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2018


Probabilistic Recurrent State-Space Models
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.

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arXiv pdf Project Page [BibTex]

2018


arXiv pdf Project Page [BibTex]


Online Learning of a Memory for Learning Rates
Online Learning of a Memory for Learning Rates

(nominated for best paper award)

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

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

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

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pdf video code [BibTex]

pdf video code [BibTex]


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

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

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

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pdf video [BibTex]

pdf video [BibTex]


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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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Unsupervised Contact Learning for Humanoid Estimation and Control

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

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

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

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Learning Task-Specific Dynamics to Improve Whole-Body Control

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

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

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

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link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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An MPC Walking Framework With External Contact Forces

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

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

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

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

2013


Probabilistic Object Tracking Using a Range Camera
Probabilistic Object Tracking Using a Range Camera

Wüthrich, M., Pastor, P., Kalakrishnan, M., Bohg, J., Schaal, S.

In IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems, pages: 3195-3202, IEEE, November 2013 (inproceedings)

Abstract
We address the problem of tracking the 6-DoF pose of an object while it is being manipulated by a human or a robot. We use a dynamic Bayesian network to perform inference and compute a posterior distribution over the current object pose. Depending on whether a robot or a human manipulates the object, we employ a process model with or without knowledge of control inputs. Observations are obtained from a range camera. As opposed to previous object tracking methods, we explicitly model self-occlusions and occlusions from the environment, e.g, the human or robotic hand. This leads to a strongly non-linear observation model and additional dependencies in the Bayesian network. We employ a Rao-Blackwellised particle filter to compute an estimate of the object pose at every time step. In a set of experiments, we demonstrate the ability of our method to accurately and robustly track the object pose in real-time while it is being manipulated by a human or a robot.

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arXiv Video Code Video DOI Project Page [BibTex]

2013


arXiv Video Code Video DOI Project Page [BibTex]


Learning and Optimization with Submodular Functions
Learning and Optimization with Submodular Functions

Sankaran, B., Ghazvininejad, M., He, X., Kale, D., Cohen, L.

ArXiv, May 2013 (techreport)

Abstract
In many naturally occurring optimization problems one needs to ensure that the definition of the optimization problem lends itself to solutions that are tractable to compute. In cases where exact solutions cannot be computed tractably, it is beneficial to have strong guarantees on the tractable approximate solutions. In order operate under these criterion most optimization problems are cast under the umbrella of convexity or submodularity. In this report we will study design and optimization over a common class of functions called submodular functions. Set functions, and specifically submodular set functions, characterize a wide variety of naturally occurring optimization problems, and the property of submodularity of set functions has deep theoretical consequences with wide ranging applications. Informally, the property of submodularity of set functions concerns the intuitive principle of diminishing returns. This property states that adding an element to a smaller set has more value than adding it to a larger set. Common examples of submodular monotone functions are entropies, concave functions of cardinality, and matroid rank functions; non-monotone examples include graph cuts, network flows, and mutual information. In this paper we will review the formal definition of submodularity; the optimization of submodular functions, both maximization and minimization; and finally discuss some applications in relation to learning and reasoning using submodular functions.

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arxiv link (url) [BibTex]

arxiv link (url) [BibTex]


Hypothesis Testing Framework for Active Object Detection
Hypothesis Testing Framework for Active Object Detection

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

In IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA), May 2013, clmc (inproceedings)

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

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pdf [BibTex]

pdf [BibTex]


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Action and Goal Related Decision Variables Modulate the Competition Between Multiple Potential Targets

Enachescu, V, Christopoulos, Vassilios N, Schrater, P. R., Schaal, S.

In Abstracts of Neural Control of Movement Conference (NCM 2013), February 2013 (inproceedings)

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[BibTex]

[BibTex]


Fusing visual and tactile sensing for 3-D object reconstruction while grasping
Fusing visual and tactile sensing for 3-D object reconstruction while grasping

Ilonen, J., Bohg, J., Kyrki, V.

In IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA), pages: 3547-3554, 2013 (inproceedings)

Abstract
In this work, we propose to reconstruct a complete 3-D model of an unknown object by fusion of visual and tactile information while the object is grasped. Assuming the object is symmetric, a first hypothesis of its complete 3-D shape is generated from a single view. This initial model is used to plan a grasp on the object which is then executed with a robotic manipulator equipped with tactile sensors. Given the detected contacts between the fingers and the object, the full object model including the symmetry parameters can be refined. This refined model will then allow the planning of more complex manipulation tasks. The main contribution of this work is an optimal estimation approach for the fusion of visual and tactile data applying the constraint of object symmetry. The fusion is formulated as a state estimation problem and solved with an iterative extended Kalman filter. The approach is validated experimentally using both artificial and real data from two different robotic platforms.

