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2018


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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.

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arXiv pdf Project Page [BibTex]

2018


arXiv pdf Project Page [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.

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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)

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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, May 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]

2014


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Robot Arm Pose Estimation through Pixel-Wise Part Classification

Bohg, J., Romero, J., Herzog, A., Schaal, S.

In IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA) 2014, pages: 3143-3150, IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA), June 2014 (inproceedings)

Abstract
We propose to frame the problem of marker-less robot arm pose estimation as a pixel-wise part classification problem. As input, we use a depth image in which each pixel is classified to be either from a particular robot part or the background. The classifier is a random decision forest trained on a large number of synthetically generated and labeled depth images. From all the training samples ending up at a leaf node, a set of offsets is learned that votes for relative joint positions. Pooling these votes over all foreground pixels and subsequent clustering gives us an estimate of the true joint positions. Due to the intrinsic parallelism of pixel-wise classification, this approach can run in super real-time and is more efficient than previous ICP-like methods. We quantitatively evaluate the accuracy of this approach on synthetic data. We also demonstrate that the method produces accurate joint estimates on real data despite being purely trained on synthetic data.

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video code pdf DOI Project Page [BibTex]

2014


video code pdf DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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A Self-Tuning LQR Approach Demonstrated on an Inverted Pendulum

Trimpe, S., Millane, A., Doessegger, S., D’Andrea, R.

In Proceedings of the 19th IFAC World Congress, Cape Town, South Africa, 2014 (inproceedings)

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PDF Supplementary material DOI [BibTex]

PDF Supplementary material DOI [BibTex]


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Learning coupling terms for obstacle avoidance

Rai, A., Meier, F., Ijspeert, A., Schaal, S.

In International Conference on Humanoid Robotics, pages: 512-518, IEEE, 2014, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
Autonomous manipulation in dynamic environments is important for robots to perform everyday tasks. For this, a manipulator should be capable of interpreting the environment and planning an appropriate movement. At least, two possible approaches exist for this in literature. Usually, a planning system is used to generate a complex movement plan that satisfies all constraints. Alternatively, a simple plan could be chosen and modified with sensory feedback to accommodate additional constraints by equipping the controller with features that remain dormant most of the time, except when specific situations arise. Dynamic Movement Primitives (DMPs) form a robust and versatile starting point for such a controller that can be modified online using a non-linear term, called the coupling term. This can prove to be a fast and reactive way of obstacle avoidance in a human-like fashion. We propose a method to learn this coupling term from human demonstrations starting with simple features and making it more robust to avoid a larger range of obstacles. We test the ability of our coupling term to model different kinds of obstacle avoidance behaviours in humans and use this learnt coupling term to avoid obstacles in a reactive manner. This line of research aims at pushing the boundary of reactive control strategies to more complex scenarios, such that complex and usually computationally more expensive planning methods can be avoided as much as possible.

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link (url) Project Page [BibTex]

link (url) Project Page [BibTex]


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Incremental Local Gaussian Regression

Meier, F., Hennig, P., Schaal, S.

In Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 27, pages: 972-980, (Editors: Z. Ghahramani, M. Welling, C. Cortes, N.D. Lawrence and K.Q. Weinberger), 28th Annual Conference on Neural Information Processing Systems (NIPS), 2014, clmc (inproceedings)

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PDF link (url) [BibTex]

PDF link (url) [BibTex]


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Efficient Bayesian Local Model Learning for Control

Meier, F., Hennig, P., Schaal, S.

In Proceedings of the IEEE International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems, pages: 2244 - 2249, IROS, 2014, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
Model-based control is essential for compliant controland force control in many modern complex robots, like humanoidor disaster robots. Due to many unknown and hard tomodel nonlinearities, analytical models of such robots are oftenonly very rough approximations. However, modern optimizationcontrollers frequently depend on reasonably accurate models,and degrade greatly in robustness and performance if modelerrors are too large. For a long time, machine learning hasbeen expected to provide automatic empirical model synthesis,yet so far, research has only generated feasibility studies butno learning algorithms that run reliably on complex robots.In this paper, we combine two promising worlds of regressiontechniques to generate a more powerful regression learningsystem. On the one hand, locally weighted regression techniquesare computationally efficient, but hard to tune due to avariety of data dependent meta-parameters. On the other hand,Bayesian regression has rather automatic and robust methods toset learning parameters, but becomes quickly computationallyinfeasible for big and high-dimensional data sets. By reducingthe complexity of Bayesian regression in the spirit of local modellearning through variational approximations, we arrive at anovel algorithm that is computationally efficient and easy toinitialize for robust learning. Evaluations on several datasetsdemonstrate very good learning performance and the potentialfor a general regression learning tool for robotics.

