tasks.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


Non-parametric hand pose estimation with object context
Non-parametric hand pose estimation with object context

Romero, J., Kjellström, H., Ek, C. H., Kragic, D.

Image and Vision Computing , 31(8):555 - 564, 2013 (article)

Abstract
In the spirit of recent work on contextual recognition and estimation, we present a method for estimating the pose of human hands, employing information about the shape of the object in the hand. Despite the fact that most applications of human hand tracking involve grasping and manipulation of objects, the majority of methods in the literature assume a free hand, isolated from the surrounding environment. Occlusion of the hand from grasped objects does in fact often pose a severe challenge to the estimation of hand pose. In the presented method, object occlusion is not only compensated for, it contributes to the pose estimation in a contextual fashion; this without an explicit model of object shape. Our hand tracking method is non-parametric, performing a nearest neighbor search in a large database (.. entries) of hand poses with and without grasped objects. The system that operates in real time, is robust to self occlusions, object occlusions and segmentation errors, and provides full hand pose reconstruction from monocular video. Temporal consistency in hand pose is taken into account, without explicitly tracking the hand in the high-dim pose space. Experiments show the non-parametric method to outperform other state of the art regression methods, while operating at a significantly lower computational cost than comparable model-based hand tracking methods.

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Publisher site pdf link (url) [BibTex]

Publisher site pdf link (url) [BibTex]

2010


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Reinforcement learning of full-body humanoid motor skills

Stulp, F., Buchli, J., Theodorou, E., Schaal, S.

In Humanoid Robots (Humanoids), 2010 10th IEEE-RAS International Conference on, pages: 405-410, December 2010, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
Applying reinforcement learning to humanoid robots is challenging because humanoids have a large number of degrees of freedom and state and action spaces are continuous. Thus, most reinforcement learning algorithms would become computationally infeasible and require a prohibitive amount of trials to explore such high-dimensional spaces. In this paper, we present a probabilistic reinforcement learning approach, which is derived from the framework of stochastic optimal control and path integrals. The algorithm, called Policy Improvement with Path Integrals (PI2), has a surprisingly simple form, has no open tuning parameters besides the exploration noise, is model-free, and performs numerically robustly in high dimensional learning problems. We demonstrate how PI2 is able to learn full-body motor skills on a 34-DOF humanoid robot. To demonstrate the generality of our approach, we also apply PI2 in the context of variable impedance control, where both planned trajectories and gain schedules for each joint are optimized simultaneously.

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link (url) [BibTex]

2010


link (url) [BibTex]


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Relative Entropy Policy Search

Peters, J., Mülling, K., Altun, Y.

In Proceedings of the Twenty-Fourth National Conference on Artificial Intelligence, pages: 1607-1612, (Editors: Fox, M. , D. Poole), AAAI Press, Menlo Park, CA, USA, Twenty-Fourth National Conference on Artificial Intelligence (AAAI-10), July 2010 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Policy search is a successful approach to reinforcement learning. However, policy improvements often result in the loss of information. Hence, it has been marred by premature convergence and implausible solutions. As first suggested in the context of covariant policy gradients (Bagnell and Schneider 2003), many of these problems may be addressed by constraining the information loss. In this paper, we continue this path of reasoning and suggest the Relative Entropy Policy Search (REPS) method. The resulting method differs significantly from previous policy gradient approaches and yields an exact update step. It works well on typical reinforcement learning benchmark problems.

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PDF Web [BibTex]

PDF Web [BibTex]


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Reinforcement learning of motor skills in high dimensions: A path integral approach

Theodorou, E., Buchli, J., Schaal, S.

In Robotics and Automation (ICRA), 2010 IEEE International Conference on, pages: 2397-2403, May 2010, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
Reinforcement learning (RL) is one of the most general approaches to learning control. Its applicability to complex motor systems, however, has been largely impossible so far due to the computational difficulties that reinforcement learning encounters in high dimensional continuous state-action spaces. In this paper, we derive a novel approach to RL for parameterized control policies based on the framework of stochastic optimal control with path integrals. While solidly grounded in optimal control theory and estimation theory, the update equations for learning are surprisingly simple and have no danger of numerical instabilities as neither matrix inversions nor gradient learning rates are required. Empirical evaluations demonstrate significant performance improvements over gradient-based policy learning and scalability to high-dimensional control problems. Finally, a learning experiment on a robot dog illustrates the functionality of our algorithm in a real-world scenario. We believe that our new algorithm, Policy Improvement with Path Integrals (PI2), offers currently one of the most efficient, numerically robust, and easy to implement algorithms for RL in robotics.

