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2020


Combining learned and analytical models for predicting action effects from sensory data
Combining learned and analytical models for predicting action effects from sensory data

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

International Journal of Robotics Research, September 2020 (article)

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) DOI [BibTex]


Physical Variables Underlying Tactile Stickiness during Fingerpad Detachment
Physical Variables Underlying Tactile Stickiness during Fingerpad Detachment

Nam, S., Vardar, Y., Gueorguiev, D., Kuchenbecker, K. J.

Frontiers in Neuroscience, 14(235):1-14, April 2020 (article)

Abstract
One may notice a relatively wide range of tactile sensations even when touching the same hard, flat surface in similar ways. Little is known about the reasons for this variability, so we decided to investigate how the perceptual intensity of light stickiness relates to the physical interaction between the skin and the surface. We conducted a psychophysical experiment in which nine participants actively pressed their finger on a flat glass plate with a normal force close to 1.5 N and detached it after a few seconds. A custom-designed apparatus recorded the contact force vector and the finger contact area during each interaction as well as pre- and post-trial finger moisture. After detaching their finger, participants judged the stickiness of the glass using a nine-point scale. We explored how sixteen physical variables derived from the recorded data correlate with each other and with the stickiness judgments of each participant. These analyses indicate that stickiness perception mainly depends on the pre-detachment pressing duration, the time taken for the finger to detach, and the impulse in the normal direction after the normal force changes sign; finger-surface adhesion seems to build with pressing time, causing a larger normal impulse during detachment and thus a more intense stickiness sensation. We additionally found a strong between-subjects correlation between maximum real contact area and peak pull-off force, as well as between finger moisture and impulse.

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link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]


Learning to Predict Perceptual Distributions of Haptic Adjectives
Learning to Predict Perceptual Distributions of Haptic Adjectives

Richardson, B. A., Kuchenbecker, K. J.

Frontiers in Neurorobotics, 13(116):1-16, Febuary 2020 (article)

Abstract
When humans touch an object with their fingertips, they can immediately describe its tactile properties using haptic adjectives, such as hardness and roughness; however, human perception is subjective and noisy, with significant variation across individuals and interactions. Recent research has worked to provide robots with similar haptic intelligence but was focused on identifying binary haptic adjectives, ignoring both attribute intensity and perceptual variability. Combining ordinal haptic adjective labels gathered from human subjects for a set of 60 objects with features automatically extracted from raw multi-modal tactile data collected by a robot repeatedly touching the same objects, we designed a machine-learning method that incorporates partial knowledge of the distribution of object labels into training; then, from a single interaction, it predicts a probability distribution over the set of ordinal labels. In addition to analyzing the collected labels (10 basic haptic adjectives) and demonstrating the quality of our method's predictions, we hold out specific features to determine the influence of individual sensor modalities on the predictive performance for each adjective. Our results demonstrate the feasibility of modeling both the intensity and the variation of haptic perception, two crucial yet previously neglected components of human haptic perception.

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DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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Exercising with Baxter: Preliminary Support for Assistive Social-Physical Human-Robot Interaction

Fitter, N. T., Mohan, M., Kuchenbecker, K. J., Johnson, M. J.

Journal of NeuroEngineering and Rehabilitation, 17(19), Febuary 2020 (article)

Abstract
Background: The worldwide population of older adults will soon exceed the capacity of assisted living facilities. Accordingly, we aim to understand whether appropriately designed robots could help older adults stay active at home. Methods: Building on related literature as well as guidance from experts in game design, rehabilitation, and physical and occupational therapy, we developed eight human-robot exercise games for the Baxter Research Robot, six of which involve physical human-robot contact. After extensive iteration, these games were tested in an exploratory user study including 20 younger adult and 20 older adult users. Results: Only socially and physically interactive games fell in the highest ranges for pleasantness, enjoyment, engagement, cognitive challenge, and energy level. Our games successfully spanned three different physical, cognitive, and temporal challenge levels. User trust and confidence in Baxter increased significantly between pre- and post-study assessments. Older adults experienced higher exercise, energy, and engagement levels than younger adults, and women rated the robot more highly than men on several survey questions. Conclusions: The results indicate that social-physical exercise with a robot is more pleasant, enjoyable, engaging, cognitively challenging, and energetic than similar interactions that lack physical touch. In addition to this main finding, researchers working in similar areas can build on our design practices, our open-source resources, and the age-group and gender differences that we found.

