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2020


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Vision-based Force Estimation for a da Vinci Instrument Using Deep Neural Networks

Lee, Y., Husin, H. M., Forte, M. P., Lee, S., Kuchenbecker, K. J.

Extended abstract presented as an Emerging Technology ePoster at the Annual Meeting of the Society of American Gastrointestinal and Endoscopic Surgeons (SAGES), Cleveland, Ohio, USA, August 2020 (misc) Accepted

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[BibTex]

2020


[BibTex]


Learning Sensory-Motor Associations from Demonstration
Learning Sensory-Motor Associations from Demonstration

Berenz, V., Bjelic, A., Herath, L., Mainprice, J.

29th IEEE International Conference on Robot and Human Interactive Communication (Ro-Man 2020), August 2020 (conference) Accepted

Abstract
We propose a method which generates reactive robot behavior learned from human demonstration. In order to do so, we use the Playful programming language which is based on the reactive programming paradigm. This allows us to represent the learned behavior as a set of associations between sensor and motor primitives in a human readable script. Distinguishing between sensor and motor primitives introduces a supplementary level of granularity and more importantly enforces feedback, increasing adaptability and robustness. As the experimental section shows, useful behaviors may be learned from a single demonstration covering a very limited portion of the task space.

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[BibTex]

[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]


A Fabric-Based Sensing System for Recognizing Social Touch
A Fabric-Based Sensing System for Recognizing Social Touch

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

Work-in-progress paper (3 pages) presented at the IEEE Haptics Symposium, Washington, DC, USA, March 2020 (misc)

Abstract
We present a fabric-based piezoresistive tactile sensor system designed to detect social touch gestures on a robot. The unique sensor design utilizes three layers of low-conductivity fabric sewn together on alternating edges to form an accordion pattern and secured between two outer high-conductivity layers. This five-layer design demonstrates a greater resistance range and better low-force sensitivity than previous designs that use one layer of low-conductivity fabric with or without a plastic mesh layer. An individual sensor from our system can presently identify six different communication gestures – squeezing, patting, scratching, poking, hand resting without movement, and no touch – with an average accuracy of 90%. A layer of foam can be added beneath the sensor to make a rigid robot more appealing for humans to touch without inhibiting the system’s ability to register social touch gestures.

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Project Page [BibTex]

Project Page [BibTex]


Do Touch Gestures Affect How Electrovibration Feels?
Do Touch Gestures Affect How Electrovibration Feels?

Vardar, Y., Kuchenbecker, K. J.

Hands-on demonstration (1 page) presented at the IEEE Haptics Symposium, Washington, DC, USA, March 2020 (misc)

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[BibTex]

[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]


Excursion Search for Constrained Bayesian Optimization under a Limited Budget of Failures
Excursion Search for Constrained Bayesian Optimization under a Limited Budget of Failures

Marco, A., Rohr, A. V., Baumann, D., Hernández-Lobato, J. M., Trimpe, S.

2020 (proceedings) In revision

Abstract
When learning to ride a bike, a child falls down a number of times before achieving the first success. As falling down usually has only mild consequences, it can be seen as a tolerable failure in exchange for a faster learning process, as it provides rich information about an undesired behavior. In the context of Bayesian optimization under unknown constraints (BOC), typical strategies for safe learning explore conservatively and avoid failures by all means. On the other side of the spectrum, non conservative BOC algorithms that allow failing may fail an unbounded number of times before reaching the optimum. In this work, we propose a novel decision maker grounded in control theory that controls the amount of risk we allow in the search as a function of a given budget of failures. Empirical validation shows that our algorithm uses the failures budget more efficiently in a variety of optimization experiments, and generally achieves lower regret, than state-of-the-art methods. In addition, we propose an original algorithm for unconstrained Bayesian optimization inspired by the notion of excursion sets in stochastic processes, upon which the failures-aware algorithm is built.

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arXiv code (python) PDF [BibTex]


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A Real-Robot Dataset for Assessing Transferability of Learned Dynamics Models

Agudelo-España, D., Zadaianchuk, A., Wenk, P., Garg, A., Akpo, J., Grimminger, F., Viereck, J., Naveau, M., Righetti, L., Martius, G., Krause, A., Schölkopf, B., Bauer, S., Wüthrich, M.

IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA), 2020 (conference) Accepted

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Project Page PDF [BibTex]

Project Page PDF [BibTex]


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, 2020 (article) Accepted

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]


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]

2006


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Learning operational space control

Peters, J., Schaal, S.

In Robotics: Science and Systems II (RSS 2006), pages: 255-262, (Editors: Gaurav S. Sukhatme and Stefan Schaal and Wolfram Burgard and Dieter Fox), Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, RSS , 2006, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
While operational space control is of essential importance for robotics and well-understood from an analytical point of view, it can be prohibitively hard to achieve accurate control in face of modeling errors, which are inevitable in complex robots, e.g., humanoid robots. In such cases, learning control methods can offer an interesting alternative to analytical control algorithms. However, the resulting learning problem is ill-defined as it requires to learn an inverse mapping of a usually redundant system, which is well known to suffer from the property of non-covexity of the solution space, i.e., the learning system could generate motor commands that try to steer the robot into physically impossible configurations. A first important insight for this paper is that, nevertheless, a physically correct solution to the inverse problem does exits when learning of the inverse map is performed in a suitable piecewise linear way. The second crucial component for our work is based on a recent insight that many operational space controllers can be understood in terms of a constraint optimal control problem. The cost function associated with this optimal control problem allows us to formulate a learning algorithm that automatically synthesizes a globally consistent desired resolution of redundancy while learning the operational space controller. From the view of machine learning, the learning problem corresponds to a reinforcement learning problem that maximizes an immediate reward and that employs an expectation-maximization policy search algorithm. Evaluations on a three degrees of freedom robot arm illustrate the feasability of our suggested approach.

