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2018


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Reducing 3D Vibrations to 1D in Real Time

Park, G., Kuchenbecker, K. J.

Hands-on demonstration (4 pages) presented at AsiaHaptics, Incheon, South Korea, November 2018 (misc)

Abstract
For simple and realistic vibrotactile feedback, 3D accelerations from real contact interactions are usually rendered using a single-axis vibration actuator; this dimensional reduction can be performed in many ways. This demonstration implements a real-time conversion system that simultaneously measures 3D accelerations and renders corresponding 1D vibrations using a two-pen interface. In the demonstration, a user freely interacts with various objects using an In-Pen that contains a 3-axis accelerometer. The captured accelerations are converted to a single-axis signal, and an Out-Pen renders the reduced signal for the user to feel. We prepared seven conversion methods from the simple use of a single-axis signal to applying principal component analysis (PCA) so that users can compare the performance of each conversion method in this demonstration.

hi

Project Page [BibTex]

2018


Project Page [BibTex]


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A Large-Scale Fabric-Based Tactile Sensor Using Electrical Resistance Tomography

Lee, H., Park, K., Kim, J., Kuchenbecker, K. J.

Hands-on demonstration (3 pages) presented at AsiaHaptics, Incheon, South Korea, November 2018 (misc)

Abstract
Large-scale tactile sensing is important for household robots and human-robot interaction because contacts can occur all over a robot’s body surface. This paper presents a new fabric-based tactile sensor that is straightforward to manufacture and can cover a large area. The tactile sensor is made of conductive and non-conductive fabric layers, and the electrodes are stitched with conductive thread, so the resulting device is flexible and stretchable. The sensor utilizes internal array electrodes and a reconstruction method called electrical resistance tomography (ERT) to achieve a high spatial resolution with a small number of electrodes. The developed sensor shows that only 16 electrodes can accurately estimate single and multiple contacts over a square that measures 20 cm by 20 cm.

hi

Project Page [BibTex]

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.

am

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Softness, Warmth, and Responsiveness Improve Robot Hugs

Block, A. E., Kuchenbecker, K. J.

International Journal of Social Robotics, 11(1):49-64, October 2018 (article)

Abstract
Hugs are one of the first forms of contact and affection humans experience. Due to their prevalence and health benefits, roboticists are naturally interested in having robots one day hug humans as seamlessly as humans hug other humans. This project's purpose is to evaluate human responses to different robot physical characteristics and hugging behaviors. Specifically, we aim to test the hypothesis that a soft, warm, touch-sensitive PR2 humanoid robot can provide humans with satisfying hugs by matching both their hugging pressure and their hugging duration. Thirty relatively young and rather technical participants experienced and evaluated twelve hugs with the robot, divided into three randomly ordered trials that focused on physical robot characteristics (single factor, three levels) and nine randomly ordered trials with low, medium, and high hug pressure and duration (two factors, three levels each). Analysis of the results showed that people significantly prefer soft, warm hugs over hard, cold hugs. Furthermore, users prefer hugs that physically squeeze them and release immediately when they are ready for the hug to end. Taking part in the experiment also significantly increased positive user opinions of robots and robot use.

hi

link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]

link (url) DOI Project Page [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.

am

playful website playful_IEEE_RAM link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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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.

am

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.

am mg

video arXiv [BibTex]

video arXiv [BibTex]


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Statistical Modelling of Fingertip Deformations and Contact Forces during Tactile Interaction

Gueorguiev, D., Tzionas, D., Pacchierotti, C., Black, M. J., Kuchenbecker, K. J.

Extended abstract presented at the Hand, Brain and Technology conference (HBT), Ascona, Switzerland, August 2018 (misc)

Abstract
Little is known about the shape and properties of the human finger during haptic interaction, even though these are essential parameters for controlling wearable finger devices and deliver realistic tactile feedback. This study explores a framework for four-dimensional scanning (3D over time) and modelling of finger-surface interactions, aiming to capture the motion and deformations of the entire finger with high resolution while simultaneously recording the interfacial forces at the contact. Preliminary results show that when the fingertip is actively pressing a rigid surface, it undergoes lateral expansion and proximal/distal bending, deformations that cannot be captured by imaging of the contact area alone. Therefore, we are currently capturing a dataset that will enable us to create a statistical model of the finger’s deformations and predict the contact forces induced by tactile interaction with objects. This technique could improve current methods for tactile rendering in wearable haptic devices, which rely on general physical modelling of the skin’s compliance, by developing an accurate model of the variations in finger properties across the human population. The availability of such a model will also enable a more realistic simulation of virtual finger behaviour in virtual reality (VR) environments, as well as the ability to accurately model a specific user’s finger from lower resolution data. It may also be relevant for inferring the physical properties of the underlying tissue from observing the surface mesh deformations, as previously shown for body tissues.

hi

Project Page [BibTex]

Project Page [BibTex]


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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.

hi

Project Page [BibTex]

Project Page [BibTex]


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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.

hi

Project Page [BibTex]

Project Page [BibTex]


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Task-Driven PCA-Based Design Optimization of Wearable Cutaneous Devices

Pacchierotti, C., Young, E. M., Kuchenbecker, K. J.