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link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Inverse dynamics control of floating base systems using orthogonal decomposition

Mistry, M., Buchli, J., Schaal, S.

In Robotics and Automation (ICRA), 2010 IEEE International Conference on, pages: 3406-3412, May 2010, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
Model-based control methods can be used to enable fast, dexterous, and compliant motion of robots without sacrificing control accuracy. However, implementing such techniques on floating base robots, e.g., humanoids and legged systems, is non-trivial due to under-actuation, dynamically changing constraints from the environment, and potentially closed loop kinematics. In this paper, we show how to compute the analytically correct inverse dynamics torques for model-based control of sufficiently constrained floating base rigid-body systems, such as humanoid robots with one or two feet in contact with the environment. While our previous inverse dynamics approach relied on an estimation of contact forces to compute an approximate inverse dynamics solution, here we present an analytically correct solution by using an orthogonal decomposition to project the robot dynamics onto a reduced dimensional space, independent of contact forces. We demonstrate the feasibility and robustness of our approach on a simulated floating base bipedal humanoid robot and an actual robot dog locomoting over rough terrain.

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link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Fast, robust quadruped locomotion over challenging terrain

Kalakrishnan, M., Buchli, J., Pastor, P., Mistry, M., Schaal, S.

In Robotics and Automation (ICRA), 2010 IEEE International Conference on, pages: 2665-2670, May 2010, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
We present a control architecture for fast quadruped locomotion over rough terrain. We approach the problem by decomposing it into many sub-systems, in which we apply state-of-the-art learning, planning, optimization and control techniques to achieve robust, fast locomotion. Unique features of our control strategy include: (1) a system that learns optimal foothold choices from expert demonstration using terrain templates, (2) a body trajectory optimizer based on the Zero-Moment Point (ZMP) stability criterion, and (3) a floating-base inverse dynamics controller that, in conjunction with force control, allows for robust, compliant locomotion over unperceived obstacles. We evaluate the performance of our controller by testing it on the LittleDog quadruped robot, over a wide variety of rough terrain of varying difficulty levels. We demonstrate the generalization ability of this controller by presenting test results from an independent external test team on terrains that have never been shown to us.

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link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Policy learning algorithmis for motor learning (Algorithmen zum automatischen Erlernen von Motorfähigkigkeiten)

Peters, J., Kober, J., Schaal, S.

Automatisierungstechnik, 58(12):688-694, 2010, clmc (article)

Abstract
Robot learning methods which allow au- tonomous robots to adapt to novel situations have been a long standing vision of robotics, artificial intelligence, and cognitive sciences. However, to date, learning techniques have yet to ful- fill this promise as only few methods manage to scale into the high-dimensional domains of manipulator robotics, or even the new upcoming trend of humanoid robotics. If possible, scaling was usually only achieved in precisely pre-structured domains. In this paper, we investigate the ingredients for a general ap- proach policy learning with the goal of an application to motor skill refinement in order to get one step closer towards human- like performance. For doing so, we study two major components for such an approach, i. e., firstly, we study policy learning algo- rithms which can be applied in the general setting of motor skill learning, and, secondly, we study a theoretically well-founded general approach to representing the required control structu- res for task representation and execution.

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link (url) [BibTex]


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Gait planning based on kinematics for a quadruped gecko model with redundancy

Son, D., Jeon, D., Nam, W. C., Chang, D., Seo, T., Kim, J.

Robotics and Autonomous Systems, 58, 2010 (article)

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[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Flat dry elastomer adhesives as attachment materials for climbing robots

Unver, O., Sitti, M.

IEEE transactions on robotics, 26(1):131-141, IEEE, 2010 (article)

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[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Adhesion recovery and passive peeling in a wall climbing robot using adhesives

Kute, C., Murphy, M. P., Mengüç, Y., Sitti, M.

