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2018


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Deep Reinforcement Learning for Event-Triggered Control

Baumann, D., Zhu, J., Martius, G., Trimpe, S.

In Proceedings of the 57th IEEE International Conference on Decision and Control (CDC), pages: 943-950, 57th IEEE International Conference on Decision and Control (CDC), December 2018 (inproceedings)

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arXiv PDF DOI Project Page Project Page [BibTex]

2018


arXiv PDF DOI Project Page Project Page [BibTex]


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A Value-Driven Eldercare Robot: Virtual and Physical Instantiations of a Case-Supported Principle-Based Behavior Paradigm

Anderson, M., Anderson, S., Berenz, V.

Proceedings of the IEEE, pages: 1,15, October 2018 (article)

Abstract
In this paper, a case-supported principle-based behavior paradigm is proposed to help ensure ethical behavior of autonomous machines. We argue that ethically significant behavior of autonomous systems should be guided by explicit ethical principles determined through a consensus of ethicists. Such a consensus is likely to emerge in many areas in which autonomous systems are apt to be deployed and for the actions they are liable to undertake. We believe that this is the case since we are more likely to agree on how machines ought to treat us than on how human beings ought to treat one another. Given such a consensus, particular cases of ethical dilemmas where ethicists agree on the ethically relevant features and the right course of action can be used to help discover principles that balance these features when they are in conflict. Such principles not only help ensure ethical behavior of complex and dynamic systems but also can serve as a basis for justification of this behavior. The requirements, methods, implementation, and evaluation components of the paradigm are detailed as well as its instantiation in both a simulated and real robot functioning in the domain of eldercare.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Playful: Reactive Programming for Orchestrating Robotic Behavior

Berenz, V., Schaal, S.

IEEE Robotics Automation Magazine, 25(3):49-60, September 2018 (article) In press

Abstract
For many service robots, reactivity to changes in their surroundings is a must. However, developing software suitable for dynamic environments is difficult. Existing robotic middleware allows engineers to design behavior graphs by organizing communication between components. But because these graphs are structurally inflexible, they hardly support the development of complex reactive behavior. To address this limitation, we propose Playful, a software platform that applies reactive programming to the specification of robotic behavior.

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playful website playful_IEEE_RAM link (url) DOI [BibTex]


Thumb xl screen shot 2018 09 19 at 09.33.59
ClusterNet: Instance Segmentation in RGB-D Images

Shao, L., Tian, Y., Bohg, J.

arXiv, September 2018, Submitted to ICRA'19 (article) Submitted

Abstract
We propose a method for instance-level segmentation that uses RGB-D data as input and provides detailed information about the location, geometry and number of {\em individual\/} objects in the scene. This level of understanding is fundamental for autonomous robots. It enables safe and robust decision-making under the large uncertainty of the real-world. In our model, we propose to use the first and second order moments of the object occupancy function to represent an object instance. We train an hourglass Deep Neural Network (DNN) where each pixel in the output votes for the 3D position of the corresponding object center and for the object's size and pose. The final instance segmentation is achieved through clustering in the space of moments. The object-centric training loss is defined on the output of the clustering. Our method outperforms the state-of-the-art instance segmentation method on our synthesized dataset. We show that our method generalizes well on real-world data achieving visually better segmentation results.

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link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Leveraging Contact Forces for Learning to Grasp

Merzic, H., Bogdanovic, M., Kappler, D., Righetti, L., Bohg, J.

arXiv, September 2018, Submitted to ICRA'19 (article) Submitted

Abstract
Grasping objects under uncertainty remains an open problem in robotics research. This uncertainty is often due to noisy or partial observations of the object pose or shape. To enable a robot to react appropriately to unforeseen effects, it is crucial that it continuously takes sensor feedback into account. While visual feedback is important for inferring a grasp pose and reaching for an object, contact feedback offers valuable information during manipulation and grasp acquisition. In this paper, we use model-free deep reinforcement learning to synthesize control policies that exploit contact sensing to generate robust grasping under uncertainty. We demonstrate our approach on a multi-fingered hand that exhibits more complex finger coordination than the commonly used two- fingered grippers. We conduct extensive experiments in order to assess the performance of the learned policies, with and without contact sensing. While it is possible to learn grasping policies without contact sensing, our results suggest that contact feedback allows for a significant improvement of grasping robustness under object pose uncertainty and for objects with a complex shape.

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video arXiv [BibTex]

video arXiv [BibTex]


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Probabilistic Recurrent State-Space Models

Doerr, A., Daniel, C., Schiegg, M., Nguyen-Tuong, D., Schaal, S., Toussaint, M., Trimpe, S.