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DOI Project Page [BibTex]

DOI Project Page [BibTex]


Self-supervised motion deblurring
Self-supervised motion deblurring

Liu, P., Janai, J., Pollefeys, M., Sattler, T., Geiger, A.

IEEE Robotics and Automation Letters, 2020 (article)

Abstract
Motion blurry images challenge many computer vision algorithms, e.g., feature detection, motion estimation, or object recognition. Deep convolutional neural networks are state-of-the-art for image deblurring. However, obtaining training data with corresponding sharp and blurry image pairs can be difficult. In this paper, we present a differentiable reblur model for self-supervised motion deblurring, which enables the network to learn from real-world blurry image sequences without relying on sharp images for supervision. Our key insight is that motion cues obtained from consecutive images yield sufficient information to inform the deblurring task. We therefore formulate deblurring as an inverse rendering problem, taking into account the physical image formation process: we first predict two deblurred images from which we estimate the corresponding optical flow. Using these predictions, we re-render the blurred images and minimize the difference with respect to the original blurry inputs. We use both synthetic and real dataset for experimental evaluations. Our experiments demonstrate that self-supervised single image deblurring is really feasible and leads to visually compelling results.

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pdf Project Page Blog [BibTex]

pdf Project Page Blog [BibTex]


Learning Neural Light Transport
Learning Neural Light Transport

Sanzenbacher, P., Mescheder, L., Geiger, A.

Arxiv, 2020 (article)

Abstract
In recent years, deep generative models have gained significance due to their ability to synthesize natural-looking images with applications ranging from virtual reality to data augmentation for training computer vision models. While existing models are able to faithfully learn the image distribution of the training set, they often lack controllability as they operate in 2D pixel space and do not model the physical image formation process. In this work, we investigate the importance of 3D reasoning for photorealistic rendering. We present an approach for learning light transport in static and dynamic 3D scenes using a neural network with the goal of predicting photorealistic images. In contrast to existing approaches that operate in the 2D image domain, our approach reasons in both 3D and 2D space, thus enabling global illumination effects and manipulation of 3D scene geometry. Experimentally, we find that our model is able to produce photorealistic renderings of static and dynamic scenes. Moreover, it compares favorably to baselines which combine path tracing and image denoising at the same computational budget.

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arxiv [BibTex]


Getting in Touch with Children with Autism: Specialist Guidelines for a Touch-Perceiving Robot
Getting in Touch with Children with Autism: Specialist Guidelines for a Touch-Perceiving Robot

Burns, R. B., Seifi, H., Lee, H., Kuchenbecker, K. J.

Paladyn. Journal of Behavioral Robotics, 2020 (article) Accepted

Abstract
Children with autism need innovative solutions that help them learn to master everyday experiences and cope with stressful situations. We propose that socially assistive robot companions could better understand and react to a child’s needs if they utilized tactile sensing. We examined the existing relevant literature to create an initial set of six tactile-perception requirements, and we then evaluated these requirements through interviews with 11 experienced autism specialists from a variety of backgrounds. Thematic analysis of the comments shared by the specialists revealed three overarching themes: the touch-seeking and touch-avoiding behavior of autistic children, their individual differences and customization needs, and the roles that a touch-perceiving robot could play in such interactions. Using the interview study feedback, we refined our initial list into seven qualitative requirements that describe robustness and maintainability, sensing range, feel, gesture identification, spatial, temporal, and adaptation attributes for the touch-perception system of a robot companion for children with autism. Lastly, by utilizing the literature and current best practices in tactile sensor development and signal processing, we transformed these qualitative requirements into quantitative specifications. We discuss the implications of these requirements for future HRI research in the sensing, computing, and user research communities.