IEEE Robotics and Automation Letters, 3(3):2214-2221, July 2018, Presented at ICRA 2018 (article)

Abstract
Small size and low weight are critical requirements for wearable and portable haptic interfaces, making it essential to work toward the optimization of their sensing and actuation systems. This paper presents a new approach for task-driven design optimization of fingertip cutaneous haptic devices. Given one (or more) target tactile interactions to render and a cutaneous device to optimize, we evaluate the minimum number and best configuration of the device’s actuators to minimize the estimated haptic rendering error. First, we calculate the motion needed for the original cutaneous device to render the considered target interaction. Then, we run a principal component analysis (PCA) to search for possible couplings between the original motor inputs, looking also for the best way to reconfigure them. If some couplings exist, we can re-design our cutaneous device with fewer motors, optimally configured to render the target tactile sensation. The proposed approach is quite general and can be applied to different tactile sensors and cutaneous devices. We validated it using a BioTac tactile sensor and custom plate-based 3-DoF and 6-DoF fingertip cutaneous devices, considering six representative target tactile interactions. The algorithm was able to find couplings between each device’s motor inputs, proving it to be a viable approach to optimize the design of wearable and portable cutaneous devices. Finally, we present two examples of optimized designs for our 3-DoF fingertip cutaneous device.

hi

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [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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Teaching a Robot Bimanual Hand-Clapping Games via Wrist-Worn IMUs

Fitter, N. T., Kuchenbecker, K. J.

Frontiers in Robotics and Artificial Intelligence, 5(85), July 2018 (article)

Abstract
Colleagues often shake hands in greeting, friends connect through high fives, and children around the world rejoice in hand-clapping games. As robots become more common in everyday human life, they will have the opportunity to join in these social-physical interactions, but few current robots are intended to touch people in friendly ways. This article describes how we enabled a Baxter Research Robot to both teach and learn bimanual hand-clapping games with a human partner. Our system monitors the user's motions via a pair of inertial measurement units (IMUs) worn on the wrists. We recorded a labeled library of 10 common hand-clapping movements from 10 participants; this dataset was used to train an SVM classifier to automatically identify hand-clapping motions from previously unseen participants with a test-set classification accuracy of 97.0%. Baxter uses these sensors and this classifier to quickly identify the motions of its human gameplay partner, so that it can join in hand-clapping games. This system was evaluated by N = 24 naïve users in an experiment that involved learning sequences of eight motions from Baxter, teaching Baxter eight-motion game patterns, and completing a free interaction period. The motion classification accuracy in this less structured setting was 85.9%, primarily due to unexpected variations in motion timing. The quantitative task performance results and qualitative participant survey responses showed that learning games from Baxter was significantly easier than teaching games to Baxter, and that the teaching role caused users to consider more teamwork aspects of the gameplay. Over the course of the experiment, people felt more understood by Baxter and became more willing to follow the example of the robot. Users felt uniformly safe interacting with Baxter, and they expressed positive opinions of Baxter and reported fun interacting with the robot. Taken together, the results indicate that this robot achieved credible social-physical interaction with humans and that its ability to both lead and follow systematically changed the human partner's experience.

hi

DOI [BibTex]

DOI [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.

am

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


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Reducing 3D Vibrations to 1D in Real Time

Park, G., Kuchenbecker, K. J.

Hands-on demonstration presented at EuroHaptics, Pisa, Italy, June 2018 (misc)

Abstract
In this demonstration, you will hold two pen-shaped modules: an in-pen and an out-pen. The in-pen is instrumented with a high-bandwidth three-axis accelerometer, and the out-pen contains a one-axis voice coil actuator. Use the in-pen to interact with different surfaces; the measured 3D accelerations are continually converted into 1D vibrations and rendered with the out-pen for you to feel. You can test conversion methods that range from simply selecting a single axis to applying a discrete Fourier transform or principal component analysis for realistic and brisk real-time conversion.

hi

Project Page [BibTex]

Project Page [BibTex]


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Haptipedia: Exploring Haptic Device Design Through Interactive Visualizations

Seifi, H., Fazlollahi, F., Park, G., Kuchenbecker, K. J., MacLean, K. E.