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PDF link (url) DOI [BibTex]

PDF link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Stability Analysis of Distributed Event-Based State Estimation

Trimpe, S.

In Proceedings of the 53rd IEEE Conference on Decision and Control, Los Angeles, CA, 2014 (inproceedings)

Abstract
An approach for distributed and event-based state estimation that was proposed in previous work [1] is analyzed and extended to practical networked systems in this paper. Multiple sensor-actuator-agents observe a dynamic process, sporadically exchange their measurements over a broadcast network according to an event-based protocol, and estimate the process state from the received data. The event-based approach was shown in [1] to mimic a centralized Luenberger observer up to guaranteed bounds, under the assumption of identical estimates on all agents. This assumption, however, is unrealistic (it is violated by a single packet drop or slight numerical inaccuracy) and removed herein. By means of a simulation example, it is shown that non-identical estimates can actually destabilize the overall system. To achieve stability, the event-based communication scheme is supplemented by periodic (but infrequent) exchange of the agentsâ?? estimates and reset to their joint average. When the local estimates are used for feedback control, the stability guarantee for the estimation problem extends to the event-based control system.

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PDF Supplementary material DOI Project Page [BibTex]

PDF Supplementary material DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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Dual Execution of Optimized Contact Interaction Trajectories

Toussaint, M., Ratliff, N., Bohg, J., Righetti, L., Englert, P., Schaal, S.

In 2014 IEEE/RSJ Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems, pages: 47-54, IEEE, Chicago, USA, 2014 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Efficient manipulation requires contact to reduce uncertainty. The manipulation literature refers to this as funneling: a methodology for increasing reliability and robustness by leveraging haptic feedback and control of environmental interaction. However, there is a fundamental gap between traditional approaches to trajectory optimization and this concept of robustness by funneling: traditional trajectory optimizers do not discover force feedback strategies. From a POMDP perspective, these behaviors could be regarded as explicit observation actions planned to sufficiently reduce uncertainty thereby enabling a task. While we are sympathetic to the full POMDP view, solving full continuous-space POMDPs in high-dimensions is hard. In this paper, we propose an alternative approach in which trajectory optimization objectives are augmented with new terms that reward uncertainty reduction through contacts, explicitly promoting funneling. This augmentation shifts the responsibility of robustness toward the actual execution of the optimized trajectories. Directly tracing trajectories through configuration space would lose all robustness-dual execution achieves robustness by devising force controllers to reproduce the temporal interaction profile encoded in the dual solution of the optimization problem. This work introduces dual execution in depth and analyze its performance through robustness experiments in both simulation and on a real-world robotic platform.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Learning and Exploration in a Novel Dimensionality-Reduction Task

Ebert, J, Kim, S, Schweighofer, N., Sternad, D, Schaal, S.

In Abstracts of Neural Control of Movement Conference (NCM 2009), Amsterdam, Netherlands, 2014 (inproceedings)

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[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Balancing experiments on a torque-controlled humanoid with hierarchical inverse dynamics

Herzog, A., Righetti, L., Grimminger, F., Pastor, P., Schaal, S.

In 2014 IEEE/RSJ Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems, pages: 981-988, IEEE, Chicago, USA, 2014 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Recently several hierarchical inverse dynamics controllers based on cascades of quadratic programs have been proposed for application on torque controlled robots. They have important theoretical benefits but have never been implemented on a torque controlled robot where model inaccuracies and real-time computation requirements can be problematic. In this contribution we present an experimental evaluation of these algorithms in the context of balance control for a humanoid robot. The presented experiments demonstrate the applicability of the approach under real robot conditions (i.e. model uncertainty, estimation errors, etc). We propose a simplification of the optimization problem that allows us to decrease computation time enough to implement it in a fast torque control loop. We implement a momentum-based balance controller which shows robust performance in face of unknown disturbances, even when the robot is standing on only one foot. In a second experiment, a tracking task is evaluated to demonstrate the performance of the controller with more complicated hierarchies. Our results show that hierarchical inverse dynamics controllers can be used for feedback control of humanoid robots and that momentum-based balance control can be efficiently implemented on a real robot.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Full Dynamics LQR Control of a Humanoid Robot: An Experimental Study on Balancing and Squatting

Mason, S., Righetti, L., Schaal, S.