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link (url) [BibTex]

2006


link (url) [BibTex]


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Reinforcement Learning for Parameterized Motor Primitives

Peters, J., Schaal, S.

In Proceedings of the 2006 International Joint Conference on Neural Networks, pages: 73-80, IJCNN, 2006, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
One of the major challenges in both action generation for robotics and in the understanding of human motor control is to learn the "building blocks of movement generation", called motor primitives. Motor primitives, as used in this paper, are parameterized control policies such as splines or nonlinear differential equations with desired attractor properties. While a lot of progress has been made in teaching parameterized motor primitives using supervised or imitation learning, the self-improvement by interaction of the system with the environment remains a challenging problem. In this paper, we evaluate different reinforcement learning approaches for improving the performance of parameterized motor primitives. For pursuing this goal, we highlight the difficulties with current reinforcement learning methods, and outline both established and novel algorithms for the gradient-based improvement of parameterized policies. We compare these algorithms in the context of motor primitive learning, and show that our most modern algorithm, the Episodic Natural Actor-Critic outperforms previous algorithms by at least an order of magnitude. We demonstrate the efficiency of this reinforcement learning method in the application of learning to hit a baseball with an anthropomorphic robot arm.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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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]

PDF [BibTex]


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Approximate nearest neighbor regression in very high dimensions

Vijayakumar, S., DSouza, A., Schaal, S.

In Nearest-Neighbor Methods in Learning and Vision, pages: 103-142, (Editors: Shakhnarovich, G.;Darrell, T.;Indyk, P.), Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2006, clmc (inbook)

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link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]

1998


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Programmable pattern generators

Schaal, S., Sternad, D.

In 3rd International Conference on Computational Intelligence in Neuroscience, pages: 48-51, Research Triangle Park, NC, Oct. 24-28, October 1998, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
This paper explores the idea to create complex human-like arm movements from movement primitives based on nonlinear attractor dynamics. Each degree-of-freedom of an arm is assumed to have two independent abilities to create movement, one through a discrete dynamic system, and one through a rhythmic system. The discrete system creates point-to-point movements based on internal or external target specifications. The rhythmic system can add an additional oscillatory movement relative to the current position of the discrete system. In the present study, we develop appropriate dynamic systems that can realize the above model, motivate the particular choice of the systems from a biological and engineering point of view, and present simulation results of the performance of such movement primitives. Implementation results on a Sarcos Dexterous Arm are discussed.

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link (url) [BibTex]

1998


link (url) [BibTex]


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Robust local learning in high dimensional spaces

Vijayakumar, S., Schaal, S.

In 5th Joint Symposium on Neural Computation, pages: 186-193, Institute for Neural Computation, University of California, San Diego, San Diego, CA, 1998, clmc (inproceedings)

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 this 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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[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Local dimensionality reduction

Schaal, S., Vijayakumar, S., Atkeson, C. G.

In Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 10, pages: 633-639, (Editors: Jordan, M. I.;Kearns, M. J.;Solla, S. A.), MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, 1998, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
If globally high dimensional data has locally only low dimensional distributions, it is advantageous to perform a local dimensionality reduction before further processing the data. In this paper we examine several techniques for local dimensionality reduction in the context of locally weighted linear regression. As possible candidates, we derive local versions of factor analysis regression, principle component regression, principle component regression on joint distributions, and partial least squares regression. After outlining the statistical bases of these methods, we perform Monte Carlo simulations to evaluate their robustness with respect to violations of their statistical assumptions. One surprising outcome is that locally weighted partial least squares regression offers the best average results, thus outperforming even factor analysis, the theoretically most appealing of our candidate techniques.

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link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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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]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Biomimetic gaze stabilization based on a study of the vestibulocerebellum

Shibata, T., Schaal, S.

In European Workshop on Learning Robots, pages: 84-94, Edinburgh, UK, 1998, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
Accurate oculomotor control is one of the essential pre-requisites for successful visuomotor coordination. In this paper, we suggest a biologically inspired control system for learning gaze stabilization with a biomimetic robotic oculomotor system. In a stepwise fashion, we develop a control circuit for the vestibulo-ocular reflex (VOR) and the opto-kinetic response (OKR), and add a nonlinear learning network to allow adaptivity. We discuss the parallels and differences of our system with biological oculomotor control and suggest solutions how to deal with nonlinearities and time delays in the control system. In simulation and actual robot studies, we demonstrate that our system can learn gaze stabilization in real time in only a few seconds with high final accuracy.

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link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Towards biomimetic vision

Shibata, T., Schaal, S.

In International Conference on Intelligence Robots and Systems, pages: 872-879, Victoria, Canada, 1998, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
Oculomotor control is the foundation of most biological visual systems, as well as an important component in the entire perceptual-motor system. We review some of the most basic principles of biological oculomotor systems, and explore their usefulness from both the biological and computational point of view. As an example of biomimetic oculomotor control, we present the state of our implementations and experimental results using the vestibulo-ocular-reflex and opto-kinetic-reflex paradigm

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link (url) [BibTex]

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]