Hands-on demonstration presented at EuroHaptics, Pisa, Italy, June 2018 (misc)

Abstract
How many haptic devices have been proposed in the last 30 years? How can we leverage this rich source of design knowledge to inspire future innovations? Our goal is to make historical haptic invention accessible through interactive visualization of a comprehensive library – a Haptipedia – of devices that have been annotated with designer-relevant metadata. In this demonstration, participants can explore Haptipedia’s growing library of grounded force feedback devices through several prototype visualizations, interact with 3D simulations of the device mechanisms and movements, and tell us about the attributes and devices that could make Haptipedia a useful resource for the haptic design community.

hi

Project Page [BibTex]

Project Page [BibTex]


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Delivering 6-DOF Fingertip Tactile Cues

Young, E., Kuchenbecker, K. J.

Work-in-progress paper (5 pages) presented at EuroHaptics, Pisa, Italy, June 2018 (misc)

hi

Project Page [BibTex]

Project Page [BibTex]


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Designing a Haptic Empathetic Robot Animal for Children with Autism

Burns, R., Kuchenbecker, K. J.

Workshop paper (4 pages) presented at the Robotics: Science and Systems Workshop on Robot-Mediated Autism Intervention: Hardware, Software and Curriculum, Pittsburgh, USA, June 2018 (misc)

Abstract
Children with autism often endure sensory overload, may be nonverbal, and have difficulty understanding and relaying emotions. These experiences result in heightened stress during social interaction. Animal-assisted intervention has been found to improve the behavior of children with autism during social interaction, but live animal companions are not always feasible. We are thus in the process of designing a robotic animal to mimic some successful characteristics of animal-assisted intervention while trying to improve on others. The over-arching hypothesis of this research is that an appropriately designed robot animal can reduce stress in children with autism and empower them to engage in social interaction.

hi

link (url) Project Page [BibTex]

link (url) Project Page [BibTex]


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Soft Multi-Axis Boundary-Electrode Tactile Sensors for Whole-Body Robotic Skin

Lee, H., Kim, J., Kuchenbecker, K. J.

Workshop paper (2 pages) presented at the RSS Pioneers Workshop, Pittsburgh, USA, June 2018 (misc)

hi

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.

hi

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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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.

am

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)

am

pdf video [BibTex]

pdf video [BibTex]


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Automatically Rating Trainee Skill at a Pediatric Laparoscopic Suturing Task

Oquendo, Y. A., Riddle, E. W., Hiller, D., Blinman, T. A., Kuchenbecker, K. J.

Surgical Endoscopy, 32(4):1840-1857, April 2018 (article)

hi

DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


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Arm-Worn Tactile Displays

Kuchenbecker, K. J.

Cross-Cutting Challenge Interactive Discussion presented at the IEEE Haptics Symposium, San Francisco, USA, March 2018 (misc)

Abstract
Fingertips and hands captivate the attention of most haptic interface designers, but humans can feel touch stimuli across the entire body surface. Trying to create devices that both can be worn and can deliver good haptic sensations raises challenges that rarely arise in other contexts. Most notably, tactile cues such as vibration, tapping, and squeezing are far simpler to implement in wearable systems than kinesthetic haptic feedback. This interactive discussion will present a variety of relevant projects to which I have contributed, attempting to pull out common themes and ideas for the future.

hi

[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Haptipedia: An Expert-Sourced Interactive Device Visualization for Haptic Designers

Seifi, H., MacLean, K. E., Kuchenbecker, K. J., Park, G.

Work-in-progress paper (3 pages) presented at the IEEE Haptics Symposium, San Francisco, USA, March 2018 (misc)

Abstract
Much of three decades of haptic device invention is effectively lost to today’s designers: dispersion across time, region, and discipline imposes an incalculable drag on innovation in this field. Our goal is to make historical haptic invention accessible through interactive navigation of a comprehensive library – a Haptipedia – of devices that have been annotated with designer-relevant metadata. To build this open resource, we will systematically mine the literature and engage the haptics community for expert annotation. In a multi-year broad-based initiative, we will empirically derive salient attributes of haptic devices, design an interactive visualization tool where device creators and repurposers can efficiently explore and search Haptipedia, and establish methods and tools to manually and algorithmically collect data from the haptics literature and our community of experts. This paper outlines progress in compiling an initial corpus of grounded force-feedback devices and their attributes, and it presents a concept sketch of the interface we envision.

