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2018


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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.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

2018



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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.

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playful website playful_IEEE_RAM link (url) DOI [BibTex]


Thumb xl screen shot 2018 09 19 at 09.33.59
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.

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link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


Thumb xl grasping
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.

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video arXiv [BibTex]

video arXiv [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.

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arXiv pdf Project Page [BibTex]

arXiv pdf Project Page [BibTex]


Thumb xl octo turned
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.

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


Thumb xl meta learning overview
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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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)

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arXiv (extended version) DOI Project Page [BibTex]

arXiv (extended version) DOI Project Page [BibTex]


Thumb xl img
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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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]

2007


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Towards Machine Learning of Motor Skills

Peters, J., Schaal, S., Schölkopf, B.

In Proceedings of Autonome Mobile Systeme (AMS), pages: 138-144, (Editors: K Berns and T Luksch), 2007, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
Autonomous robots that can adapt to novel situations has been a long standing vision of robotics, artificial intelligence, and cognitive sciences. Early approaches to this goal during the heydays of artificial intelligence research in the late 1980s, however, made it clear that an approach purely based on reasoning or human insights would not be able to model all the perceptuomotor tasks that a robot should fulfill. Instead, new hope was put in the growing wake of machine learning that promised fully adaptive control algorithms which learn both by observation and trial-and-error. However, to date, learning techniques have yet to fulfill this promise as only few methods manage to scale into the high-dimensional domains of manipulator robotics, or even the new upcoming trend of humanoid robotics, and usually scaling was only achieved in precisely pre-structured domains. In this paper, we investigate the ingredients for a general approach to motor skill learning in order to get one step closer towards human-like performance. For doing so, we study two ma jor components for such an approach, i.e., firstly, a theoretically well-founded general approach to representing the required control structures for task representation and execution and, secondly, appropriate learning algorithms which can be applied in this setting.

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PDF DOI [BibTex]

2007


PDF DOI [BibTex]


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Reinforcement Learning for Optimal Control of Arm Movements

Theodorou, E., Peters, J., Schaal, S.

In Abstracts of the 37st Meeting of the Society of Neuroscience., Neuroscience, 2007, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
Every day motor behavior consists of a plethora of challenging motor skills from discrete movements such as reaching and throwing to rhythmic movements such as walking, drumming and running. How this plethora of motor skills can be learned remains an open question. In particular, is there any unifying computa-tional framework that could model the learning process of this variety of motor behaviors and at the same time be biologically plausible? In this work we aim to give an answer to these questions by providing a computational framework that unifies the learning mechanism of both rhythmic and discrete movements under optimization criteria, i.e., in a non-supervised trial-and-error fashion. Our suggested framework is based on Reinforcement Learning, which is mostly considered as too costly to be a plausible mechanism for learning com-plex limb movement. However, recent work on reinforcement learning with pol-icy gradients combined with parameterized movement primitives allows novel and more efficient algorithms. By using the representational power of such mo-tor primitives we show how rhythmic motor behaviors such as walking, squash-ing and drumming as well as discrete behaviors like reaching and grasping can be learned with biologically plausible algorithms. Using extensive simulations and by using different reward functions we provide results that support the hy-pothesis that Reinforcement Learning could be a viable candidate for motor learning of human motor behavior when other learning methods like supervised learning are not feasible.

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[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Reinforcement learning by reward-weighted regression for operational space control

Peters, J., Schaal, S.

In Proceedings of the 24th Annual International Conference on Machine Learning, pages: 745-750, ICML, 2007, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
Many robot control problems of practical importance, including operational space control, can be reformulated as immediate reward reinforcement learning problems. However, few of the known optimization or reinforcement learning algorithms can be used in online learning control for robots, as they are either prohibitively slow, do not scale to interesting domains of complex robots, or require trying out policies generated by random search, which are infeasible for a physical system. Using a generalization of the EM-base reinforcement learning framework suggested by Dayan & Hinton, we reduce the problem of learning with immediate rewards to a reward-weighted regression problem with an adaptive, integrated reward transformation for faster convergence. The resulting algorithm is efficient, learns smoothly without dangerous jumps in solution space, and works well in applications of complex high degree-of-freedom robots.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Policy gradient methods for machine learning

Peters, J., Theodorou, E., Schaal, S.