In Proceedings of the International Conference on Machine Learning (ICML), International Conference on Machine Learning (ICML), July 2018 (inproceedings)

Abstract
State-space models (SSMs) are a highly expressive model class for learning patterns in time series data and for system identification. Deterministic versions of SSMs (e.g., LSTMs) proved extremely successful in modeling complex time-series data. Fully probabilistic SSMs, however, unfortunately often prove hard to train, even for smaller problems. To overcome this limitation, we propose a scalable initialization and training algorithm based on doubly stochastic variational inference and Gaussian processes. In the variational approximation we propose in contrast to related approaches to fully capture the latent state temporal correlations to allow for robust training.

am ics

arXiv pdf Project Page [BibTex]

arXiv pdf Project Page [BibTex]


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Real-time Perception meets Reactive Motion Generation

(Best Systems Paper Finalists - Amazon Robotics Best Paper Awards in Manipulation)

Kappler, D., Meier, F., Issac, J., Mainprice, J., Garcia Cifuentes, C., Wüthrich, M., Berenz, V., Schaal, S., Ratliff, N., Bohg, J.

IEEE Robotics and Automation Letters, 3(3):1864-1871, July 2018 (article)

Abstract
We address the challenging problem of robotic grasping and manipulation in the presence of uncertainty. This uncertainty is due to noisy sensing, inaccurate models and hard-to-predict environment dynamics. Our approach emphasizes the importance of continuous, real-time perception and its tight integration with reactive motion generation methods. We present a fully integrated system where real-time object and robot tracking as well as ambient world modeling provides the necessary input to feedback controllers and continuous motion optimizers. Specifically, they provide attractive and repulsive potentials based on which the controllers and motion optimizer can online compute movement policies at different time intervals. We extensively evaluate the proposed system on a real robotic platform in four scenarios that exhibit either challenging workspace geometry or a dynamic environment. We compare the proposed integrated system with a more traditional sense-plan-act approach that is still widely used. In 333 experiments, we show the robustness and accuracy of the proposed system.

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arxiv video video link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]


Thumb xl meta learning overview
Online Learning of a Memory for Learning Rates

(nominated for best paper award)

Meier, F., Kappler, D., Schaal, S.

In Proceedings of the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA) 2018, IEEE, International Conference on Robotics and Automation, May 2018, accepted (inproceedings)

Abstract
The promise of learning to learn for robotics rests on the hope that by extracting some information about the learning process itself we can speed up subsequent similar learning tasks. Here, we introduce a computationally efficient online meta-learning algorithm that builds and optimizes a memory model of the optimal learning rate landscape from previously observed gradient behaviors. While performing task specific optimization, this memory of learning rates predicts how to scale currently observed gradients. After applying the gradient scaling our meta-learner updates its internal memory based on the observed effect its prediction had. Our meta-learner can be combined with any gradient-based optimizer, learns on the fly and can be transferred to new optimization tasks. In our evaluations we show that our meta-learning algorithm speeds up learning of MNIST classification and a variety of learning control tasks, either in batch or online learning settings.

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pdf video code [BibTex]

pdf video code [BibTex]


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Learning Sensor Feedback Models from Demonstrations via Phase-Modulated Neural Networks

Sutanto, G., Su, Z., Schaal, S., Meier, F.

In Proceedings of the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA) 2018, IEEE, International Conference on Robotics and Automation, May 2018 (inproceedings)

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pdf video [BibTex]

pdf video [BibTex]


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Nonlinear decoding of a complex movie from the mammalian retina

Botella-Soler, V., Deny, S., Martius, G., Marre, O., Tkačik, G.

PLOS Computational Biology, 14(5):1-27, Public Library of Science, May 2018 (article)

Abstract
Author summary Neurons in the retina transform patterns of incoming light into sequences of neural spikes. We recorded from ∼100 neurons in the rat retina while it was stimulated with a complex movie. Using machine learning regression methods, we fit decoders to reconstruct the movie shown from the retinal output. We demonstrated that retinal code can only be read out with a low error if decoders make use of correlations between successive spikes emitted by individual neurons. These correlations can be used to ignore spontaneous spiking that would, otherwise, cause even the best linear decoders to “hallucinate” nonexistent stimuli. This work represents the first high resolution single-trial full movie reconstruction and suggests a new paradigm for separating spontaneous from stimulus-driven neural activity.

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


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Distributed Event-Based State Estimation for Networked Systems: An LMI Approach

Muehlebach, M., Trimpe, S.

IEEE Transactions on Automatic Control, 63(1):269-276, January 2018 (article)

am ics

arXiv (extended version) DOI Project Page [BibTex]

arXiv (extended version) DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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Combining learned and analytical models for predicting action effects

Kloss, A., Schaal, S., Bohg, J.

arXiv, 2018 (article) Submitted

Abstract
One of the most basic skills a robot should possess is predicting the effect of physical interactions with objects in the environment. This enables optimal action selection to reach a certain goal state. Traditionally, dynamics are approximated by physics-based analytical models. These models rely on specific state representations that may be hard to obtain from raw sensory data, especially if no knowledge of the object shape is assumed. More recently, we have seen learning approaches that can predict the effect of complex physical interactions directly from sensory input. It is however an open question how far these models generalize beyond their training data. In this work, we investigate the advantages and limitations of neural network based learning approaches for predicting the effects of actions based on sensory input and show how analytical and learned models can be combined to leverage the best of both worlds. As physical interaction task, we use planar pushing, for which there exists a well-known analytical model and a large real-world dataset. We propose to use a convolutional neural network to convert raw depth images or organized point clouds into a suitable representation for the analytical model and compare this approach to using neural networks for both, perception and prediction. A systematic evaluation of the proposed approach on a very large real-world dataset shows two main advantages of the hybrid architecture. Compared to a pure neural network, it significantly (i) reduces required training data and (ii) improves generalization to novel physical interaction.