hi

Project Page [BibTex]

Project Page [BibTex]


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Exercising with Baxter: Design and Evaluation of Assistive Social-Physical Human-Robot Interaction

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

Workshop paper (6 pages) presented at the HRI Workshop on Personal Robots for Exercising and Coaching, Chicago, USA, March 2018 (misc)

Abstract
The worldwide population of older adults is steadily increasing and will soon exceed the capacity of assisted living facilities. Accordingly, we aim to understand whether appropriately designed robots could help older adults stay active and engaged while living at home. We developed eight human-robot exercise games for the Baxter Research Robot with the guidance of experts in game design, therapy, and rehabilitation. After extensive iteration, these games were employed in a user study that tested their viability with 20 younger and 20 older adult users. All participants were willing to enter Baxter’s workspace and physically interact with the robot. User trust and confidence in Baxter increased significantly between pre- and post-experiment assessments, and one individual from the target user population supplied us with abundant positive feedback about her experience. The preliminary results presented in this paper indicate potential for the use of two-armed human-scale robots for social-physical exercise interaction.

hi

link (url) Project Page [BibTex]

link (url) Project Page [BibTex]


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Emotionally Supporting Humans Through Robot Hugs

Block, A. E., Kuchenbecker, K. J.

Workshop paper (2 pages) presented at the HRI Pioneers Workshop, Chicago, USA, March 2018 (misc)

Abstract
Hugs are one of the first forms of contact and affection humans experience. Due to their prevalence and health benefits, we want to enable robots to safely hug humans. This research strives to create and study a high fidelity robotic system that provides emotional support to people through hugs. This paper outlines our previous work evaluating human responses to a prototype’s physical and behavioral characteristics, and then it lays out our ongoing and future work.

hi

link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]

link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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Towards a Statistical Model of Fingertip Contact Deformations from 4D Data

Gueorguiev, D., Tzionas, D., Pacchierotti, C., Black, M. J., Kuchenbecker, K. J.

Work-in-progress paper (3 pages) presented at the IEEE Haptics Symposium, San Francisco, USA, March 2018 (misc)

Abstract
Little is known about the shape and properties of the human finger during haptic interaction even though this knowledge is essential to control wearable finger devices and deliver realistic tactile feedback. This study explores a framework for four-dimensional scanning and modeling of finger-surface interactions, aiming to capture the motion and deformations of the entire finger with high resolution. The results show that when the fingertip is actively pressing a rigid surface, it undergoes lateral expansion of about 0.2 cm and proximal/distal bending of about 30◦, deformations that cannot be captured by imaging of the contact area alone. This project constitutes a first step towards an accurate statistical model of the finger’s behavior during haptic interaction.

hi

link (url) Project Page [BibTex]

link (url) Project Page [BibTex]


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Can Humans Infer Haptic Surface Properties from Images?

Burka, A., Kuchenbecker, K. J.

Work-in-progress paper (3 pages) presented at the IEEE Haptics Symposium, San Francisco, USA, March 2018 (misc)

Abstract
Human children typically experience their surroundings both visually and haptically, providing ample opportunities to learn rich cross-sensory associations. To thrive in human environments and interact with the real world, robots also need to build models of these cross-sensory associations; current advances in machine learning should make it possible to infer models from large amounts of data. We previously built a visuo-haptic sensing device, the Proton Pack, and are using it to collect a large database of matched multimodal data from tool-surface interactions. As a benchmark to compare with machine learning performance, we conducted a human subject study (n = 84) on estimating haptic surface properties (here: hardness, roughness, friction, and warmness) from images. Using a 100-surface subset of our database, we showed images to study participants and collected 5635 ratings of the four haptic properties, which we compared with ratings made by the Proton Pack operator and with physical data recorded using motion, force, and vibration sensors. Preliminary results indicate weak correlation between participant and operator ratings, but potential for matching up certain human ratings (particularly hardness and roughness) with features from the literature.

hi

Project Page [BibTex]

Project Page [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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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, 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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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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Immersive Low-Cost Virtual Reality Treatment for Phantom Limb Pain: Evidence from Two Cases

Ambron, E., Miller, A., Kuchenbecker, K. J., Buxbaum, L. J., Coslett, H. B.