In Proceedings of the 14th INFORMS Conference of the Applied Probability Society, pages: 97-98, Eindhoven, Netherlands, July 9-11, 2007, 2007, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
We present an in-depth survey of policy gradient methods as they are used in the machine learning community for optimizing parameterized, stochastic control policies in Markovian systems with respect to the expected reward. Despite having been developed separately in the reinforcement learning literature, policy gradient methods employ likelihood ratio gradient estimators as also suggested in the stochastic simulation optimization community. It is well-known that this approach to policy gradient estimation traditionally suffers from three drawbacks, i.e., large variance, a strong dependence on baseline functions and a inefficient gradient descent. In this talk, we will present a series of recent results which tackles each of these problems. The variance of the gradient estimation can be reduced significantly through recently introduced techniques such as optimal baselines, compatible function approximations and all-action gradients. However, as even the analytically obtainable policy gradients perform unnaturally slow, it required the step from ÔvanillaÕ policy gradient methods towards natural policy gradients in order to overcome the inefficiency of the gradient descent. This development resulted into the Natural Actor-Critic architecture which can be shown to be very efficient in application to motor primitive learning for robotics.

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[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Policy Learning for Motor Skills

Peters, J., Schaal, S.

In Proceedings of 14th International Conference on Neural Information Processing (ICONIP), pages: 233-242, (Editors: Ishikawa, M. , K. Doya, H. Miyamoto, T. Yamakawa), 2007, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
Policy learning which allows autonomous robots to adapt to novel situations has been a long standing vision of robotics, artificial intelligence, and cognitive sciences. However, to date, learning techniques have yet to fulfill this promise as only few methods manage to scale into the high-dimensional domains of manipulator robotics, or even the new upcoming trend of humanoid robotics, and usually scaling was only achieved in precisely pre-structured domains. In this paper, we investigate the ingredients for a general approach policy learning with the goal of an application to motor skill refinement in order to get one step closer towards human-like performance. For doing so, we study two major components for such an approach, i.e., firstly, we study policy learning algorithms which can be applied in the general setting of motor skill learning, and, secondly, we study a theoretically well-founded general approach to representing the required control structures for task representation and execution.

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PDF DOI [BibTex]

PDF DOI [BibTex]


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Reinforcement learning for operational space control

Peters, J., Schaal, S.

In Proceedings of the 2007 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation, pages: 2111-2116, IEEE Computer Society, ICRA, 2007, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
While operational space control is of essential importance for robotics and well-understood from an analytical point of view, it can be prohibitively hard to achieve accurate control in face of modeling errors, which are inevitable in complex robots, e.g., humanoid robots. In such cases, learning control methods can offer an interesting alternative to analytical control algorithms. However, the resulting supervised learning problem is ill-defined as it requires to learn an inverse mapping of a usually redundant system, which is well known to suffer from the property of non-convexity of the solution space, i.e., the learning system could generate motor commands that try to steer the robot into physically impossible configurations. The important insight that many operational space control algorithms can be reformulated as optimal control problems, however, allows addressing this inverse learning problem in the framework of reinforcement learning. However, few of the known optimization or reinforcement learning algorithms can be used in online learning control for robots, as they are either prohibitively slow, do not scale to interesting domains of complex robots, or require trying out policies generated by random search, which are infeasible for a physical system. Using a generalization of the EM-based reinforcement learning framework suggested by Dayan & Hinton, we reduce the problem of learning with immediate rewards to a reward-weighted regression problem with an adaptive, integrated reward transformation for faster convergence. The resulting algorithm is efficient, learns smoothly without dangerous jumps in solution space, and works well in applications of complex high degree-of-freedom robots.

am ei

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Relative Entropy Policy Search

Peters, J.

CLMC Technical Report: TR-CLMC-2007-2, Computational Learning and Motor Control Lab, Los Angeles, CA, 2007, clmc (techreport)

Abstract
This technical report describes a cute idea of how to create new policy search approaches. It directly relates to the Natural Actor-Critic methods but allows the derivation of one shot solutions. Future work may include the application to interesting problems.

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PDF link (url) [BibTex]

PDF link (url) [BibTex]


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Using reward-weighted regression for reinforcement learning of task space control

Peters, J., Schaal, S.

In Proceedings of the 2007 IEEE International Symposium on Approximate Dynamic Programming and Reinforcement Learning, pages: 262-267, Honolulu, Hawaii, April 1-5, 2007, 2007, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
In this paper, we evaluate different versions from the three main kinds of model-free policy gradient methods, i.e., finite difference gradients, `vanilla' policy gradients and natural policy gradients. Each of these methods is first presented in its simple form and subsequently refined and optimized. By carrying out numerous experiments on the cart pole regulator benchmark we aim to provide a useful baseline for future research on parameterized policy search algorithms. Portable C++ code is provided for both plant and algorithms; thus, the results in this paper can be reevaluated, reused and new algorithms can be inserted with ease.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Evaluation of Policy Gradient Methods and Variants on the Cart-Pole Benchmark

Riedmiller, M., Peters, J., Schaal, S.

