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2018


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Instrumentation, Data, and Algorithms for Visually Understanding Haptic Surface Properties

Burka, A. L.

University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, USA, August 2018, Department of Electrical and Systems Engineering (phdthesis)

Abstract
Autonomous robots need to efficiently walk over varied surfaces and grasp diverse objects. We hypothesize that the association between how such surfaces look and how they physically feel during contact can be learned from a database of matched haptic and visual data recorded from various end-effectors' interactions with hundreds of real-world surfaces. Testing this hypothesis required the creation of a new multimodal sensing apparatus, the collection of a large multimodal dataset, and development of a machine-learning pipeline. This thesis begins by describing the design and construction of the Portable Robotic Optical/Tactile ObservatioN PACKage (PROTONPACK, or Proton for short), an untethered handheld sensing device that emulates the capabilities of the human senses of vision and touch. Its sensory modalities include RGBD vision, egomotion, contact force, and contact vibration. Three interchangeable end-effectors (a steel tooling ball, an OptoForce three-axis force sensor, and a SynTouch BioTac artificial fingertip) allow for different material properties at the contact point and provide additional tactile data. We then detail the calibration process for the motion and force sensing systems, as well as several proof-of-concept surface discrimination experiments that demonstrate the reliability of the device and the utility of the data it collects. This thesis then presents a large-scale dataset of multimodal surface interaction recordings, including 357 unique surfaces such as furniture, fabrics, outdoor fixtures, and items from several private and public material sample collections. Each surface was touched with one, two, or three end-effectors, comprising approximately one minute per end-effector of tapping and dragging at various forces and speeds. We hope that the larger community of robotics researchers will find broad applications for the published dataset. Lastly, we demonstrate an algorithm that learns to estimate haptic surface properties given visual input. Surfaces were rated on hardness, roughness, stickiness, and temperature by the human experimenter and by a pool of purely visual observers. Then we trained an algorithm to perform the same task as well as infer quantitative properties calculated from the haptic data. Overall, the task of predicting haptic properties from vision alone proved difficult for both humans and computers, but a hybrid algorithm using a deep neural network and a support vector machine achieved a correlation between expected and actual regression output between approximately ρ = 0.3 and ρ = 0.5 on previously unseen surfaces.

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Project Page [BibTex]

2018


Project Page [BibTex]


Robust Visual Augmented Reality in Robot-Assisted Surgery
Robust Visual Augmented Reality in Robot-Assisted Surgery

Forte, M. P.

Politecnico di Milano, Milan, Italy, July 2018, Department of Electronic, Information, and Biomedical Engineering (mastersthesis)

Abstract
The broader research objective of this line of research is to test the hypothesis that real-time stereo video analysis and augmented reality can increase safety and task efficiency in robot-assisted surgery. This master’s thesis aims to solve the first step needed to achieve this goal: the creation of a robust system that delivers the envisioned feedback to a surgeon while he or she controls a surgical robot that is identical to those used on human patients. Several approaches for applying augmented reality to da Vinci Surgical Systems have been proposed, but none of them entirely rely on a clinical robot; specifically, they require additional sensors, depend on access to the da Vinci API, are designed for a very specific task, or were tested on systems that are starkly different from those in clinical use. There has also been prior work that presents the real-world camera view and the computer graphics on separate screens, or not in real time. In other scenarios, the digital information is overlaid manually by the surgeons themselves or by computer scientists, rather than being generated automatically in response to the surgeon’s actions. We attempted to overcome the aforementioned constraints by acquiring input signals from the da Vinci stereo endoscope and providing augmented reality to the console in real time (less than 150 ms delay, including the 62 ms of inherent latency of the da Vinci). The potential benefits of the resulting system are broad because it was built to be general, rather than customized for any specific task. The entire platform is compatible with any generation of the da Vinci System and does not require a dVRK (da Vinci Research Kit) or access to the API. Thus, it can be applied to existing da Vinci Systems in operating rooms around the world.

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Project Page [BibTex]

Project Page [BibTex]


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Haptics and Haptic Interfaces

Kuchenbecker, K. J.

In Encyclopedia of Robotics, (Editors: Marcelo H. Ang and Oussama Khatib and Bruno Siciliano), Springer, May 2018 (incollection)

Abstract
Haptics is an interdisciplinary field that seeks to both understand and engineer touch-based interaction. Although a wide range of systems and applications are being investigated, haptics researchers often concentrate on perception and manipulation through the human hand. A haptic interface is a mechatronic system that modulates the physical interaction between a human and his or her tangible surroundings. Haptic interfaces typically involve mechanical, electrical, and computational layers that work together to sense user motions or forces, quickly process these inputs with other information, and physically respond by actuating elements of the user’s surroundings, thereby enabling him or her to act on and feel a remote and/or virtual environment.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

2007


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Dynamics systems vs. optimal control ? a unifying view

Schaal, S, Mohajerian, P., Ijspeert, A.