Frontiers in Neurology, 9(67):1-7, 2018 (article)

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DOI Project Page [BibTex]

DOI Project Page [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.

am mg

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]

2009


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Path integral-based stochastic optimal control for rigid body dynamics

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

In Adaptive Dynamic Programming and Reinforcement Learning, 2009. ADPRL ’09. IEEE Symposium on, pages: 219-225, 2009, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
Recent advances on path integral stochastic optimal control [1],[2] provide new insights in the optimal control of nonlinear stochastic systems which are linear in the controls, with state independent and time invariant control transition matrix. Under these assumptions, the Hamilton-Jacobi-Bellman (HJB) equation is formulated and linearized with the use of the logarithmic transformation of the optimal value function. The resulting HJB is a linear second order partial differential equation which is solved by an approximation based on the Feynman-Kac formula [3]. In this work we review the theory of path integral control and derive the linearized HJB equation for systems with state dependent control transition matrix. In addition we derive the path integral formulation for the general class of systems with state dimensionality that is higher than the dimensionality of the controls. Furthermore, by means of a modified inverse dynamics controller, we apply path integral stochastic optimal control over the new control space. Simulations illustrate the theoretical results. Future developments and extensions are discussed.

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link (url) [BibTex]

2009


link (url) [BibTex]


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Learning locomotion over rough terrain using terrain templates

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

In Intelligent Robots and Systems, 2009. IROS 2009. IEEE/RSJ International Conference on, pages: 167-172, 2009, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
We address the problem of foothold selection in robotic legged locomotion over very rough terrain. The difficulty of the problem we address here is comparable to that of human rock-climbing, where foot/hand-hold selection is one of the most critical aspects. Previous work in this domain typically involves defining a reward function over footholds as a weighted linear combination of terrain features. However, a significant amount of effort needs to be spent in designing these features in order to model more complex decision functions, and hand-tuning their weights is not a trivial task. We propose the use of terrain templates, which are discretized height maps of the terrain under a foothold on different length scales, as an alternative to manually designed features. We describe an algorithm that can simultaneously learn a small set of templates and a foothold ranking function using these templates, from expert-demonstrated footholds. Using the LittleDog quadruped robot, we experimentally show that the use of terrain templates can produce complex ranking functions with higher performance than standard terrain features, and improved generalization to unseen terrain.

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link (url) Project Page [BibTex]

link (url) Project Page [BibTex]


Valero-Cuevas, F., Hoffmann, H., Kurse, M. U., Kutch, J. J., Theodorou, E. A.

IEEE Reviews in Biomedical Engineering – (All authors have equally contributed), (2):110?135, 2009, clmc (article)

Abstract
Computational models of the neuromuscular system hold the potential to allow us to reach a deeper understanding of neuromuscular function and clinical rehabilitation by complementing experimentation. By serving as a means to distill and explore specific hypotheses, computational models emerge from prior experimental data and motivate future experimental work. Here we review computational tools used to understand neuromuscular function including musculoskeletal modeling, machine learning, control theory, and statistical model analysis. We conclude that these tools, when used in combination, have the potential to further our understanding of neuromuscular function by serving as a rigorous means to test scientific hypotheses in ways that complement and leverage experimental data.

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link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Compact models of motor primitive variations for predictible reaching and obstacle avoidance

Stulp, F., Oztop, E., Pastor, P., Beetz, M., Schaal, S.

In IEEE-RAS International Conference on Humanoid Robots (Humanoids 2009), Paris, Dec.7-10, 2009, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
over and over again. This regularity allows humans and robots to reuse existing solutions for known recurring tasks. We expect that reusing a set of standard solutions to solve similar tasks will facilitate the design and on-line adaptation of the control systems of robots operating in human environments. In this paper, we derive a set of standard solutions for reaching behavior from human motion data. We also derive stereotypical reaching trajectories for variations of the task, in which obstacles are present. These stereotypical trajectories are then compactly represented with Dynamic Movement Primitives. On the humanoid robot Sarcos CB, this approach leads to reproducible, predictable, and human-like reaching motions.

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link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Human optimization strategies under reward feedback

Hoffmann, H., Theodorou, E., Schaal, S.