In Proceedings of the 2007 IEEE International Symposium on Approximate Dynamic Programming and Reinforcement Learning, pages: 254-261, ADPRL, 2007, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
In this paper, we evaluate different versions from the three main kinds of model-free policy gradient methods, i.e., finite difference gradients, `vanilla' policy gradients and natural policy gradients. Each of these methods is first presented in its simple form and subsequently refined and optimized. By carrying out numerous experiments on the cart pole regulator benchmark we aim to provide a useful baseline for future research on parameterized policy search algorithms. Portable C++ code is provided for both plant and algorithms; thus, the results in this paper can be reevaluated, reused and new algorithms can be inserted with ease.

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PDF [BibTex]

PDF [BibTex]


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Uncertain 3D Force Fields in Reaching Movements: Do Humans Favor Robust or Average Performance?

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

In Abstracts of the 37th Meeting of the Society of Neuroscience, 2007, clmc (inproceedings)

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PDF [BibTex]

PDF [BibTex]


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Applying the episodic natural actor-critic architecture to motor primitive learning

Peters, J., Schaal, S.

In Proceedings of the 2007 European Symposium on Artificial Neural Networks (ESANN), Bruges, Belgium, April 25-27, 2007, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
In this paper, we investigate motor primitive learning with the Natural Actor-Critic approach. The Natural Actor-Critic consists out of actor updates which are achieved using natural stochastic policy gradients while the critic obtains the natural policy gradient by linear regression. We show that this architecture can be used to learn the Òbuilding blocks of movement generationÓ, called motor primitives. Motor primitives are parameterized control policies such as splines or nonlinear differential equations with desired attractor properties. We show that our most modern algorithm, the Episodic Natural Actor-Critic outperforms previous algorithms by at least an order of magnitude. We demonstrate the efficiency of this reinforcement learning method in the application of learning to hit a baseball with an anthropomorphic robot arm.

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link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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The new robotics - towards human-centered machines

Schaal, S.

HFSP Journal Frontiers of Interdisciplinary Research in the Life Sciences, 1(2):115-126, 2007, clmc (article)

Abstract
Research in robotics has moved away from its primary focus on industrial applications. The New Robotics is a vision that has been developed in past years by our own university and many other national and international research instiutions and addresses how increasingly more human-like robots can live among us and take over tasks where our current society has shortcomings. Elder care, physical therapy, child education, search and rescue, and general assistance in daily life situations are some of the examples that will benefit from the New Robotics in the near future. With these goals in mind, research for the New Robotics has to embrace a broad interdisciplinary approach, ranging from traditional mathematical issues of robotics to novel issues in psychology, neuroscience, and ethics. This paper outlines some of the important research problems that will need to be resolved to make the New Robotics a reality.

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link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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A computational model of human trajectory planning based on convergent flow fields

Hoffman, H., Schaal, S.

In Abstracts of the 37st Meeting of the Society of Neuroscience, San Diego, CA, Nov. 3-7, 2007, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
A popular computational model suggests that smooth reaching movements are generated in humans by minimizing a difference vector between hand and target in visual coordinates (Shadmehr and Wise, 2005). To achieve such a task, the optimal joint accelerations may be pre-computed. However, this pre-planning is inflexible towards perturbations of the limb, and there is strong evidence that reaching movements can be modified on-line at any moment during the movement. Thus, next-state planning models (Bullock and Grossberg, 1988) have been suggested that compute the current control command from a function of the goal state such that the overall movement smoothly converges to the goal (see Shadmehr and Wise (2005) for an overview). So far, these models have been restricted to simple point-to-point reaching movements with (approximately) straight trajectories. Here, we present a computational model for learning and executing arbitrary trajectories that combines ideas from pattern generation with dynamic systems and the observation of convergent force fields, which control a frog leg after spinal stimulation (Giszter et al., 1993). In our model, we incorporate the following two observations: first, the orientation of vectors in a force field is invariant over time, but their amplitude is modulated by a time-varying function, and second, two force fields add up when stimulated simultaneously (Giszter et al., 1993). This addition of convergent force fields varying over time results in a virtual trajectory (a moving equilibrium point) that correlates with the actual leg movement (Giszter et al., 1993). Our next-state planner is a set of differential equations that provide the desired end-effector or joint accelerations using feedback of the current state of the limb. These accelerations can be interpreted as resulting from a damped spring that links the current limb position with a virtual trajectory. This virtual trajectory can be learned to realize any desired limb trajectory and velocity profile, and learning is efficient since the time-modulated sum of convergent force fields equals a sum of weighted basis functions (Gaussian time pulses). Thus, linear algebra is sufficient to compute these weights, which correspond to points on the virtual trajectory. During movement execution, the differential equation corrects automatically for perturbations and brings back smoothly the limb towards the goal. Virtual trajectories can be rescaled and added allowing to build a set of movement primitives to describe movements more complex than previously learned. We demonstrate the potential of the suggested model by learning and generating a wide variety of movements.