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arXiv pdf link (url) [BibTex]


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L4: Practical loss-based stepsize adaptation for deep learning

Rolinek, M., Martius, G.

In Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 31 (NeurIPS 2018), pages: 6434-6444, (Editors: S. Bengio and H. Wallach and H. Larochelle and K. Grauman and N. Cesa-Bianchi and R. Garnett), Curran Associates, Inc., 2018 (inproceedings)

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Github link (url) Project Page [BibTex]

Github link (url) Project Page [BibTex]


Thumb xl publication alife 2018
Systematic self-exploration of behaviors for robots in a dynamical systems framework

Pinneri, C., Martius, G.

In Proc. Artificial Life XI, pages: 319-326, MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, 2018 (inproceedings)

Abstract
One of the challenges of this century is to understand the neural mechanisms behind cognitive control and learning. Recent investigations propose biologically plausible synaptic mechanisms for self-organizing controllers, in the spirit of Hebbian learning. In particular, differential extrinsic plasticity (DEP) [Der and Martius, PNAS 2015], has proven to enable embodied agents to self-organize their individual sensorimotor development, and generate highly coordinated behaviors during their interaction with the environment. These behaviors are attractors of a dynamical system. In this paper, we use the DEP rule to generate attractors and we combine it with a “repelling potential” which allows the system to actively explore all its attractor behaviors in a systematic way. With a view to a self-determined exploration of goal-free behaviors, our framework enables switching between different motion patterns in an autonomous and sequential fashion. Our algorithm is able to recover all the attractor behaviors in a toy system and it is also effective in two simulated environments. A spherical robot discovers all its major rolling modes and a hexapod robot learns to locomote in 50 different ways in 30min.

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link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]

link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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Learning equations for extrapolation and control

Sahoo, S. S., Lampert, C. H., Martius, G.

In Proc. 35th International Conference on Machine Learning, ICML 2018, Stockholm, Sweden, 2018, 80, pages: 4442-4450, http://proceedings.mlr.press/v80/sahoo18a/sahoo18a.pdf, (Editors: Dy, Jennifer and Krause, Andreas), PMLR, 2018 (inproceedings)

Abstract
We present an approach to identify concise equations from data using a shallow neural network approach. In contrast to ordinary black-box regression, this approach allows understanding functional relations and generalizing them from observed data to unseen parts of the parameter space. We show how to extend the class of learnable equations for a recently proposed equation learning network to include divisions, and we improve the learning and model selection strategy to be useful for challenging real-world data. For systems governed by analytical expressions, our method can in many cases identify the true underlying equation and extrapolate to unseen domains. We demonstrate its effectiveness by experiments on a cart-pendulum system, where only 2 random rollouts are required to learn the forward dynamics and successfully achieve the swing-up task.

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Code Arxiv Poster Slides link (url) Project Page [BibTex]

Code Arxiv Poster Slides link (url) Project Page [BibTex]


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Robust Affordable 3D Haptic Sensation via Learning Deformation Patterns

Sun, H., Martius, G.

Proceedings International Conference on Humanoid Robots, pages: 846-853, IEEE, New York, NY, USA, 2018 IEEE-RAS International Conference on Humanoid Robots, 2018, Oral Presentation (conference)

Abstract
Haptic sensation is an important modality for interacting with the real world. This paper proposes a general framework of inferring haptic forces on the surface of a 3D structure from internal deformations using a small number of physical sensors instead of employing dense sensor arrays. Using machine learning techniques, we optimize the sensor number and their placement and are able to obtain high-precision force inference for a robotic limb using as few as 9 sensors. For the optimal and sparse placement of the measurement units (strain gauges), we employ data-driven methods based on data obtained by finite element simulation. We compare data-driven approaches with model-based methods relying on geometric distance and information criteria such as Entropy and Mutual Information. We validate our approach on a modified limb of the “Poppy” robot [1] and obtain 8 mm localization precision.

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DOI Project Page [BibTex]

DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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On Time Optimization of Centroidal Momentum Dynamics

Ponton, B., Herzog, A., Del Prete, A., Schaal, S., Righetti, L.