In Abstracts of Neural Control of Movement Conference (NCM 2009), Waikoloa, Hawaii, 2009, 2009, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
Many hypothesis on human movement generation have been cast into an optimization framework, implying that movements are adapted to optimize a single quantity, like, e.g., jerk, end-point variance, or control cost. However, we still do not understand how humans actually learn when given only a cost or reward feedback at the end of a movement. Such a reinforcement learning setting has been extensively explored theoretically in engineering and computer science, but in human movement control, hardly any experiment studied movement learning under reward feedback. We present experiments probing which computational strategies humans use to optimize a movement under a continuous reward function. We present two experimental paradigms. The first paradigm mimics a ball-hitting task. Subjects (n=12) sat in front of a computer screen and moved a stylus on a tablet towards an unknown target. This target was located on a line that the subjects had to cross. During the movement, visual feedback was suppressed. After the movement, a reward was displayed graphically as a colored bar. As reward, we used a Gaussian function of the distance between the target location and the point of line crossing. We chose such a function since in sensorimotor tasks, the cost or loss function that humans seem to represent is close to an inverted Gaussian function (Koerding and Wolpert 2004). The second paradigm mimics pocket billiards. On the same experimental setup as above, the computer screen displayed a pocket (two bars), a white disk, and a green disk. The goal was to hit with the white disk the green disk (as in a billiard collision), such that the green disk moved into the pocket. Subjects (n=8) manipulated with the stylus the white disk to effectively choose start point and movement direction. Reward feedback was implicitly given as hitting or missing the pocket with the green disk. In both paradigms, subjects increased the average reward over trials. The surprising result was that in these experiments, humans seem to prefer a strategy that uses a reward-weighted average over previous movements instead of gradient ascent. The literature on reinforcement learning is dominated by gradient-ascent methods. However, our computer simulations and theoretical analysis revealed that reward-weighted averaging is the more robust choice given the amount of movement variance observed in humans. Apparently, humans choose an optimization strategy that is suitable for their own movement variance.

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[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Bayesian Methods for Autonomous Learning Systems (Phd Thesis)

Ting, J.

Department of Computer Science, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA, 2009, clmc (phdthesis)

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PDF [BibTex]

PDF [BibTex]


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On-line learning and modulation of periodic movements with nonlinear dynamical systems

Gams, A., Ijspeert, A., Schaal, S., Lenarčič, J.

Autonomous Robots, 27(1):3-23, 2009, clmc (article)

Abstract
Abstract  The paper presents a two-layered system for (1) learning and encoding a periodic signal without any knowledge on its frequency and waveform, and (2) modulating the learned periodic trajectory in response to external events. The system is used to learn periodic tasks on a humanoid HOAP-2 robot. The first layer of the system is a dynamical system responsible for extracting the fundamental frequency of the input signal, based on adaptive frequency oscillators. The second layer is a dynamical system responsible for learning of the waveform based on a built-in learning algorithm. By combining the two dynamical systems into one system we can rapidly teach new trajectories to robots without any knowledge of the frequency of the demonstration signal. The system extracts and learns only one period of the demonstration signal. Furthermore, the trajectories are robust to perturbations and can be modulated to cope with a dynamic environment. The system is computationally inexpensive, works on-line for any periodic signal, requires no additional signal processing to determine the frequency of the input signal and can be applied in parallel to multiple dimensions. Additionally, it can adapt to changes in frequency and shape, e.g. to non-stationary signals, such as hand-generated signals and human demonstrations.

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link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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The SL simulation and real-time control software package

Schaal, S.

University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA, 2009, clmc (techreport)

Abstract
SL was originally developed as a Simulation Laboratory software package to allow creating complex rigid-body dynamics simulations with minimal development times. It was meant to complement a real-time robotics setup such that robot programs could first be debugged in simulation before trying them on the actual robot. For this purpose, the motor control setup of SL was copied from our experience with real-time robot setups with vxWorks (Windriver Systems, Inc.)Ñindeed, more than 90% of the code is identical to the actual robot software, as will be explained later in detail. As a result, SL is divided into three software components: 1) the generic code that is shared by the actual robot and the simulation, 2) the robot specific code, and 3) the simulation specific code. The robot specific code is tailored to the robotic environments that we have experienced over the years, in particular towards VME-based multi-processor real-time operating systems. The simulation specific code has all the components for OpenGL graphics simulations and mimics the robot multi-processor environment in simple C-code. Importantly, SL can be used stand-alone for creating graphics an-imationsÑthe heritage from real-time robotics does not restrict the complexity of possible simulations. This technical report describes SL in detail and can serve as a manual for new users of SL.

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link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Local dimensionality reduction for non-parametric regression

Hoffman, H., Schaal, S., Vijayakumar, S.