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[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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A Computational Model of Arm Trajectory Modification Using Dynamic Movement Primitives

Mohajerian, P., Hoffmann, H., Mistry, M., Schaal, S.

In Abstracts of the 37st Meeting of the Society of Neuroscience, San Diego, CA, Nov 3-7, 2007, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
Several scientists used a double-step target-displacement protocol to investigate how an unexpected upcoming new target modifies ongoing discrete movements. Interesting observations are the initial direction of the movement, the spatial path of the movement to the second target, and the amplification of the speed in the second movement. Experimental data show that the above properties are influenced by the movement reaction time and the interstimulus interval between the onset of the first and second target. Hypotheses in the literature concerning the interpretation of the observed data include a) the second movement is superimposed on the first movement (Henis and Flash, 1995), b) the first movement is aborted and the second movement is planned to smoothly connect the current state of the arm with the new target (Hoff and Arbib, 1992), c) the second movement is initiated by a new control signal that replaces the first movement's control signal, but does not take the state of the system into account (Flanagan et al., 1993), and (d) the second movement is initiated by a new goal command, but the control structure stays unchanged, and feed-back from the current state is taken into account (Hoff and Arbib, 1993). We investigate target switching from the viewpoint of Dynamic Movement Primitives (DMPs). DMPs are trajectory planning units that are formalized as stable nonlinear attractor systems (Ijspeert et al., 2002). They are a useful framework for biological motor control as they are highly flexible in creating complex rhythmic and discrete behaviors that can quickly adapt to the inevitable perturbations of dynamically changing, stochastic environments. In this model, target switching is accomplished simply by updating the target input to the discrete movement primitive for reaching. The reaching trajectory in this model can be straight or take any other route; in contrast, the Hoff and Arbib (1993) model is restricted to straight reaching movement plans. In the present study, we use DMPs to reproduce in simulation a large number of target-switching experimental data from the literature and to show that online correction and the observed target switching phenomena can be accomplished by changing the goal state of an on-going DMP, without the need to switch to different movement primitives or to re-plan the movement. :

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PDF [BibTex]

PDF [BibTex]


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Inverse dynamics control with floating base and constraints

Nakanishi, J., Mistry, M., Schaal, S.

In International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA2007), pages: 1942-1947, Rome, Italy, April 10-14, 2007, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
In this paper, we address the issues of compliant control of a robot under contact constraints with a goal of using joint space based pattern generators as movement primitives, as often considered in the studies of legged locomotion and biological motor control. For this purpose, we explore inverse dynamics control of constrained dynamical systems. When the system is overconstrained, it is not straightforward to formulate an inverse dynamics control law since the problem becomes an ill-posed one, where infinitely many combinations of joint torques are possible to achieve the desired joint accelerations. The goal of this paper is to develop a general and computationally efficient inverse dynamics algorithm for a robot with a free floating base and constraints. We suggest an approximate way of computing inverse dynamics algorithm by treating constraint forces computed with a Lagrange multiplier method as simply external forces based on FeatherstoneÕs floating base formulation of inverse dynamics. We present how all the necessary quantities to compute our controller can be efficiently extracted from FeatherstoneÕs spatial notation of robot dynamics. We evaluate the effectiveness of the suggested approach on a simulated biped robot model.

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link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Dynamics systems vs. optimal control ? a unifying view

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

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

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

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link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Kernel carpentry for onlne regression using randomly varying coefficient model

Edakunni, N. U., Schaal, S., Vijayakumar, S.

In Proceedings of the 20th International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence, Hyderabad, India: Jan. 6-12, 2007, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
We present a Bayesian formulation of locally weighted learning (LWL) using the novel concept of a randomly varying coefficient model. Based on this, we propose a mechanism for multivariate non-linear regression using spatially localised linear models that learns completely independent of each other, uses only local information and adapts the local model complexity in a data driven fashion. We derive online updates for the model parameters based on variational Bayesian EM. The evaluation of the proposed algorithm against other state-of-the-art methods reveal the excellent, robust generalization performance beside surprisingly efficient time and space complexity properties. This paper, for the first time, brings together the computational efficiency and the adaptability of Õnon-competitiveÕ locally weighted learning schemes and the modeling guarantees of the Bayesian formulation.