In 2018 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA), pages: 5776-5782, IEEE, Brisbane, Australia, May 2018 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Recently, the centroidal momentum dynamics has received substantial attention to plan dynamically consistent motions for robots with arms and legs in multi-contact scenarios. However, it is also non convex which renders any optimization approach difficult and timing is usually kept fixed in most trajectory optimization techniques to not introduce additional non convexities to the problem. But this can limit the versatility of the algorithms. In our previous work, we proposed a convex relaxation of the problem that allowed to efficiently compute momentum trajectories and contact forces. However, our approach could not minimize a desired angular momentum objective which seriously limited its applicability. Noticing that the non-convexity introduced by the time variables is of similar nature as the centroidal dynamics one, we propose two convex relaxations to the problem based on trust regions and soft constraints. The resulting approaches can compute time-optimized dynamically consistent trajectories sufficiently fast to make the approach realtime capable. The performance of the algorithm is demonstrated in several multi-contact scenarios for a humanoid robot. In particular, we show that the proposed convex relaxation of the original problem finds solutions that are consistent with the original non-convex problem and illustrate how timing optimization allows to find motion plans that would be difficult to plan with fixed timing † †Implementation details and demos can be found in the source code available at https://git-amd.tuebingen.mpg.de/bponton/timeoptimization.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Unsupervised Contact Learning for Humanoid Estimation and Control

Rotella, N., Schaal, S., Righetti, L.

In 2018 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA), pages: 411-417, IEEE, Brisbane, Australia, 2018 (inproceedings)

Abstract
This work presents a method for contact state estimation using fuzzy clustering to learn contact probability for full, six-dimensional humanoid contacts. The data required for training is solely from proprioceptive sensors - endeffector contact wrench sensors and inertial measurement units (IMUs) - and the method is completely unsupervised. The resulting cluster means are used to efficiently compute the probability of contact in each of the six endeffector degrees of freedom (DoFs) independently. This clustering-based contact probability estimator is validated in a kinematics-based base state estimator in a simulation environment with realistic added sensor noise for locomotion over rough, low-friction terrain on which the robot is subject to foot slip and rotation. The proposed base state estimator which utilizes these six DoF contact probability estimates is shown to perform considerably better than that which determines kinematic contact constraints purely based on measured normal force.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Learning Task-Specific Dynamics to Improve Whole-Body Control

Gams, A., Mason, S., Ude, A., Schaal, S., Righetti, L.

In Hua, IEEE, Beijing, China, November 2018 (inproceedings)

Abstract
In task-based inverse dynamics control, reference accelerations used to follow a desired plan can be broken down into feedforward and feedback trajectories. The feedback term accounts for tracking errors that are caused from inaccurate dynamic models or external disturbances. On underactuated, free-floating robots, such as humanoids, high feedback terms can be used to improve tracking accuracy; however, this can lead to very stiff behavior or poor tracking accuracy due to limited control bandwidth. In this paper, we show how to reduce the required contribution of the feedback controller by incorporating learned task-space reference accelerations. Thus, we i) improve the execution of the given specific task, and ii) offer the means to reduce feedback gains, providing for greater compliance of the system. With a systematic approach we also reduce heuristic tuning of the model parameters and feedback gains, often present in real-world experiments. In contrast to learning task-specific joint-torques, which might produce a similar effect but can lead to poor generalization, our approach directly learns the task-space dynamics of the center of mass of a humanoid robot. Simulated and real-world results on the lower part of the Sarcos Hermes humanoid robot demonstrate the applicability of the approach.

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link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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An MPC Walking Framework With External Contact Forces

Mason, S., Rotella, N., Schaal, S., Righetti, L.

In 2018 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA), pages: 1785-1790, IEEE, Brisbane, Australia, May 2018 (inproceedings)

Abstract
In this work, we present an extension to a linear Model Predictive Control (MPC) scheme that plans external contact forces for the robot when given multiple contact locations and their corresponding friction cone. To this end, we set up a two-step optimization problem. In the first optimization, we compute the Center of Mass (CoM) trajectory, foot step locations, and introduce slack variables to account for violating the imposed constraints on the Zero Moment Point (ZMP). We then use the slack variables to trigger the second optimization, in which we calculate the optimal external force that compensates for the ZMP tracking error. This optimization considers multiple contacts positions within the environment by formulating the problem as a Mixed Integer Quadratic Program (MIQP) that can be solved at a speed between 100-300 Hz. Once contact is created, the MIQP reduces to a single Quadratic Program (QP) that can be solved in real-time ({\textless}; 1kHz). Simulations show that the presented walking control scheme can withstand disturbances 2-3× larger with the additional force provided by a hand contact.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

2012


Thumb xl screen shot 2015 08 23 at 13.56.29
Towards Multi-DOF model mediated teleoperation: Using vision to augment feedback

Willaert, B., Bohg, J., Van Brussel, H., Niemeyer, G.