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DOI Project Page [BibTex]

DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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Learning Objective Functions for Manipulation

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

In 2013 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation, IEEE, Karlsruhe, Germany, 2013 (inproceedings)

Abstract
We present an approach to learning objective functions for robotic manipulation based on inverse reinforcement learning. Our path integral inverse reinforcement learning algorithm can deal with high-dimensional continuous state-action spaces, and only requires local optimality of demonstrated trajectories. We use L 1 regularization in order to achieve feature selection, and propose an efficient algorithm to minimize the resulting convex objective function. We demonstrate our approach by applying it to two core problems in robotic manipulation. First, we learn a cost function for redundancy resolution in inverse kinematics. Second, we use our method to learn a cost function over trajectories, which is then used in optimization-based motion planning for grasping and manipulation tasks. Experimental results show that our method outperforms previous algorithms in high-dimensional settings.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Using Torque Redundancy to Optimize Contact Forces in Legged Robots

Righetti, L., Buchli, J., Mistry, M., Kalakrishnan, M., Schaal, S.

In Redundancy in Robot Manipulators and Multi-Robot Systems, 57, pages: 35-51, Lecture Notes in Electrical Engineering, Springer Berlin Heidelberg, 2013 (incollection)

Abstract
The development of legged robots for complex environments requires controllers that guarantee both high tracking performance and compliance with the environment. More specifically the control of contact interaction with the environment is of crucial importance to ensure stable, robust and safe motions. In the following, we present an inverse dynamics controller that exploits torque redundancy to directly and explicitly minimize any combination of linear and quadratic costs in the contact constraints and in the commands. Such a result is particularly relevant for legged robots as it allows to use torque redundancy to directly optimize contact interactions. For example, given a desired locomotion behavior, it can guarantee the minimization of contact forces to reduce slipping on difficult terrains while ensuring high tracking performance of the desired motion. The proposed controller is very simple and computationally efficient, and most importantly it can greatly improve the performance of legged locomotion on difficult terrains as can be seen in the experimental results.

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link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Learning Task Error Models for Manipulation

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

In 2013 IEEE Conference on Robotics and Automation, IEEE, Karlsruhe, Germany, 2013 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Precise kinematic forward models are important for robots to successfully perform dexterous grasping and manipulation tasks, especially when visual servoing is rendered infeasible due to occlusions. A lot of research has been conducted to estimate geometric and non-geometric parameters of kinematic chains to minimize reconstruction errors. However, kinematic chains can include non-linearities, e.g. due to cable stretch and motor-side encoders, that result in significantly different errors for different parts of the state space. Previous work either does not consider such non-linearities or proposes to estimate non-geometric parameters of carefully engineered models that are robot specific. We propose a data-driven approach that learns task error models that account for such unmodeled non-linearities. We argue that in the context of grasping and manipulation, it is sufficient to achieve high accuracy in the task relevant state space. We identify this relevant state space using previously executed joint configurations and learn error corrections for those. Therefore, our system is developed to generate subsequent executions that are similar to previous ones. The experiments show that our method successfully captures the non-linearities in the head kinematic chain (due to a counterbalancing spring) and the arm kinematic chains (due to cable stretch) of the considered experimental platform, see Fig. 1. The feasibility of the presented error learning approach has also been evaluated in independent DARPA ARM-S testing contributing to successfully complete 67 out of 72 grasping and manipulation tasks.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

1997


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Learning from demonstration

Schaal, S.

In Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 9, pages: 1040-1046, (Editors: Mozer, M. C.;Jordan, M.;Petsche, T.), MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, 1997, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
By now it is widely accepted that learning a task from scratch, i.e., without any prior knowledge, is a daunting undertaking. Humans, however, rarely attempt to learn from scratch. They extract initial biases as well as strategies how to approach a learning problem from instructions and/or demonstrations of other humans. For learning control, this paper investigates how learning from demonstration can be applied in the context of reinforcement learning. We consider priming the Q-function, the value function, the policy, and the model of the task dynamics as possible areas where demonstrations can speed up learning. In general nonlinear learning problems, only model-based reinforcement learning shows significant speed-up after a demonstration, while in the special case of linear quadratic regulator (LQR) problems, all methods profit from the demonstration. In an implementation of pole balancing on a complex anthropomorphic robot arm, we demonstrate that, when facing the complexities of real signal processing, model-based reinforcement learning offers the most robustness for LQR problems. Using the suggested methods, the robot learns pole balancing in just a single trial after a 30 second long demonstration of the human instructor. 

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link (url) [BibTex]

1997


link (url) [BibTex]


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Robot learning from demonstration

Atkeson, C. G., Schaal, S.

In Machine Learning: Proceedings of the Fourteenth International Conference (ICML ’97), pages: 12-20, (Editors: Fisher Jr., D. H.), Morgan Kaufmann, Nashville, TN, July 8-12, 1997, 1997, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
The goal of robot learning from demonstration is to have a robot learn from watching a demonstration of the task to be performed. In our approach to learning from demonstration the robot learns a reward function from the demonstration and a task model from repeated attempts to perform the task. A policy is computed based on the learned reward function and task model. Lessons learned from an implementation on an anthropomorphic robot arm using a pendulum swing up task include 1) simply mimicking demonstrated motions is not adequate to perform this task, 2) a task planner can use a learned model and reward function to compute an appropriate policy, 3) this model-based planning process supports rapid learning, 4) both parametric and nonparametric models can be learned and used, and 5) incorporating a task level direct learning component, which is non-model-based, in addition to the model-based planner, is useful in compensating for structural modeling errors and slow model learning. 