In 2014 IEEE-RAS International Conference on Humanoid Robots, pages: 374-379, IEEE, Madrid, Spain, 2014 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Humanoid robots operating in human environments require whole-body controllers that can offer precise tracking and well-defined disturbance rejection behavior. In this contribution, we propose an experimental evaluation of a linear quadratic regulator (LQR) using a linearization of the full robot dynamics together with the contact constraints. The advantage of the controller is that it explicitly takes into account the coupling between the different joints to create optimal feedback controllers for whole-body control. We also propose a method to explicitly regulate other tasks of interest, such as the regulation of the center of mass of the robot or its angular momentum. In order to evaluate the performance of linear optimal control designs in a real-world scenario (model uncertainty, sensor noise, imperfect state estimation, etc), we test the controllers in a variety of tracking and balancing experiments on a torque controlled humanoid (e.g. balancing, split plane balancing, squatting, pushes while squatting, and balancing on a wheeled platform). The proposed control framework shows a reliable push recovery behavior competitive with more sophisticated balance controllers, rejecting impulses up to 11.7 Ns with peak forces of 650 N, with the added advantage of great computational simplicity. Furthermore, the controller is able to track squatting trajectories up to 1 Hz without relinearization, suggesting that the linearized dynamics is sufficient for significant ranges of motion.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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State Estimation for a Humanoid Robot

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

In 2014 IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems, pages: 952-958, IEEE, Chicago, USA, 2014 (inproceedings)

Abstract
This paper introduces a framework for state estimation on a humanoid robot platform using only common proprioceptive sensors and knowledge of leg kinematics. The presented approach extends that detailed in prior work on a point-foot quadruped platform by adding the rotational constraints imposed by the humanoid's flat feet. As in previous work, the proposed Extended Kalman Filter accommodates contact switching and makes no assumptions about gait or terrain, making it applicable on any humanoid platform for use in any task. A nonlinear observability analysis is performed on both the point-foot and flat-foot filters and it is concluded that the addition of rotational constraints significantly simplifies singular cases and improves the observability characteristics of the system. Results on a simulated walking dataset demonstrate the performance gain of the flat-foot filter as well as confirm the results of the presented observability analysis.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

2003


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Dynamic movement primitives - A framework for motor control in humans and humanoid robots

Schaal, S.

In The International Symposium on Adaptive Motion of Animals and Machines, Kyoto, Japan, March 4-8, 2003, March 2003, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
Sensory-motor integration is one of the key issues in robotics. In this paper, we propose an approach to rhythmic arm movement control that is synchronized with an external signal based on exploiting a simple neural oscillator network. Trajectory generation by the neural oscillator is a biologically inspired method that can allow us to generate a smooth and continuous trajectory. The parameter tuning of the oscillators is used to generate a synchronized movement with wide intervals. We adopted the method for the drumming task as an example task. By using this method, the robot can realize synchronized drumming with wide drumming intervals in real time. The paper also shows the experimental results of drumming by a humanoid robot.

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link (url) [BibTex]

2003


link (url) [BibTex]


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Bayesian backfitting

D’Souza, A., Vijayakumar, S., Schaal, S.

In Proceedings of the 10th Joint Symposium on Neural Computation (JSNC 2003), Irvine, CA, May 2003, 2003, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
We present an algorithm aimed at addressing both computational and analytical intractability of Bayesian regression models which operate in very high-dimensional, usually underconstrained spaces. Several domains of research frequently provide such datasets, including chemometrics [2], and human movement analysis [1]. The literature in nonparametric statistics provides interesting solutions such as Backfitting [3] and Partial Least Squares [4], which are extremely robust and efficient, yet lack a probabilistic interpretation that could place them in the context of current research in statistical learning algorithms that emphasize the estimation of confidence, posterior distributions, and model complexity. In order to achieve numerical robustness and low computational cost, we first derive a novel Bayesian interpretation of Backfitting (BB) as a computationally efficient regression algorithm. BBÕs learning complexity scales linearly with the input dimensionality by decoupling inference among individual input dimensions. We embed BB in an efficient, locally variational model selection mechanism that automatically grows the number of backfitting experts in a mixture-of-experts regression model. We demonstrate the effectiveness of the algorithm in performing principled regularization of model complexity when fitting nonlinear manifolds while avoiding the numerical hazards associated with highly underconstrained problems. We also note that this algorithm appears applicable in various areas of neural computation, e.g., in abstract models of computational neuroscience, or implementations of statistical learning on artificial systems.