In Robotics and Automation (ICRA), 2010 IEEE International Conference on, pages: 2797-2802, 2010 (inproceedings)

pi

[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Nanohandling robot cells

Fatikow, Sergej, Wich, Thomas, Dahmen, Christian, Jasper, Daniel, Stolle, Christian, Eichhorn, Volkmar, Hagemann, Saskia, Weigel-Jech, Michael

In Handbook of Nanophysics: Nanomedicine and Nanorobotics, pages: 1-31, CRC Press, 2010 (incollection)

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[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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A Bayesian approach to nonlinear parameter identification for rigid-body dynamics

Ting, J., DSouza, A., Schaal, S.

Neural Networks, 2010, clmc (article)

Abstract
For complex robots such as humanoids, model-based control is highly beneficial for accurate tracking while keeping negative feedback gains low for compliance. However, in such multi degree-of-freedom lightweight systems, conventional identification of rigid body dynamics models using CAD data and actuator models is inaccurate due to unknown nonlinear robot dynamic effects. An alternative method is data-driven parameter estimation, but significant noise in measured and inferred variables affects it adversely. Moreover, standard estimation procedures may give physically inconsistent results due to unmodeled nonlinearities or insufficiently rich data. This paper addresses these problems, proposing a Bayesian system identification technique for linear or piecewise linear systems. Inspired by Factor Analysis regression, we develop a computationally efficient variational Bayesian regression algorithm that is robust to ill-conditioned data, automatically detects relevant features, and identifies input and output noise. We evaluate our approach on rigid body parameter estimation for various robotic systems, achieving an error of up to three times lower than other state-of-the-art machine learning methods.

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link (url) [BibTex]


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A first optimal control solution for a complex, nonlinear, tendon driven neuromuscular finger model

Theodorou, E. A., Todorov, E., Valero-Cuevas, F.

Proceedings of the ASME 2010 Summer Bioengineering Conference August 30-September 2, 2010, Naples, Florida, USA, 2010, clmc (article)

Abstract
In this work we present the first constrained stochastic op- timal feedback controller applied to a fully nonlinear, tendon driven index finger model. Our model also takes into account an extensor mechanism, and muscle force-length and force-velocity properties. We show this feedback controller is robust to noise and perturbations to the dynamics, while successfully handling the nonlinearities and high dimensionality of the system. By ex- tending prior methods, we are able to approximate physiological realism by ensuring positivity of neural commands and tendon tensions at all timesthus can, for the first time, use the optimal control framework to predict biologically plausible tendon tensions for a nonlinear neuromuscular finger model. METHODS 1 Muscle Model The rigid-body triple pendulum finger model with slightly viscous joints is actuated by Hill-type muscle models. Joint torques are generated by the seven muscles of the index fin-

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PDF [BibTex]

PDF [BibTex]


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Locally weighted regression for control

Ting, J., Vijayakumar, S., Schaal, S.

In Encyclopedia of Machine Learning, pages: 613-624, (Editors: Sammut, C.;Webb, G. I.), Springer, 2010, clmc (inbook)

Abstract
This is article addresses two topics: learning control and locally weighted regression.

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link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Are reaching movements planned in kinematic or dynamic coordinates?

Ellmer, A., Schaal, S.

In Abstracts of Neural Control of Movement Conference (NCM 2010), Naples, Florida, 2010, 2010, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
Whether human reaching movements are planned and optimized in kinematic (task space) or dynamic (joint or muscle space) coordinates is still an issue of debate. The first hypothesis implies that a planner produces a desired end-effector position at each point in time during the reaching movement, whereas the latter hypothesis includes the dynamics of the muscular-skeletal control system to produce a continuous end-effector trajectory. Previous work by Wolpert et al (1995) showed that when subjects were led to believe that their straight reaching paths corresponded to curved paths as shown on a computer screen, participants adapted the true path of their hand such that they would visually perceive a straight line in visual space, despite that they actually produced a curved path. These results were interpreted as supporting the stance that reaching trajectories are planned in kinematic coordinates. However, this experiment could only demonstrate that adaptation to altered paths, i.e. the position of the end-effector, did occur, but not that the precise timing of end-effector position was equally planned, i.e., the trajectory. Our current experiment aims at filling this gap by explicitly testing whether position over time, i.e. velocity, is a property of reaching movements that is planned in kinematic coordinates. In the current experiment, the velocity profiles of cursor movements corresponding to the participant's hand motions were skewed either to the left or to the right; the path itself was left unaltered. We developed an adaptation paradigm, where the skew of the velocity profile was introduced gradually and participants reported no awareness of any manipulation. Preliminary results indicate that the true hand motion of participants did not alter, i.e. there was no adaptation so as to counterbalance the introduced skew. However, for some participants, peak hand velocities were lowered for higher skews, which suggests that participants interpreted the manipulation as mere noise due to variance in their own movement. In summary, for a visuomotor transformation task, the hypothesis of a planned continuous end-effector trajectory predicts adaptation to a modified velocity profile. The current experiment found no systematic adaptation under such transformation, but did demonstrate an effect that is more in accordance that subjects could not perceive the manipulation and rather interpreted as an increase of noise.