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link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Local dimensionality reduction for locally weighted learning

Vijayakumar, S., Schaal, S.

In International Conference on Computational Intelligence in Robotics and Automation, pages: 220-225, Monteray, CA, July10-11, 1997, 1997, 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 the view. Based on empirical studies, it can been 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 local dimensionality reduction as a preprocessing step with a nonparametric learning technique, locally weighted regression. The usefulness of the algorithm and the validity of its assumptions are illustrated for a synthetic data set and data of the inverse dynamics of an actual 7 degree-of-freedom anthropomorphic robot arm.

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link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Learning tasks from a single demonstration

Atkeson, C. G., Schaal, S.

In IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA97), 2, pages: 1706-1712, Piscataway, NJ: IEEE, Albuquerque, NM, 20-25 April, 1997, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
Learning a complex dynamic robot manoeuvre from a single human demonstration is difficult. This paper explores an approach to learning from demonstration based on learning an optimization criterion from the demonstration and a task model from repeated attempts to perform the task, and using the learned criterion and model to compute an appropriate robot movement. A preliminary version of the approach has been implemented on an anthropomorphic robot arm using a pendulum swing up task as an example

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link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]

1994


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Robot learning by nonparametric regression

Schaal, S., Atkeson, C. G.

In Proceedings of the International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS’94), pages: 478-485, Munich Germany, 1994, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
We present an approach to robot learning grounded on a nonparametric regression technique, locally weighted regression. The model of the task to be performed is represented by infinitely many local linear models, i.e., the (hyper-) tangent planes at every query point. Such a model, however, is only generated when a query is performed and is not retained. This is in contrast to other methods using a finite set of linear models to accomplish a piecewise linear model. Architectural parameters of our approach, such as distance metrics, are also a function of the current query point instead of being global. Statistical tests are presented for when a local model is good enough such that it can be reliably used to build a local controller. These statistical measures also direct the exploration of the robot. We explicitly deal with the case where prediction accuracy requirements exist during exploration: By gradually shifting a center of exploration and controlling the speed of the shift with local prediction accuracy, a goal-directed exploration of state space takes place along the fringes of the current data support until the task goal is achieved. We illustrate this approach by describing how it has been used to enable a robot to learn a challenging juggling task: Within 40 to 100 trials the robot accomplished the task goal starting out with no initial experiences.

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[BibTex]

1994


[BibTex]


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Assessing the quality of learned local models

Schaal, S., Atkeson, C. G.

In Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 6, pages: 160-167, (Editors: Cowan, J.;Tesauro, G.;Alspector, J.), Morgan Kaufmann, San Mateo, CA, 1994, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
An approach is presented to learning high dimensional functions in the case where the learning algorithm can affect the generation of new data. A local modeling algorithm, locally weighted regression, is used to represent the learned function. Architectural parameters of the approach, such as distance metrics, are also localized and become a function of the query point instead of being global. Statistical tests are given for when a local model is good enough and sampling should be moved to a new area. Our methods explicitly deal with the case where prediction accuracy requirements exist during exploration: By gradually shifting a "center of exploration" and controlling the speed of the shift with local prediction accuracy, a goal-directed exploration of state space takes place along the fringes of the current data support until the task goal is achieved. We illustrate this approach with simulation results and results from a real robot learning a complex juggling task.

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link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Memory-based robot learning

Schaal, S., Atkeson, C. G.

In IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation, 3, pages: 2928-2933, San Diego, CA, 1994, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
We present a memory-based local modeling approach to robot learning using a nonparametric regression technique, locally weighted regression. The model of the task to be performed is represented by infinitely many local linear models, the (hyper-) tangent planes at every query point. This is in contrast to other methods using a finite set of linear models to accomplish a piece-wise linear model. Architectural parameters of our approach, such as distance metrics, are a function of the current query point instead of being global. Statistical tests are presented for when a local model is good enough such that it can be reliably used to build a local controller. These statistical measures also direct the exploration of the robot. We explicitly deal with the case where prediction accuracy requirements exist during exploration: By gradually shifting a center of exploration and controlling the speed of the shift with local prediction accuracy, a goal-directed exploration of state space takes place along the fringes of the current data support until the task goal is achieved. We illustrate this approach by describing how it has been used to enable a robot to learn a challenging juggling task: within 40 to 100 trials the robot accomplished the task goal starting out with no initial experiences.

am

[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Nonparametric regression for learning

Schaal, S.

In Conference on Adaptive Behavior and Learning, Center of Interdisciplinary Research (ZIF) Bielefeld Germany, also technical report TR-H-098 of the ATR Human Information Processing Research Laboratories, 1994, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
In recent years, learning theory has been increasingly influenced by the fact that many learning algorithms have at least in part a comprehensive interpretation in terms of well established statistical theories. Furthermore, with little modification, several statistical methods can be directly cast into learning algorithms. One family of such methods stems from nonparametric regression. This paper compares nonparametric learning with the more widely used parametric counterparts and investigates how these two families differ in their properties and their applicability. 

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link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]