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link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Reinforcement learning for humanoid robotics

Peters, J., Vijayakumar, S., Schaal, S.

In IEEE-RAS International Conference on Humanoid Robots (Humanoids2003), Karlsruhe, Germany, Sept.29-30, 2003, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
Reinforcement learning offers one of the most general framework to take traditional robotics towards true autonomy and versatility. However, applying reinforcement learning to high dimensional movement systems like humanoid robots remains an unsolved problem. In this paper, we discuss different approaches of reinforcement learning in terms of their applicability in humanoid robotics. Methods can be coarsely classified into three different categories, i.e., greedy methods, `vanilla' policy gradient methods, and natural gradient methods. We discuss that greedy methods are not likely to scale into the domain humanoid robotics as they are problematic when used with function approximation. `Vanilla' policy gradient methods on the other hand have been successfully applied on real-world robots including at least one humanoid robot. We demonstrate that these methods can be significantly improved using the natural policy gradient instead of the regular policy gradient. A derivation of the natural policy gradient is provided, proving that the average policy gradient of Kakade (2002) is indeed the true natural gradient. A general algorithm for estimating the natural gradient, the Natural Actor-Critic algorithm, is introduced. This algorithm converges to the nearest local minimum of the cost function with respect to the Fisher information metric under suitable conditions. The algorithm outperforms non-natural policy gradients by far in a cart-pole balancing evaluation, and for learning nonlinear dynamic motor primitives for humanoid robot control. It offers a promising route for the development of reinforcement learning for truly high dimensionally continuous state-action systems.

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link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Discovering imitation strategies through categorization of multi-cimensional data

Billard, A., Epars, Y., Schaal, S., Cheng, G.

In IEEE International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS 2003), Las Vegas, NV, Oct. 27-31, 2003, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
An essential problem of imitation is that of determining Ówhat to imitateÓ, i.e. to determine which of the many features of the demonstration are relevant to the task and which should be reproduced. The strategy followed by the imitator can be modeled as a hierarchical optimization system, which minimizes the discrepancy between two multidimensional datasets. We consider imitation of a manipulation task. To classify across manipulation strategies, we apply a probabilistic analysis to data in Cartesian and joint spaces. We determine a general metric that optimizes the policy of task reproduction, following strategy determination. The model successfully discovers strategies in six different manipulation tasks and controls task reproduction by a full body humanoid robot. or the complete path followed by the demonstrator. We follow a similar taxonomy and apply it to the learning and reproduction of a manipulation task by a humanoid robot. We take the perspective that the features of the movements to imitate are those that appear most frequently, i.e. the invariants in time. The model builds upon previous work [3], [4] and is composed of a hierarchical time delay neural network that extracts invariant features from a manipulation task performed by a human demonstrator. The system analyzes the Carthesian trajectories of the objects and the joint

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link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Scaling reinforcement learning paradigms for motor learning

Peters, J., Vijayakumar, S., Schaal, S.

In Proceedings of the 10th Joint Symposium on Neural Computation (JSNC 2003), Irvine, CA, May 2003, 2003, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
Reinforcement learning offers a general framework to explain reward related learning in artificial and biological motor control. However, current reinforcement learning methods rarely scale to high dimensional movement systems and mainly operate in discrete, low dimensional domains like game-playing, artificial toy problems, etc. This drawback makes them unsuitable for application to human or bio-mimetic motor control. In this poster, we look at promising approaches that can potentially scale and suggest a novel formulation of the actor-critic algorithm which takes steps towards alleviating the current shortcomings. We argue that methods based on greedy policies are not likely to scale into high-dimensional domains as they are problematic when used with function approximation Ð a must when dealing with continuous domains. We adopt the path of direct policy gradient based policy improvements since they avoid the problems of unstabilizing dynamics encountered in traditional value iteration based updates. While regular policy gradient methods have demonstrated promising results in the domain of humanoid notor control, we demonstrate that these methods can be significantly improved using the natural policy gradient instead of the regular policy gradient. Based on this, it is proved that KakadeÕs Ôaverage natural policy gradientÕ is indeed the true natural gradient. A general algorithm for estimating the natural gradient, the Natural Actor-Critic algorithm, is introduced. This algorithm converges with probability one to the nearest local minimum in Riemannian space of the cost function. The algorithm outperforms nonnatural policy gradients by far in a cart-pole balancing evaluation, and offers a promising route for the development of reinforcement learning for truly high-dimensionally continuous state-action systems.

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link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Learning attractor landscapes for learning motor primitives

Ijspeert, A., Nakanishi, J., Schaal, S.

In Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 15, pages: 1547-1554, (Editors: Becker, S.;Thrun, S.;Obermayer, K.), Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2003, clmc (inproceedings)

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

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link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Learning from demonstration and adaptation of biped locomotion with dynamical movement primitives

Nakanishi, J., Morimoto, J., Endo, G., Schaal, S., Kawato, M.

In Workshop on Robot Learning by Demonstration, IEEE International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS 2003), Las Vegas, NV, Oct. 27-31, 2003, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
In this paper, we report on our research for learning biped locomotion from human demonstration. Our ultimate goal is to establish a design principle of a controller in order to achieve natural human-like locomotion. We suggest dynamical movement primitives as a CPG of a biped robot, an approach we have previously proposed for learning and encoding complex human movements. Demonstrated trajectories are learned through the movement primitives by locally weighted regression, and the frequency of the learned trajectories is adjusted automatically by a novel frequency adaptation algorithm based on phase resetting and entrainment of oscillators. Numerical simulations demonstrate the effectiveness of the proposed locomotion controller.

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link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Movement planning and imitation by shaping nonlinear attractors

Schaal, S.

In Proceedings of the 12th Yale Workshop on Adaptive and Learning Systems, Yale University, New Haven, CT, 2003, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
Given the continuous stream of movements that biological systems exhibit in their daily activities, an account for such versatility and creativity has to assume that movement sequences consist of segments, executed either in sequence or with partial or complete overlap. Therefore, a fundamental question that has pervaded research in motor control both in artificial and biological systems revolves around identifying movement primitives (a.k.a. units of actions, basis behaviors, motor schemas, etc.). What are the fundamental building blocks that are strung together, adapted to, and created for ever new behaviors? This paper summarizes results that led to the hypothesis of Dynamic Movement Primitives (DMP). DMPs are units of action that are formalized as stable nonlinear attractor systems. They are useful for autonomous robotics as they are highly flexible in creating complex rhythmic (e.g., locomotion) and discrete (e.g., a tennis swing) behaviors that can quickly be adapted to the inevitable perturbations of a dy-namically changing, stochastic environment. Moreover, DMPs provide a formal framework that also lends itself to investigations in computational neuroscience. A recent finding that allows creating DMPs with the help of well-understood statistical learning methods has elevated DMPs from a more heuristic to a principled modeling approach, and, moreover, created a new foundation for imitation learning. Theoretical insights, evaluations on a humanoid robot, and behavioral and brain imaging data will serve to outline the framework of DMPs for a general approach to motor control and imitation in robotics and biology.

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link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]

1998


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Programmable pattern generators

Schaal, S., Sternad, D.

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

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

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link (url) [BibTex]

1998


link (url) [BibTex]


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Robust local learning in high dimensional spaces

Vijayakumar, S., Schaal, S.

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

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

am

[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Local dimensionality reduction

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

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

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

am

link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


no image
Biomimetic gaze stabilization based on a study of the vestibulocerebellum

Shibata, T., Schaal, S.

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

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

am

link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Towards biomimetic vision

Shibata, T., Schaal, S.

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

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

am

link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]

1995


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A kendama learning robot based on a dynamic optimization theory

Miyamoto, H., Gandolfo, F., Gomi, H., Schaal, S., Koike, Y., Osu, R., Nakano, E., Kawato, M.

In Preceedings of the 4th IEEE International Workshop on Robot and Human Communication (RO-MAN’95), pages: 327-332, Tokyo, July 1995, clmc (inproceedings)

am

[BibTex]

1995


[BibTex]


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Accurate Vision-based Manipulation through Contact Reasoning

Kloss, A., Bauza, M., Wu, J., Tenenbaum, J. B., Rodriguez, A., Bohg, J.

In International Conference on Robotics and Automation, May (inproceedings) Submitted

Abstract
Planning contact interactions is one of the core challenges of many robotic tasks. Optimizing contact locations while taking dynamics into account is computationally costly and in only partially observed environments, executing contact-based tasks often suffers from low accuracy. We present an approach that addresses these two challenges for the problem of vision-based manipulation. First, we propose to disentangle contact from motion optimization. Thereby, we improve planning efficiency by focusing computation on promising contact locations. Second, we use a hybrid approach for perception and state estimation that combines neural networks with a physically meaningful state representation. In simulation and real-world experiments on the task of planar pushing, we show that our method is more efficient and achieves a higher manipulation accuracy than previous vision-based approaches.

am

[BibTex]


[BibTex]