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[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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An experimental analysis of elliptical adhesive contact

Sümer, B., Onal, C. D., Aksak, B., Sitti, M.

Journal of Applied Physics, 107(11):113512, AIP, 2010 (article)

pi

Project Page [BibTex]

Project Page [BibTex]


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Comparison of linear and nonlinear buck converter models with varying compensator gain values for design optimization

Sattler, Michael, Lui, Yusi, Edrington, Chris S

In North American Power Symposium (NAPS), 2010, pages: 1-7, 2010 (inproceedings)

pi

[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Optimality in Neuromuscular Systems

Theodorou, E. A., Valero-Cuevas, F.

In 32nd Annual International Conference of the IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society, 2010, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
Abstract? We provide an overview of optimal control meth- ods to nonlinear neuromuscular systems and discuss their lim- itations. Moreover we extend current optimal control methods to their application to neuromuscular models with realistically numerous musculotendons; as most prior work is limited to torque-driven systems. Recent work on computational motor control has explored the used of control theory and esti- mation as a conceptual tool to understand the underlying computational principles of neuromuscular systems. After all, successful biological systems regularly meet conditions for stability, robustness and performance for multiple classes of complex tasks. Among a variety of proposed control theory frameworks to explain this, stochastic optimal control has become a dominant framework to the point of being a standard computational technique to reproduce kinematic trajectories of reaching movements (see [12]) In particular, we demonstrate the application of optimal control to a neuromuscular model of the index finger with all seven musculotendons producing a tapping task. Our simu- lations include 1) a muscle model that includes force- length and force-velocity characteristics; 2) an anatomically plausible biomechanical model of the index finger that includes a tendi- nous network for the extensor mechanism and 3) a contact model that is based on a nonlinear spring-damper attached at the end effector of the index finger. We demonstrate that it is feasible to apply optimal control to systems with realistically large state vectors and conclude that, while optimal control is an adequate formalism to create computational models of neuro- musculoskeletal systems, there remain important challenges and limitations that need to be considered and overcome such as contact transitions, curse of dimensionality, and constraints on states and controls.

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PDF [BibTex]

PDF [BibTex]


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Efficient learning and feature detection in high dimensional regression

Ting, J., D’Souza, A., Vijayakumar, S., Schaal, S.

Neural Computation, 22, pages: 831-886, 2010, clmc (article)

Abstract
We present a novel algorithm for efficient learning and feature selection in high- dimensional regression problems. We arrive at this model through a modification of the standard regression model, enabling us to derive a probabilistic version of the well-known statistical regression technique of backfitting. Using the Expectation- Maximization algorithm, along with variational approximation methods to overcome intractability, we extend our algorithm to include automatic relevance detection of the input features. This Variational Bayesian Least Squares (VBLS) approach retains its simplicity as a linear model, but offers a novel statistically robust â??black- boxâ? approach to generalized linear regression with high-dimensional inputs. It can be easily extended to nonlinear regression and classification problems. In particular, we derive the framework of sparse Bayesian learning, e.g., the Relevance Vector Machine, with VBLS at its core, offering significant computational and robustness advantages for this class of methods. We evaluate our algorithm on synthetic and neurophysiological data sets, as well as on standard regression and classification benchmark data sets, comparing it with other competitive statistical approaches and demonstrating its suitability as a drop-in replacement for other generalized linear regression techniques.

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link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Stochastic Differential Dynamic Programming

Theodorou, E., Tassa, Y., Todorov, E.