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Project Page [BibTex]


HOTA: A Higher Order Metric for Evaluating Multi-Object Tracking
HOTA: A Higher Order Metric for Evaluating Multi-Object Tracking

Luiten, J., Osep, A., Dendorfer, P., Torr, P., Geiger, A., Leal-Taixe, L., Leibe, B.

International Journal of Computer Vision (IJCV), 2020 (article)

Abstract
Multi-Object Tracking (MOT) has been notoriously difficult to evaluate. Previous metrics overemphasize the importance of either detection or association. To address this, we present a novel MOT evaluation metric, HOTA (Higher Order Tracking Accuracy), which explicitly balances the effect of performing accurate detection, association and localization into a single unified metric for comparing trackers. HOTA decomposes into a family of sub-metrics which are able to evaluate each of five basic error types separately, which enables clear analysis of tracking performance. We evaluate the effectiveness of HOTA on the MOTChallenge benchmark, and show that it is able to capture important aspects of MOT performance not previously taken into account by established metrics. Furthermore, we show HOTA scores better align with human visual evaluation of tracking performance.

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pdf [BibTex]

pdf [BibTex]


Safe and Fast Tracking on a Robot Manipulator: Robust MPC and Neural Network Control
Safe and Fast Tracking on a Robot Manipulator: Robust MPC and Neural Network Control

Nubert, J., Koehler, J., Berenz, V., Allgower, F., Trimpe, S.

IEEE Robotics and Automation Letters, 2020 (article) Accepted

Abstract
Fast feedback control and safety guarantees are essential in modern robotics. We present an approach that achieves both by combining novel robust model predictive control (MPC) with function approximation via (deep) neural networks (NNs). The result is a new approach for complex tasks with nonlinear, uncertain, and constrained dynamics as are common in robotics. Specifically, we leverage recent results in MPC research to propose a new robust setpoint tracking MPC algorithm, which achieves reliable and safe tracking of a dynamic setpoint while guaranteeing stability and constraint satisfaction. The presented robust MPC scheme constitutes a one-layer approach that unifies the often separated planning and control layers, by directly computing the control command based on a reference and possibly obstacle positions. As a separate contribution, we show how the computation time of the MPC can be drastically reduced by approximating the MPC law with a NN controller. The NN is trained and validated from offline samples of the MPC, yielding statistical guarantees, and used in lieu thereof at run time. Our experiments on a state-of-the-art robot manipulator are the first to show that both the proposed robust and approximate MPC schemes scale to real-world robotic systems.

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arXiv PDF DOI [BibTex]

arXiv PDF DOI [BibTex]

2014


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Wenn es was zu sagen gibt

(Klaus Tschira Award 2014 in Computer Science)

Trimpe, S.

Bild der Wissenschaft, pages: 20-23, November 2014, (popular science article in German) (article)

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PDF Project Page [BibTex]

2014


PDF Project Page [BibTex]


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Robotics and Neuroscience

Floreano, Dario, Ijspeert, Auke Jan, Schaal, S.

Current Biology, 24(18):R910-R920, sep 2014 (article)

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[BibTex]

[BibTex]


Nonmyopic View Planning for Active Object Classification and Pose Estimation
Nonmyopic View Planning for Active Object Classification and Pose Estimation

Atanasov, N., Sankaran, B., Le Ny, J., Pappas, G., Daniilidis, K.

IEEE Transactions on Robotics, May 2014, clmc (article)

Abstract
One of the central problems in computer vision is the detection of semantically important objects and the estimation of their pose. Most of the work in object detection has been based on single image processing and its performance is limited by occlusions and ambiguity in appearance and geometry. This paper proposes an active approach to object detection by controlling the point of view of a mobile depth camera. When an initial static detection phase identifies an object of interest, several hypotheses are made about its class and orientation. The sensor then plans a sequence of viewpoints, which balances the amount of energy used to move with the chance of identifying the correct hypothesis. We formulate an active M-ary hypothesis testing problem, which includes sensor mobility, and solve it using a point-based approximate POMDP algorithm. The validity of our approach is verified through simulation and real-world experiments with the PR2 robot. The results suggest a significant improvement over static object detection

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Web pdf link (url) [BibTex]

Web pdf link (url) [BibTex]


3D Traffic Scene Understanding from Movable Platforms
3D Traffic Scene Understanding from Movable Platforms

Geiger, A., Lauer, M., Wojek, C., Stiller, C., Urtasun, R.