Neural Processing Letters, 2009, clmc (article)

Abstract
Locally-weighted regression is a computationally-efficient technique for non-linear regression. However, for high-dimensional data, this technique becomes numerically brittle and computationally too expensive if many local models need to be maintained simultaneously. Thus, local linear dimensionality reduction combined with locally-weighted regression seems to be a promising solution. In this context, we review linear dimensionality-reduction methods, compare their performance on nonparametric locally-linear regression, and discuss their ability to extend to incremental learning. The considered methods belong to the following three groups: (1) reducing dimensionality only on the input data, (2) modeling the joint input-output data distribution, and (3) optimizing the correlation between projection directions and output data. Group 1 contains principal component regression (PCR); group 2 contains principal component analysis (PCA) in joint input and output space, factor analysis, and probabilistic PCA; and group 3 contains reduced rank regression (RRR) and partial least squares (PLS) regression. Among the tested methods, only group 3 managed to achieve robust performance even for a non-optimal number of components (factors or projection directions). In contrast, group 1 and 2 failed for fewer components since these methods rely on the correct estimate of the true intrinsic dimensionality. In group 3, PLS is the only method for which a computationally-efficient incremental implementation exists. Thus, PLS appears to be ideally suited as a building block for a locally-weighted regressor in which projection directions are incrementally added on the fly.

am

link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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The SL simulation and real-time control software package

Schaal, S.

University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA, 2009, clmc (techreport)

Abstract
SL was originally developed as a Simulation Laboratory software package to allow creating complex rigid-body dynamics simulations with minimal development times. It was meant to complement a real-time robotics setup such that robot programs could first be debugged in simulation before trying them on the actual robot. For this purpose, the motor control setup of SL was copied from our experience with real-time robot setups with vxWorks (Windriver Systems, Inc.)â??indeed, more than 90% of the code is identical to the actual robot software, as will be explained later in detail. As a result, SL is divided into three software components: 1) the generic code that is shared by the actual robot and the simulation, 2) the robot specific code, and 3) the simulation specific code. The robot specific code is tailored to the robotic environments that we have experienced over the years, in particular towards VME-based multi-processor real-time operating systems. The simulation specific code has all the components for OpenGL graphics simulations and mimics the robot multi-processor environment in simple C-code. Importantly, SL can be used stand-alone for creating graphics an-imationsâ??the heritage from real-time robotics does not restrict the complexity of possible simulations. This technical report describes SL in detail and can serve as a manual for new users of SL.

am

link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Learning and generalization of motor skills by learning from demonstration

Pastor, P., Hoffmann, H., Asfour, T., Schaal, S.

In International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA2009), Kobe, Japan, May 12-19, 2009, 2009, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
We provide a general approach for learning robotic motor skills from human demonstration. To represent an observed movement, a non-linear differential equation is learned such that it reproduces this movement. Based on this representation, we build a library of movements by labeling each recorded movement according to task and context (e.g., grasping, placing, and releasing). Our differential equation is formulated such that generalization can be achieved simply by adapting a start and a goal parameter in the equation to the desired position values of a movement. For object manipulation, we present how our framework extends to the control of gripper orientation and finger position. The feasibility of our approach is demonstrated in simulation as well as on a real robot. The robot learned a pick-and-place operation and a water-serving task and could generalize these tasks to novel situations.

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link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Compliant quadruped locomotion over rough terrain

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

In Intelligent Robots and Systems, 2009. IROS 2009. IEEE/RSJ International Conference on, pages: 814-820, 2009, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
Many critical elements for statically stable walking for legged robots have been known for a long time, including stability criteria based on support polygons, good foothold selection, recovery strategies to name a few. All these criteria have to be accounted for in the planning as well as the control phase. Most legged robots usually employ high gain position control, which means that it is crucially important that the planned reference trajectories are a good match for the actual terrain, and that tracking is accurate. Such an approach leads to conservative controllers, i.e. relatively low speed, ground speed matching, etc. Not surprisingly such controllers are not very robust - they are not suited for the real world use outside of the laboratory where the knowledge of the world is limited and error prone. Thus, to achieve robust robotic locomotion in the archetypical domain of legged systems, namely complex rough terrain, where the size of the obstacles are in the order of leg length, additional elements are required. A possible solution to improve the robustness of legged locomotion is to maximize the compliance of the controller. While compliance is trivially achieved by reduced feedback gains, for terrain requiring precise foot placement (e.g. climbing rocks, walking over pegs or cracks) compliance cannot be introduced at the cost of inferior tracking. Thus, model-based control and - in contrast to passive dynamic walkers - active balance control is required. To achieve these objectives, in this paper we add two crucial elements to legged locomotion, i.e., floating-base inverse dynamics control and predictive force control, and we show that these elements increase robustness in face of unknown and unanticipated perturbations (e.g. obstacles). Furthermore, we introduce a novel line-based COG trajectory planner, which yields a simpler algorithm than traditional polygon based methods and creates the appropriate input to our control system.We show results from bot- h simulation and real world of a robotic dog walking over non-perceived obstacles and rocky terrain. The results prove the effectivity of the inverse dynamics/force controller. The presented results show that we have all elements needed for robust all-terrain locomotion, which should also generalize to other legged systems, e.g., humanoid robots.