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link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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A robust quadruped walking gait for traversing rough terrain

Pongas, D., Mistry, M., Schaal, S.

In International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA2007), pages: 1474-1479, Rome, April 10-14, 2007, 2007, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
Legged locomotion excels when terrains become too rough for wheeled systems or open-loop walking pattern generators to succeed, i.e., when accurate foot placement is of primary importance in successfully reaching the task goal. In this paper we address the scenario where the rough terrain is traversed with a static walking gait, and where for every foot placement of a leg, the location of the foot placement was selected irregularly by a planning algorithm. Our goal is to adjust a smooth walking pattern generator with the selection of every foot placement such that the COG of the robot follows a stable trajectory characterized by a stability margin relative to the current support triangle. We propose a novel parameterization of the COG trajectory based on the current position, velocity, and acceleration of the four legs of the robot. This COG trajectory has guaranteed continuous velocity and acceleration profiles, which leads to continuous velocity and acceleration profiles of the leg movement, which is ideally suited for advanced model-based controllers. Pitch, yaw, and ground clearance of the robot are easily adjusted automatically under any terrain situation. We evaluate our gait generation technique on the Little-Dog quadruped robot when traversing complex rocky and sloped terrains.

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link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Bayesian Nonparametric Regression with Local Models

Ting, J., Schaal, S.

In Workshop on Robotic Challenges for Machine Learning, NIPS 2007, 2007, clmc (inproceedings)

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[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Learning an Outlier-Robust Kalman Filter

Ting, J., Theodorou, E., Schaal, S.

CLMC Technical Report: TR-CLMC-2007-1, Los Angeles, CA, 2007, clmc (techreport)

Abstract
We introduce a modified Kalman filter that performs robust, real-time outlier detection, without the need for manual parameter tuning by the user. Systems that rely on high quality sensory data (for instance, robotic systems) can be sensitive to data containing outliers. The standard Kalman filter is not robust to outliers, and other variations of the Kalman filter have been proposed to overcome this issue. However, these methods may require manual parameter tuning, use of heuristics or complicated parameter estimation procedures. Our Kalman filter uses a weighted least squares-like approach by introducing weights for each data sample. A data sample with a smaller weight has a weaker contribution when estimating the current time step?s state. Using an incremental variational Expectation-Maximization framework, we learn the weights and system dynamics. We evaluate our Kalman filter algorithm on data from a robotic dog.

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PDF [BibTex]

PDF [BibTex]


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Task space control with prioritization for balance and locomotion

Mistry, M., Nakanishi, J., Schaal, S.

In IEEE International Conference on Intelligent Robotics Systems (IROS 2007), San Diego, CA: Oct. 29 Ð Nov. 2, 2007, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
This paper addresses locomotion with active balancing, via task space control with prioritization. The center of gravity (COG) and foot of the swing leg are treated as task space control points. Floating base inverse kinematics with constraints is employed, thereby allowing for a mobile platform suitable for locomotion. Different techniques of task prioritization are discussed and we clarify differences and similarities of previous suggested work. Varying levels of prioritization for control are examined with emphasis on singularity robustness and the negative effects of constraint switching. A novel controller for task space control of balance and locomotion is developed which attempts to address singularity robustness, while minimizing discontinuities created by constraint switching. Controllers are evaluated using a quadruped robot simulator engaging in a locomotion task.

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link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]

1994


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Robot juggling: An implementation of memory-based learning

Schaal, S., Atkeson, C. G.

Control Systems Magazine, 14(1):57-71, 1994, clmc (article)

Abstract
This paper explores issues involved in implementing robot learning for a challenging dynamic task, using a case study from robot juggling. We use a memory-based local modeling approach (locally weighted regression) to represent a learned model of the task to be performed. Statistical tests are given to examine the uncertainty of a model, to optimize its prediction quality, and to deal with noisy and corrupted data. We develop an exploration algorithm that explicitly deals with prediction accuracy requirements during exploration. Using all these ingredients in combination with methods from optimal control, our robot achieves fast real-time learning of the task within 40 to 100 trials.

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link (url) [BibTex]

1994


link (url) [BibTex]


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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]

[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.

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[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]

1991


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Ways to smarter CAD-systems

Ehrlenspiel, K., Schaal, S.

In Proceedings of ICED’91Heurista, pages: 10-16, (Editors: Hubka), Edition, Schriftenreihe WDK 21. Zürich, 1991, clmc (inbook)

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[BibTex]

1991


[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.

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[BibTex]


[BibTex]