IEEE Transactions on Pattern Analysis and Machine Intelligence (PAMI), 36(5):1012-1025, published, IEEE, Los Alamitos, CA, May 2014 (article)

Abstract
In this paper, we present a novel probabilistic generative model for multi-object traffic scene understanding from movable platforms which reasons jointly about the 3D scene layout as well as the location and orientation of objects in the scene. In particular, the scene topology, geometry and traffic activities are inferred from short video sequences. Inspired by the impressive driving capabilities of humans, our model does not rely on GPS, lidar or map knowledge. Instead, it takes advantage of a diverse set of visual cues in the form of vehicle tracklets, vanishing points, semantic scene labels, scene flow and occupancy grids. For each of these cues we propose likelihood functions that are integrated into a probabilistic generative model. We learn all model parameters from training data using contrastive divergence. Experiments conducted on videos of 113 representative intersections show that our approach successfully infers the correct layout in a variety of very challenging scenarios. To evaluate the importance of each feature cue, experiments using different feature combinations are conducted. Furthermore, we show how by employing context derived from the proposed method we are able to improve over the state-of-the-art in terms of object detection and object orientation estimation in challenging and cluttered urban environments.

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pdf link (url) [BibTex]

pdf link (url) [BibTex]


Data-Driven Grasp Synthesis - A Survey
Data-Driven Grasp Synthesis - A Survey

Bohg, J., Morales, A., Asfour, T., Kragic, D.

IEEE Transactions on Robotics, 30, pages: 289 - 309, IEEE, April 2014 (article)

Abstract
We review the work on data-driven grasp synthesis and the methodologies for sampling and ranking candidate grasps. We divide the approaches into three groups based on whether they synthesize grasps for known, familiar or unknown objects. This structure allows us to identify common object representations and perceptual processes that facilitate the employed data-driven grasp synthesis technique. In the case of known objects, we concentrate on the approaches that are based on object recognition and pose estimation. In the case of familiar objects, the techniques use some form of a similarity matching to a set of previously encountered objects. Finally for the approaches dealing with unknown objects, the core part is the extraction of specific features that are indicative of good grasps. Our survey provides an overview of the different methodologies and discusses open problems in the area of robot grasping. We also draw a parallel to the classical approaches that rely on analytic formulations.

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PDF link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]

PDF link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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A Limiting Property of the Matrix Exponential

Trimpe, S., D’Andrea, R.

IEEE Transactions on Automatic Control, 59(4):1105-1110, 2014 (article)

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PDF DOI [BibTex]

PDF DOI [BibTex]


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Event-Based State Estimation With Variance-Based Triggering

Trimpe, S., D’Andrea, R.

IEEE Transactions on Automatic Control, 59(12):3266-3281, 2014 (article)

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PDF Supplementary material DOI Project Page [BibTex]

PDF Supplementary material DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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Perspective: Intelligent Systems: Bits and Bots

Spatz, J. P., Schaal, S.

Nature, (509), 2014, clmc (article)

Abstract
What is intelligence, and can we create it? Animals can perceive, reason, react and learn, but they are just one example of an intelligent system. Intelligent systems could be robots as large as humans, helping with search-and- rescue operations in dangerous places, or smart devices as tiny as a cell, delivering drugs to a target within the body. Even computing systems can be intelligent, by perceiving the world, crawling the web and processing â??big dataâ?? to extract and learn from complex information.Understanding not only how intelligence can be reproduced, but also how to build systems that put these ideas into practice, will be a challenge. Small intelligent systems will require new materials and fabrication methods, as well as com- pact information processors and power sources. And for nano-sized systems, the rules change altogether. The laws of physics operate very differently at tiny scales: for a nanorobot, swimming through water is like struggling through treacle.Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems have begun to solve these problems by developing new computational methods, experiment- ing with unique robotic systems and fabricating tiny, artificial propellers, like bacterial flagella, to propel nanocreations through their environment.