In IEEE International Workshop on Haptic Audio Visual Environments and Games (HAVE), pages: 25-31, October 2012 (inproceedings)

Abstract
In this paper, we address some of the challenges that arise as model-mediated teleoperation is applied to systems with multiple degrees of freedom and multiple sensors. Specifically we use a system with position, force, and vision sensors to explore an environment geometry in two degrees of freedom. The inclusion of vision is proposed to alleviate the difficulties of estimating an increasing number of environment properties. Vision can furthermore increase the predictive nature of model-mediated teleoperation, by effectively predicting touch feedback before the slave is even in contact with the environment. We focus on the case of estimating the location and orientation of a local surface patch at the contact point between the slave and the environment. We describe the various information sources with their respective limitations and create a combined model estimator as part of a multi-d.o.f. model-mediated controller. An experiment demonstrates the feasibility and benefits of utilizing vision sensors in teleoperation.

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DOI [BibTex]

2012


DOI [BibTex]


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Failure Recovery with Shared Autonomy

Sankaran, B., Pitzer, B., Osentoski, S.

In International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems, October 2012 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Building robots capable of long term autonomy has been a long standing goal of robotics research. Such systems must be capable of performing certain tasks with a high degree of robustness and repeatability. In the context of personal robotics, these tasks could range anywhere from retrieving items from a refrigerator, loading a dishwasher, to setting up a dinner table. Given the complexity of tasks there are a multitude of failure scenarios that the robot can encounter, irrespective of whether the environment is static or dynamic. For a robot to be successful in such situations, it would need to know how to recover from failures or when to ask a human for help. This paper, presents a novel shared autonomy behavioral executive to addresses these issues. We demonstrate how this executive combines generalized logic based recovery and human intervention to achieve continuous failure free operation. We tested the systems over 250 trials of two different use case experiments. Our current algorithm drastically reduced human intervention from 26% to 4% on the first experiment and 46% to 9% on the second experiment. This system provides a new dimension to robot autonomy, where robots can exhibit long term failure free operation with minimal human supervision. We also discuss how the system can be generalized.

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link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Task-Based Grasp Adaptation on a Humanoid Robot

Bohg, J., Welke, K., León, B., Do, M., Song, D., Wohlkinger, W., Aldoma, A., Madry, M., Przybylski, M., Asfour, T., Marti, H., Kragic, D., Morales, A., Vincze, M.

In 10th IFAC Symposium on Robot Control, SyRoCo 2012, Dubrovnik, Croatia, September 5-7, 2012., pages: 779-786, September 2012 (inproceedings)

Abstract
In this paper, we present an approach towards autonomous grasping of objects according to their category and a given task. Recent advances in the field of object segmentation and categorization as well as task-based grasp inference have been leveraged by integrating them into one pipeline. This allows us to transfer task-specific grasp experience between objects of the same category. The effectiveness of the approach is demonstrated on the humanoid robot ARMAR-IIIa.

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Video pdf DOI [BibTex]

Video pdf DOI [BibTex]


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Movement Segmentation and Recognition for Imitation Learning

Meier, F., Theodorou, E., Schaal, S.

In Seventeenth International Conference on Artificial Intelligence and Statistics, La Palma, Canary Islands, Fifteenth International Conference on Artificial Intelligence and Statistics , April 2012 (inproceedings)

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link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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From Dynamic Movement Primitives to Associative Skill Memories

Pastor, P., Kalakrishnan, M., Meier, F., Stulp, F., Buchli, J., Theodorou, E., Schaal, S.

Robotics and Autonomous Systems, 2012 (article)

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Project Page [BibTex]

Project Page [BibTex]


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Inverse dynamics with optimal distribution of contact forces for the control of legged robots

Righetti, L., Schaal, S.

In Dynamic Walking 2012, Pensacola, 2012 (inproceedings)

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[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Variants of guided self-organization for robot control

Martius, G., Herrmann, J.

Theory in Biosci., 131(3):129-137, Springer Berlin / Heidelberg, 2012 (article)

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Encoding of Periodic and their Transient Motions by a Single Dynamic Movement Primitive

Ernesti, J., Righetti, L., Do, M., Asfour, T., Schaal, S.

In 2012 12th IEEE-RAS International Conference on Humanoid Robots (Humanoids 2012), pages: 57-64, IEEE, Osaka, Japan, November 2012 (inproceedings)

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Learning Force Control Policies for Compliant Robotic Manipulation

Kalakrishnan, M., Righetti, L., Pastor, P., Schaal, S.

In ICML’12 Proceedings of the 29th International Coference on International Conference on Machine Learning, pages: 49-50, Edinburgh, Scotland, 2012 (inproceedings)

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[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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The Playful Machine - Theoretical Foundation and Practical Realization of Self-Organizing Robots

Der, R., Martius, G.

Springer, Berlin Heidelberg, 2012 (book)

Abstract
Autonomous robots may become our closest companions in the near future. While the technology for physically building such machines is already available today, a problem lies in the generation of the behavior for such complex machines. Nature proposes a solution: young children and higher animals learn to master their complex brain-body systems by playing. Can this be an option for robots? How can a machine be playful? The book provides answers by developing a general principle---homeokinesis, the dynamical symbiosis between brain, body, and environment---that is shown to drive robots to self-determined, individual development in a playful and obviously embodiment-related way: a dog-like robot starts playing with a barrier, eventually jumping or climbing over it; a snakebot develops coiling and jumping modes; humanoids develop climbing behaviors when fallen into a pit, or engage in wrestling-like scenarios when encountering an opponent. The book also develops guided self-organization, a new method that helps to make the playful machines fit for fulfilling tasks in the real world.