In Progress in Brain Research, (165):425-445, 2007, clmc (inbook)

Abstract
In the past, computational motor control has been approached from at least two major frameworks: the dynamic systems approach and the viewpoint of optimal control. The dynamic system approach emphasizes motor control as a process of self-organization between an animal and its environment. Nonlinear differential equations that can model entrainment and synchronization behavior are among the most favorable tools of dynamic systems modelers. In contrast, optimal control approaches view motor control as the evolutionary or development result of a nervous system that tries to optimize rather general organizational principles, e.g., energy consumption or accurate task achievement. Optimal control theory is usually employed to develop appropriate theories. Interestingly, there is rather little interaction between dynamic systems and optimal control modelers as the two approaches follow rather different philosophies and are often viewed as diametrically opposing. In this paper, we develop a computational approach to motor control that offers a unifying modeling framework for both dynamic systems and optimal control approaches. In discussions of several behavioral experiments and some theoretical and robotics studies, we demonstrate how our computational ideas allow both the representation of self-organizing processes and the optimization of movement based on reward criteria. Our modeling framework is rather simple and general, and opens opportunities to revisit many previous modeling results from this novel unifying view.

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link (url) [BibTex]

2007


link (url) [BibTex]

1999


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Nonparametric regression for learning nonlinear transformations

Schaal, S.

In Prerational Intelligence in Strategies, High-Level Processes and Collective Behavior, 2, pages: 595-621, (Editors: Ritter, H.;Cruse, H.;Dean, J.), Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1999, clmc (inbook)

Abstract
Information processing in animals and artificial movement systems consists of a series of transformations that map sensory signals to intermediate representations, and finally to motor commands. Given the physical and neuroanatomical differences between individuals and the need for plasticity during development, it is highly likely that such transformations are learned rather than pre-programmed by evolution. Such self-organizing processes, capable of discovering nonlinear dependencies between different groups of signals, are one essential part of prerational intelligence. While neural network algorithms seem to be the natural choice when searching for solutions for learning transformations, this paper will take a more careful look at which types of neural networks are actually suited for the requirements of an autonomous learning system. The approach that we will pursue is guided by recent developments in learning theory that have linked neural network learning to well established statistical theories. In particular, this new statistical understanding has given rise to the development of neural network systems that are directly based on statistical methods. One family of such methods stems from nonparametric regression. This paper will compare nonparametric learning with the more widely used parametric counterparts in a non technical fashion, and investigate how these two families differ in their properties and their applicabilities. We will argue that nonparametric neural networks offer a set of characteristics that make them a very promising candidate for on-line learning in autonomous system.

am

link (url) [BibTex]

1999


link (url) [BibTex]

1995


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Batting a ball: Dynamics of a rhythmic skill

Sternad, D., Schaal, S., Atkeson, C. G.

In Studies in Perception and Action, pages: 119-122, (Editors: Bardy, B.;Bostma, R.;Guiard, Y.), Erlbaum, Hillsdayle, NJ, 1995, clmc (inbook)

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[BibTex]

1995


[BibTex]

1993


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Learning passive motor control strategies with genetic algorithms

Schaal, S., Sternad, D.

In 1992 Lectures in complex systems, pages: 913-918, (Editors: Nadel, L.;Stein, D.), Addison-Wesley, Redwood City, CA, 1993, clmc (inbook)

Abstract
This study investigates learning passive motor control strategies. Passive control is understood as control without active error correction; the movement is stabilized by particular properties of the controlling dynamics. We analyze the task of juggling a ball on a racket. An approximation to the optimal solution of the task is derived by means of optimization theory. In order to model the learning process, the problem is coded for a genetic algorithm in representations without sensory or with sensory information. For all representations the genetic algorithm is able to find passive control strategies, but learning speed and the quality of the outcome are significantly different. A comparison with data from human subjects shows that humans seem to apply yet different movement strategies to the ones proposed. For the feedback representation some implications arise for learning from demonstration.

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link (url) [BibTex]

1993


link (url) [BibTex]


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A genetic algorithm for evolution from an ecological perspective

Sternad, D., Schaal, S.

In 1992 Lectures in Complex Systems, pages: 223-231, (Editors: Nadel, L.;Stein, D.), Addison-Wesley, Redwood City, CA, 1993, clmc (inbook)

Abstract
In the population model presented, an evolutionary dynamic is explored which is based on the operator characteristics of genetic algorithms. An essential modification in the genetic algorithms is the inclusion of a constraint in the mixing of the gene pool. The pairing for the crossover is governed by a selection principle based on a complementarity criterion derived from the theoretical tenet of perception-action (P-A) mutuality of ecological psychology. According to Swenson and Turvey [37] P-A mutuality underlies evolution and is an integral part of its thermodynamics. The present simulation tested the contribution of P-A-cycles in evolutionary dynamics. A numerical experiment compares the population's evolution with and without this intentional component. The effect is measured in the difference of the rate of energy dissipation, as well as in three operationalized aspects of complexity. The results support the predicted increase in the rate of energy dissipation, paralleled by an increase in the average heterogeneity of the population. Furthermore, the spatio-temporal evolution of the system is tested for the characteristic power-law relations of a nonlinear system poised in a critical state. The frequency distribution of consecutive increases in population size shows a significantly different exponent in functional relationship.

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[BibTex]

[BibTex]