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PDF link (url) [BibTex]

PDF link (url) [BibTex]


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An autonomous manipulation system based on force control and optimization

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

Autonomous Robots, 36(1-2):11-30, January 2014 (article)

Abstract
In this paper we present an architecture for autonomous manipulation. Our approach is based on the belief that contact interactions during manipulation should be exploited to improve dexterity and that optimizing motion plans is useful to create more robust and repeatable manipulation behaviors. We therefore propose an architecture where state of the art force/torque control and optimization-based motion planning are the core components of the system. We give a detailed description of the modules that constitute the complete system and discuss the challenges inherent to creating such a system. We present experimental results for several grasping and manipulation tasks to demonstrate the performance and robustness of our approach.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Learning of grasp selection based on shape-templates

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

Autonomous Robots, 36(1-2):51-65, January 2014 (article)

Abstract
The ability to grasp unknown objects still remains an unsolved problem in the robotics community. One of the challenges is to choose an appropriate grasp configuration, i.e., the 6D pose of the hand relative to the object and its finger configuration. In this paper, we introduce an algorithm that is based on the assumption that similarly shaped objects can be grasped in a similar way. It is able to synthesize good grasp poses for unknown objects by finding the best matching object shape templates associated with previously demonstrated grasps. The grasp selection algorithm is able to improve over time by using the information of previous grasp attempts to adapt the ranking of the templates to new situations. We tested our approach on two different platforms, the Willow Garage PR2 and the Barrett WAM robot, which have very different hand kinematics. Furthermore, we compared our algorithm with other grasp planners and demonstrated its superior performance. The results presented in this paper show that the algorithm is able to find good grasp configurations for a large set of unknown objects from a relatively small set of demonstrations, and does improve its performance over time.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

2006


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Statistical Learning of LQG controllers

Theodorou, E.

Technical Report-2006-1, Computational Action and Vision Lab University of Minnesota, 2006, clmc (techreport)

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PDF [BibTex]

2006


PDF [BibTex]

1998


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Constructive incremental learning from only local information

Schaal, S., Atkeson, C. G.

Neural Computation, 10(8):2047-2084, 1998, clmc (article)

Abstract
We introduce a constructive, incremental learning system for regression problems that models data by means of spatially localized linear models. In contrast to other approaches, the size and shape of the receptive field of each locally linear model as well as the parameters of the locally linear model itself are learned independently, i.e., without the need for competition or any other kind of communication. Independent learning is accomplished by incrementally minimizing a weighted local cross validation error. As a result, we obtain a learning system that can allocate resources as needed while dealing with the bias-variance dilemma in a principled way. The spatial localization of the linear models increases robustness towards negative interference. Our learning system can be interpreted as a nonparametric adaptive bandwidth smoother, as a mixture of experts where the experts are trained in isolation, and as a learning system which profits from combining independent expert knowledge on the same problem. This paper illustrates the potential learning capabilities of purely local learning and offers an interesting and powerful approach to learning with receptive fields. 

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link (url) [BibTex]

1998


link (url) [BibTex]


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Local adaptive subspace regression

Vijayakumar, S., Schaal, S.

Neural Processing Letters, 7(3):139-149, 1998, clmc (article)

Abstract
Incremental learning of sensorimotor transformations in high dimensional spaces is one of the basic prerequisites for the success of autonomous robot devices as well as biological movement systems. So far, due to sparsity of data in high dimensional spaces, learning in such settings requires a significant amount of prior knowledge about the learning task, usually provided by a human expert. In this paper we suggest a partial revision of the view. Based on empirical studies, we observed that, despite being globally high dimensional and sparse, data distributions from physical movement systems are locally low dimensional and dense. Under this assumption, we derive a learning algorithm, Locally Adaptive Subspace Regression, that exploits this property by combining a dynamically growing local dimensionality reduction technique  as a preprocessing step with a nonparametric learning technique, locally weighted regression, that also learns the region of validity of the regression. The usefulness of the algorithm and the validity of its assumptions are illustrated for a synthetic data set, and for data of the inverse dynamics of human arm movements and an actual 7 degree-of-freedom anthropomorphic robot arm. 

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link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]