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link (url) [BibTex]


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Quadratic programming for inverse dynamics with optimal distribution of contact forces

Righetti, L., Schaal, S.

In 2012 12th IEEE-RAS International Conference on Humanoid Robots (Humanoids 2012), pages: 538-543, IEEE, Osaka, Japan, November 2012 (inproceedings)

Abstract
In this contribution we propose an inverse dynamics controller for a humanoid robot that exploits torque redundancy to minimize any combination of linear and quadratic costs in the contact forces and the commands. In addition the controller satisfies linear equality and inequality constraints in the contact forces and the commands such as torque limits, unilateral contacts or friction cones limits. The originality of our approach resides in the formulation of the problem as a quadratic program where we only need to solve for the control commands and where the contact forces are optimized implicitly. Furthermore, we do not need a structured representation of the dynamics of the robot (i.e. an explicit computation of the inertia matrix). It is in contrast with existing methods based on quadratic programs. The controller is then robust to uncertainty in the estimation of the dynamics model and the optimization is fast enough to be implemented in high bandwidth torque control loops that are increasingly available on humanoid platforms. We demonstrate properties of our controller with simulations of a human size humanoid robot.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Model-free reinforcement learning of impedance control in stochastic environments

Stulp, Freek, Buchli, Jonas, Ellmer, Alice, Mistry, Michael, Theodorou, Evangelos A., Schaal, S.

Autonomous Mental Development, IEEE Transactions on, 4(4):330-341, 2012 (article)

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[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Towards Associative Skill Memories

Pastor, P., Kalakrishnan, M., Righetti, L., Schaal, S.

In 2012 12th IEEE-RAS International Conference on Humanoid Robots (Humanoids 2012), pages: 309-315, IEEE, Osaka, Japan, November 2012 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Movement primitives as basis of movement planning and control have become a popular topic in recent years. The key idea of movement primitives is that a rather small set of stereotypical movements should suffice to create a large set of complex manipulation skills. An interesting side effect of stereotypical movement is that it also creates stereotypical sensory events, e.g., in terms of kinesthetic variables, haptic variables, or, if processed appropriately, visual variables. Thus, a movement primitive executed towards a particular object in the environment will associate a large number of sensory variables that are typical for this manipulation skill. These association can be used to increase robustness towards perturbations, and they also allow failure detection and switching towards other behaviors. We call such movement primitives augmented with sensory associations Associative Skill Memories (ASM). This paper addresses how ASMs can be acquired by imitation learning and how they can create robust manipulation skill by determining subsequent ASMs online to achieve a particular manipulation goal. Evaluation for grasping and manipulation with a Barrett WAM/Hand illustrate our approach.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Template-based learning of grasp selection

Herzog, A., Pastor, P., Kalakrishnan, M., Righetti, L., Asfour, T., Schaal, S.

In 2012 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation, pages: 2379-2384, IEEE, Saint Paul, USA, 2012 (inproceedings)

Abstract
The ability to grasp unknown objects is an important skill for personal robots, which has been addressed by many present and past research projects, but still remains an open problem. A crucial aspect of grasping is choosing an appropriate grasp configuration, i.e. the 6d pose of the hand relative to the object and its finger configuration. Finding feasible grasp configurations for novel objects, however, is challenging because of the huge variety in shape and size of these objects. Moreover, possible configurations also depend on the specific kinematics of the robotic arm and hand in use. In this paper, we introduce a new grasp selection algorithm able to find object grasp poses based on previously demonstrated grasps. Assuming that objects with similar shapes can be grasped in a similar way, we associate to each demonstrated grasp a grasp template. The template is a local shape descriptor for a possible grasp pose and is constructed using 3d information from depth sensors. For each new object to grasp, the algorithm then finds the best grasp candidate in the library of templates. The grasp selection is also able to improve over time using the information of previous grasp attempts to adapt the ranking of the templates. We tested the algorithm on two different platforms, the Willow Garage PR2 and the Barrett WAM arm which have very different hands. Our results show that the algorithm is able to find good grasp configurations for a large set of objects from a relatively small set of demonstrations, and does indeed improve its performance over time.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Reinforcement Learning with Sequences of Motion Primitives for Robust Manipulation

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

IEEE Transactions on Robotics, 2012 (article)

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[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Probabilistic depth image registration incorporating nonvisual information

Wüthrich, M., Pastor, P., Righetti, L., Billard, A., Schaal, S.