In the proceedings of American Control Conference (ACC 2010) , 2010, clmc (article)

Abstract
We present a generalization of the classic Differential Dynamic Programming algorithm. We assume the existence of state- and control-dependent process noise, and proceed to derive the second-order expansion of the cost-to-go. Despite having quartic and cubic terms in the initial expression, we show that these vanish, leaving us with the same quadratic structure as standard DDP.

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PDF [BibTex]

PDF [BibTex]


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Learning Policy Improvements with Path Integrals

Theodorou, E. A., Buchli, J., Schaal, S.

In International Conference on Artificial Intelligence and Statistics (AISTATS 2010), 2010, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
With the goal to generate more scalable algo- rithms with higher efficiency and fewer open parameters, reinforcement learning (RL) has recently moved towards combining classi- cal techniques from optimal control and dy- namic programming with modern learning techniques from statistical estimation the- ory. In this vein, this paper suggests the framework of stochastic optimal control with path integrals to derive a novel approach to RL with parametrized policies. While solidly grounded in value function estimation and optimal control based on the stochastic Hamilton-Jacobi-Bellman (HJB) equations, policy improvements can be transformed into an approximation problem of a path inte- gral which has no open parameters other than the exploration noise. The resulting algorithm can be conceived of as model- based, semi-model-based, or even model free, depending on how the learning problem is structured. Our new algorithm demon- strates interesting similarities with previous RL research in the framework of proba- bility matching and provides intuition why the slightly heuristically motivated proba- bility matching approach can actually per- form well. Empirical evaluations demon- strate significant performance improvements over gradient-based policy learning and scal- ability to high-dimensional control problems. We believe that Policy Improvement with Path Integrals (PI2) offers currently one of the most efficient, numerically robust, and easy to implement algorithms for RL based on trajectory roll-outs.

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PDF [BibTex]

PDF [BibTex]


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Learning optimal control solutions: a path integral approach

Theodorou, E., Schaal, S.

In Abstracts of Neural Control of Movement Conference (NCM 2010), Naples, Florida, 2010, 2010, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
Investigating principles of human motor control in the framework of optimal control has had a long tradition in neural control of movement, and has recently experienced a new surge of investigations. Ideally, optimal control problems are addresses as a reinforcement learning (RL) problem, which would allow to investigate both the process of acquiring an optimal control solution as well as the solution itself. Unfortunately, the applicability of RL to complex neural and biomechanics systems has been largely impossible so far due to the computational difficulties that arise in high dimensional continuous state-action spaces. As a way out, research has focussed on computing optimal control solutions based on iterative optimal control methods that are based on linear and quadratic approximations of dynamical models and cost functions. These methods require perfect knowledge of the dynamics and cost functions while they are based on gradient and Newton optimization schemes. Their applicability is also restricted to low dimensional problems due to problematic convergence in high dimensions. Moreover, the process of computing the optimal solution is removed from the learning process that might be plausible in biology. In this work, we present a new reinforcement learning method for learning optimal control solutions or motor control. This method, based on the framework of stochastic optimal control with path integrals, has a very solid theoretical foundation, while resulting in surprisingly simple learning algorithms. It is also possible to apply this approach without knowledge of the system model, and to use a wide variety of complex nonlinear cost functions for optimization. We illustrate the theoretical properties of this approach and its applicability to learning motor control tasks for reaching movements and locomotion studies. We discuss its applicability to learning desired trajectories, variable stiffness control (co-contraction), and parameterized control policies. We also investigate the applicability to signal dependent noise control systems. We believe that the suggested method offers one of the easiest to use approaches to learning optimal control suggested in the literature so far, which makes it ideally suited for computational investigations of biological motor control.

am

[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Enhancing the performance of Bio-inspired adhesives

Chung, H., Glass, P., Sitti, M., Washburn, N. R.

In ABSTRACTS OF PAPERS OF THE AMERICAN CHEMICAL SOCIETY, 240, 2010 (inproceedings)

pi

[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Enhanced wet adhesion and shear of elastomeric micro-fiber arrays with mushroom tip geometry and a photopolymerized p (DMA-co-MEA) tip coating

Glass, P., Chung, H., Washburn, N. R., Sitti, M.