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link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Incorporating Muscle Activation-Contraction dynamics to an optimal control framework for finger movements

Theodorou, Evangelos A., Valero-Cuevas, Francisco J.

Abstracts of Neural Control of Movement Conference (NCM 2009), 2009, clmc (article)

Abstract
Recent experimental and theoretical work [1] investigated the neural control of contact transition between motion and force during tapping with the index finger as a nonlinear optimization problem. Such transitions from motion to well-directed contact force are a fundamental part of dexterous manipulation. There are 3 alternative hypotheses of how this transition could be accomplished by the nervous system as a function of changes in direction and magnitude of the torque vector controlling the finger. These hypotheses are 1) an initial change in direction with a subsequent change in magnitude of the torque vector; 2) an initial change in magnitude with a subsequent directional change of the torque vector; and 3) a simultaneous and proportionally equal change of both direction and magnitude of the torque vector. Experimental work in [2] shows that the nervous system selects the first strategy, and in [1] we suggest that this may in fact be the optimal strategy. In [4] the framework of Iterative Linear Quadratic Optimal Regulator (ILQR) was extended to incorporate motion and force control. However, our prior simulation work assumed direct and instantaneous control of joint torques, which ignores the known delays and filtering properties of skeletal muscle. In this study, we implement an ILQR controller for a more biologically plausible biomechanical model of the index finger than [4], and add activation-contraction dynamics to the system to simulate muscle function. The planar biomechanical model includes the kinematics of the 3 joints while the applied torques are driven by activation?contraction dynamics with biologically plausible time constants [3]. In agreement with our experimental work [2], the task is to, within 500 ms, move the finger from a given resting configuration to target configuration with a desired terminal velocity. ILQR does not only stabilize the finger dynamics according to the objective function, but it also generates smooth joint space trajectories with minimal tuning and without an a-priori initial control policy (which is difficult to find for highly dimensional biomechanical systems). Furthemore, the use of this optimal control framework and the addition of activation-contraction dynamics considers the full nonlinear dynamics of the index finger and produces a sequence of postures which are compatible with experimental motion data [2]. These simulations combined with prior experimental results suggest that optimal control is a strong candidate for the generation of finger movements prior to abrupt motion-to-force transitions. This work is funded in part by grants NIH R01 0505520 and NSF EFRI-0836042 to Dr. Francisco J. Valero- Cuevas 1 Venkadesan M, Valero-Cuevas FJ. 
Effects of neuromuscular lags on controlling contact transitions. 
Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A: 2008. 2 Venkadesan M, Valero-Cuevas FJ. 
Neural Control of Motion-to-Force Transitions with the Fingertip. 
J. Neurosci., Feb 2008; 28: 1366 - 1373; 3 Zajac. Muscle and tendon: properties, models, scaling, and application to biomechanics and motor control. Crit Rev Biomed Eng, 17 4. Weiwei Li., Francisco Valero Cuevas: ?Linear Quadratic Optimal Control of Contact Transition with Fingertip ? ACC 2009

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PDF [BibTex]

PDF [BibTex]


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Inertial parameter estimation of floating-base humanoid systems using partial force sensing

Mistry, M., Schaal, S., Yamane, K.

In IEEE-RAS International Conference on Humanoid Robots (Humanoids 2009), Paris, Dec.7-10, 2009, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
Recently, several controllers have been proposed for humanoid robots which rely on full-body dynamic models. The estimation of inertial parameters from data is a critical component for obtaining accurate models for control. However, floating base systems, such as humanoid robots, incur added challenges to this task (e.g. contact forces must be measured, contact states can change, etc.) In this work, we outline a theoretical framework for whole body inertial parameter estimation, including the unactuated floating base. Using a least squares minimization approach, conducted within the nullspace of unmeasured degrees of freedom, we are able to use a partial force sensor set for full-body estimation, e.g. using only joint torque sensors, allowing for estimation when contact force measurement is unavailable or unreliable (e.g. due to slipping, rolling contacts, etc.). We also propose how to determine the theoretical minimum force sensor set for full body estimation, and discuss the practical limitations of doing so.

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link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]