In 2012 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation, pages: 3637-3644, IEEE, Saint Paul, USA, 2012 (inproceedings)

Abstract
In this paper, we derive a probabilistic registration algorithm for object modeling and tracking. In many robotics applications, such as manipulation tasks, nonvisual information about the movement of the object is available, which we will combine with the visual information. Furthermore we do not only consider observations of the object, but we also take space into account which has been observed to not be part of the object. Furthermore we are computing a posterior distribution over the relative alignment and not a point estimate as typically done in for example Iterative Closest Point (ICP). To our knowledge no existing algorithm meets these three conditions and we thus derive a novel registration algorithm in a Bayesian framework. Experimental results suggest that the proposed methods perform favorably in comparison to PCL [1] implementations of feature mapping and ICP, especially if nonvisual information is available.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

2011


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

Kalakrishnan, Mrinal, Buchli, Jonas, Pastor, Peter, Mistry, Michael, Schaal, S.

International Journal of Robotics Research, 30(2):236-258, February 2011 (article)

am

[BibTex]

2011


[BibTex]


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STOMP: Stochastic trajectory optimization for motion planning

Kalakrishnan, M., Chitta, S., Theodorou, E., Pastor, P., Schaal, S.

In IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA), Shanghai, China, May 9-13, 2011, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
We present a new approach to motion planning using a stochastic trajectory optimization framework. The approach relies on generating noisy trajectories to explore the space around an initial (possibly infeasible) trajectory, which are then combined to produced an updated trajectory with lower cost. A cost function based on a combination of obstacle and smoothness cost is optimized in each iteration. No gradient information is required for the particular optimization algorithm that we use and so general costs for which derivatives may not be available (e.g. costs corresponding to constraints and motor torques) can be included in the cost function. We demonstrate the approach both in simulation and on a dual-arm mobile manipulation system for unconstrained and constrained tasks. We experimentally show that the stochastic nature of STOMP allows it to overcome local minima that gradient-based optimizers like CHOMP can get stuck in.

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link (url) Project Page [BibTex]

link (url) Project Page [BibTex]


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Path Integral Control and Bounded Rationality

Braun, D. A., Ortega, P. A., Theodorou, E., Schaal, S.

In IEEE Symposium on Adaptive Dynamic Programming And Reinforcement Learning (ADPRL), 2011, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
Path integral methods [7], [15],[1] have recently been shown to be applicable to a very general class of optimal control problems. Here we examine the path integral formalism from a decision-theoretic point of view, since an optimal controller can always be regarded as an instance of a perfectly rational decision-maker that chooses its actions so as to maximize its expected utility [8]. The problem with perfect rationality is, however, that finding optimal actions is often very difficult due to prohibitive computational resource costs that are not taken into account. In contrast, a bounded rational decision-maker has only limited resources and therefore needs to strike some compromise between the desired utility and the required resource costs [14]. In particular, we suggest an information-theoretic measure of resource costs that can be derived axiomatically [11]. As a consequence we obtain a variational principle for choice probabilities that trades off maximizing a given utility criterion and avoiding resource costs that arise due to deviating from initially given default choice probabilities. The resulting bounded rational policies are in general probabilistic. We show that the solutions found by the path integral formalism are such bounded rational policies. Furthermore, we show that the same formalism generalizes to discrete control problems, leading to linearly solvable bounded rational control policies in the case of Markov systems. Importantly, Bellman?s optimality principle is not presupposed by this variational principle, but it can be derived as a limit case. This suggests that the information- theoretic formalization of bounded rationality might serve as a general principle in control design that unifies a number of recently reported approximate optimal control methods both in the continuous and discrete domain.

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PDF [BibTex]

PDF [BibTex]


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Skill learning and task outcome prediction for manipulation

Pastor, P., Kalakrishnan, M., Chitta, S., Theodorou, E., Schaal, S.

In IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA), Shanghai, China, May 9-13, 2011, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
Learning complex motor skills for real world tasks is a hard problem in robotic manipulation that often requires painstaking manual tuning and design by a human expert. In this work, we present a Reinforcement Learning based approach to acquiring new motor skills from demonstration. Our approach allows the robot to learn fine manipulation skills and significantly improve its success rate and skill level starting from a possibly coarse demonstration. Our approach aims to incorporate task domain knowledge, where appropriate, by working in a space consistent with the constraints of a specific task. In addition, we also present an approach to using sensor feedback to learn a predictive model of the task outcome. This allows our system to learn the proprioceptive sensor feedback needed to monitor subsequent executions of the task online and abort execution in the event of predicted failure. We illustrate our approach using two example tasks executed with the PR2 dual-arm robot: a straight and accurate pool stroke and a box flipping task using two chopsticks as tools.