Langmuir, 26(22):17357-17362, American Chemical Society, 2010 (article)

pi

Project Page [BibTex]

Project Page [BibTex]


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Control performance simulation in the design of a flapping wing micro-aerial vehicle

Hines, L. L., Arabagi, V., Sitti, M.

In Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS), 2010 IEEE/RSJ International Conference on, pages: 1090-1095, 2010 (inproceedings)

pi

Project Page [BibTex]

Project Page [BibTex]


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Learning control in robotics – trajectory-based opitimal control techniques

Schaal, S., Atkeson, C. G.

Robotics and Automation Magazine, 17(2):20-29, 2010, clmc (article)

Abstract
In a not too distant future, robots will be a natural part of daily life in human society, providing assistance in many areas ranging from clinical applications, education and care giving, to normal household environments [1]. It is hard to imagine that all possible tasks can be preprogrammed in such robots. Robots need to be able to learn, either by themselves or with the help of human supervision. Additionally, wear and tear on robots in daily use needs to be automatically compensated for, which requires a form of continuous self-calibration, another form of learning. Finally, robots need to react to stochastic and dynamic environments, i.e., they need to learn how to optimally adapt to uncertainty and unforeseen changes. Robot learning is going to be a key ingredient for the future of autonomous robots. While robot learning covers a rather large field, from learning to perceive, to plan, to make decisions, etc., we will focus this review on topics of learning control, in particular, as it is concerned with learning control in simulated or actual physical robots. In general, learning control refers to the process of acquiring a control strategy for a particular control system and a particular task by trial and error. Learning control is usually distinguished from adaptive control [2] in that the learning system can have rather general optimization objectivesâ??not just, e.g., minimal tracking errorâ??and is permitted to fail during the process of learning, while adaptive control emphasizes fast convergence without failure. Thus, learning control resembles the way that humans and animals acquire new movement strategies, while adaptive control is a special case of learning control that fulfills stringent performance constraints, e.g., as needed in life-critical systems like airplanes. Learning control has been an active topic of research for at least three decades. However, given the lack of working robots that actually use learning components, more work needs to be done before robot learning will make it beyond the laboratory environment. This article will survey some ongoing and past activities in robot learning to assess where the field stands and where it is going. We will largely focus on nonwheeled robots and less on topics of state estimation, as typically explored in wheeled robots [3]â??6], and we emphasize learning in continuous state-action spaces rather than discrete state-action spaces [7], [8]. We will illustrate the different topics of robot learning with examples from our own research with anthropomorphic and humanoid robots.

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link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Learning, planning, and control for quadruped locomotion over challenging terrain

Kalakrishnan, M., Buchli, J., Pastor, P., Mistry, M., Schaal, S.

International Journal of Robotics Research, 30(2):236-258, 2010, clmc (article)

Abstract
We present a control architecture for fast quadruped locomotion over rough terrain. We approach the problem by decomposing it into many sub-systems, in which we apply state-of-the-art learning, planning, optimization, and control techniques to achieve robust, fast locomotion. Unique features of our control strategy include: (1) a system that learns optimal foothold choices from expert demonstration using terrain templates, (2) a body trajectory optimizer based on the Zero- Moment Point (ZMP) stability criterion, and (3) a floating-base inverse dynamics controller that, in conjunction with force control, allows for robust, compliant locomotion over unperceived obstacles. We evaluate the performance of our controller by testing it on the LittleDog quadruped robot, over a wide variety of rough terrains of varying difficulty levels. The terrain that the robot was tested on includes rocks, logs, steps, barriers, and gaps, with obstacle sizes up to the leg length of the robot. We demonstrate the generalization ability of this controller by presenting results from testing performed by an independent external test team on terrain that has never been shown to us.

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link (url) Project Page [BibTex]

link (url) Project Page [BibTex]


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Teleoperated 3-D force feedback from the nanoscale with an atomic force microscope

Onal, C. D., Sitti, M.

IEEE Transactions on nanotechnology, 9(1):46-54, IEEE, 2010 (article)

pi

[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Roll and pitch motion analysis of a biologically inspired quadruped water runner robot

Park, H. S., Floyd, S., Sitti, M.