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link (url) Project Page Project Page [BibTex]

link (url) Project Page Project Page [BibTex]


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An Iterative Path Integral Stochastic Optimal Control Approach for Learning Robotic Tasks

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

In Proceedings of the 18th World Congress of the International Federation of Automatic Control, 2011, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
Recent work on path integral stochastic optimal control theory Theodorou et al. (2010a); Theodorou (2011) has shown promising results in planning and control of nonlinear systems in high dimensional state spaces. The path integral control framework relies on the transformation of the nonlinear Hamilton Jacobi Bellman (HJB) partial differential equation (PDE) into a linear PDE and the approximation of its solution via the use of the Feynman Kac lemma. In this work, we are reviewing the generalized version of path integral stochastic optimal control formalism Theodorou et al. (2010a), used for optimal control and planing of stochastic dynamical systems with state dependent control and diffusion matrices. Moreover we present the iterative path integral control approach, the so called Policy Improvement with Path Integrals or (PI2 ) which is capable of scaling in high dimensional robotic control problems. Furthermore we present a convergence analysis of the proposed algorithm and we apply the proposed framework to a variety of robotic tasks. Finally with the goal to perform locomotion the iterative path integral control is applied for learning nonlinear limit cycle attractors with adjustable land scape.

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PDF [BibTex]

PDF [BibTex]


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Bayesian robot system identification with input and output noise

Ting, J., D’Souza, A., Schaal, S.

Neural Networks, 24(1):99-108, 2011, 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]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Learning variable impedance control

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

International Journal of Robotics Research, 2011, clmc (article)

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 degree-of-freedom (DOF) robotic tasks. In this contribution, we accomplish such variable impedance control with the reinforcement learning (RL) algorithm PISq ({f P}olicy {f I}mprovement with {f P}ath {f I}ntegrals). PISq is a model-free, sampling based learning method derived from first principles of stochastic optimal control. The PISq 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 PISq is that it can scale to problems of many DOFs, so that reinforcement learning on real robotic systems becomes feasible. We sketch the PISq algorithm and its theoretical properties, and how it is applied to gain scheduling for variable impedance control. We evaluate our approach by presenting results on several simulated and real robots. We consider tasks involving accurate tracking through via-points, and manipulation tasks requiring physical contact with the environment. In these tasks, the optimal strategy requires both tuning of a reference trajectory emph{and} the impedance of the end-effector. The results show that we can use path integral based reinforcement learning 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.

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link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Iterative path integral stochastic optimal control: Theory and applications to motor control

Theodorou, E. A.

University of Southern California, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA, 2011 (phdthesis)

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PDF [BibTex]

PDF [BibTex]


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Learning of grasp selection based on shape-templates

Herzog, A.

Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, 2011 (mastersthesis)

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[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Understanding haptics by evolving mechatronic systems

Loeb, G. E., Tsianos, G.A., Fishel, J.A., Wettels, N., Schaal, S.

Progress in Brain Research, 192, pages: 129, 2011 (article)

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[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Tipping the Scales: Guidance and Intrinsically Motivated Behavior

Martius, G., Herrmann, J. M.

In Advances in Artificial Life, ECAL 2011, pages: 506-513, (Editors: Tom Lenaerts and Mario Giacobini and Hugues Bersini and Paul Bourgine and Marco Dorigo and René Doursat), MIT Press, 2011 (incollection)

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[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Movement segmentation using a primitive library

Meier, F., Theodorou, E., Stulp, F., Schaal, S.

In IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS 2011), Sept. 25-30, San Francisco, CA, 2011, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
Segmenting complex movements into a sequence of primitives remains a difficult problem with many applications in the robotics and vision communities. In this work, we show how the movement segmentation problem can be reduced to a sequential movement recognition problem. To this end, we reformulate the orig-inal Dynamic Movement Primitive (DMP) formulation as a linear dynamical sys-tem with control inputs. Based on this new formulation, we develop an Expecta-tion-Maximization algorithm to estimate the duration and goal position of a par-tially observed trajectory. With the help of this algorithm and the assumption that a library of movement primitives is present, we present a movement seg-mentation framework. We illustrate the usefulness of the new DMP formulation on the two applications of online movement recognition and movement segmen-tation.

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link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Learning Force Control Policies for Compliant Manipulation

Kalakrishnan, M., Righetti, L., Pastor, P., Schaal, S.

In 2011 IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems, pages: 4639-4644, IEEE, San Francisco, USA, sep 2011 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Developing robots capable of fine manipulation skills is of major importance in order to build truly assistive robots. These robots need to be compliant in their actuation and control in order to operate safely in human environments. Manipulation tasks imply complex contact interactions with the external world, and involve reasoning about the forces and torques to be applied. Planning under contact conditions is usually impractical due to computational complexity, and a lack of precise dynamics models of the environment. We present an approach to acquiring manipulation skills on compliant robots through reinforcement learning. The initial position control policy for manipulation is initialized through kinesthetic demonstration. We augment this policy with a force/torque profile to be controlled in combination with the position trajectories. We use the Policy Improvement with Path Integrals (PI2) algorithm to learn these force/torque profiles by optimizing a cost function that measures task success. We demonstrate our approach on the Barrett WAM robot arm equipped with a 6-DOF force/torque sensor on two different manipulation tasks: opening a door with a lever door handle, and picking up a pen off the table. We show that the learnt force control policies allow successful, robust execution of the tasks.

am mg

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]