The International Journal of Robotics Research, 29(10):1281-1297, SAGE Publications Sage UK: London, England, 2010 (article)

pi

[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Microstructured elastomeric surfaces with reversible adhesion and examples of their use in deterministic assembly by transfer printing

Kim, Seok, Wu, Jian, Carlson, Andrew, Jin, Sung Hun, Kovalsky, Anton, Glass, Paul, Liu, Zhuangjian, Ahmed, Numair, Elgan, Steven L, Chen, Weiqiu, others

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 107(40):17095-17100, National Acad Sciences, 2010 (article)

pi

Project Page [BibTex]

Project Page [BibTex]


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Tankbot: A palm-size, tank-like climbing robot using soft elastomer adhesive treads

Unver, O., Sitti, M.

The International Journal of Robotics Research, 29(14):1761-1777, SAGE Publications Sage UK: London, England, 2010 (article)

pi

[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Constrained Accelerations for Controlled Geometric Reduction: Sagittal-Plane Decoupling for Bipedal Locomotion

Gregg, R., Righetti, L., Buchli, J., Schaal, S.

In 2010 10th IEEE-RAS International Conference on Humanoid Robots, pages: 1-7, IEEE, Nashville, USA, 2010 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Energy-shaping control methods have produced strong theoretical results for asymptotically stable 3D bipedal dynamic walking in the literature. In particular, geometric controlled reduction exploits robot symmetries to control momentum conservation laws that decouple the sagittal-plane dynamics, which are easier to stabilize. However, the associated control laws require high-dimensional matrix inverses multiplied with complicated energy-shaping terms, often making these control theories difficult to apply to highly-redundant humanoid robots. This paper presents a first step towards the application of energy-shaping methods on real robots by casting controlled reduction into a framework of constrained accelerations for inverse dynamics control. By representing momentum conservation laws as constraints in acceleration space, we construct a general expression for desired joint accelerations that render the constraint surface invariant. By appropriately choosing an orthogonal projection, we show that the unconstrained (reduced) dynamics are decoupled from the constrained dynamics. Any acceleration-based controller can then be used to stabilize this planar subsystem, including passivity-based methods. The resulting control law is surprisingly simple and represents a practical way to employ control theoretic stability results in robotic platforms. Simulated walking of a 3D compass-gait biped show correspondence between the new and original controllers, and simulated motions of a 16-DOF humanoid demonstrate the applicability of this method.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Variable impedance control - a reinforcement learning approach

Buchli, J., Theodorou, E., Stulp, F., Schaal, S.

In Robotics Science and Systems (2010), Zaragoza, Spain, June 27-30, 2010, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
One of the hallmarks of the performance, versatility, and robustness of biological motor control is the ability to adapt the impedance of the overall biomechanical system to different task requirements and stochastic disturbances. A transfer of this principle to robotics is desirable, for instance to enable robots to work robustly and safely in everyday human environments. It is, however, not trivial to derive variable impedance controllers for practical high DOF robotic tasks. In this contribution, we accomplish such gain scheduling with a reinforcement learning approach algorithm, PI2 (Policy Improvement with Path Integrals). PI2 is a model-free, sampling based learning method derived from first principles of optimal control. The PI2 algorithm requires no tuning of algorithmic parameters besides the exploration noise. The designer can thus fully focus on cost function design to specify the task. From the viewpoint of robotics, a particular useful property of PI2 is that it can scale to problems of many DOFs, so that RL on real robotic systems becomes feasible. We sketch the PI2 algorithm and its theoretical properties, and how it is applied to gain scheduling. We evaluate our approach by presenting results on two different simulated robotic systems, a 3-DOF Phantom Premium Robot and a 6-DOF Kuka Lightweight Robot. We investigate tasks where the optimal strategy requires both tuning of the impedance of the end-effector, and tuning of a reference trajectory. The results show that we can use path integral based RL not only for planning but also to derive variable gain feedback controllers in realistic scenarios. Thus, the power of variable impedance control is made available to a wide variety of robotic systems and practical applications.

am

link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Note: Aligned deposition and modal characterization of micron and submicron poly (methyl methacyrlate) fiber cantilevers

Nain, A. S., Filiz, S., Burak Ozdoganlar, O., Sitti, M., Amon, C.

Review of Scientific Instruments, 81(1):016102, AIP, 2010 (article)

pi

[BibTex]

[BibTex]