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2018


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On the Integration of Optical Flow and Action Recognition

Sevilla-Lara, L., Liao, Y., Güney, F., Jampani, V., Geiger, A., Black, M. J.

In German Conference on Pattern Recognition (GCPR), LNCS 11269, pages: 281-297, Springer, Cham, October 2018 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Most of the top performing action recognition methods use optical flow as a "black box" input. Here we take a deeper look at the combination of flow and action recognition, and investigate why optical flow is helpful, what makes a flow method good for action recognition, and how we can make it better. In particular, we investigate the impact of different flow algorithms and input transformations to better understand how these affect a state-of-the-art action recognition method. Furthermore, we fine tune two neural-network flow methods end-to-end on the most widely used action recognition dataset (UCF101). Based on these experiments, we make the following five observations: 1) optical flow is useful for action recognition because it is invariant to appearance, 2) optical flow methods are optimized to minimize end-point-error (EPE), but the EPE of current methods is not well correlated with action recognition performance, 3) for the flow methods tested, accuracy at boundaries and at small displacements is most correlated with action recognition performance, 4) training optical flow to minimize classification error instead of minimizing EPE improves recognition performance, and 5) optical flow learned for the task of action recognition differs from traditional optical flow especially inside the human body and at the boundary of the body. These observations may encourage optical flow researchers to look beyond EPE as a goal and guide action recognition researchers to seek better motion cues, leading to a tighter integration of the optical flow and action recognition communities.

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arXiv DOI [BibTex]

2018


arXiv DOI [BibTex]


Thumb xl screenshot from 2018 06 15 22 59 30
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]


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Towards Robust Visual Odometry with a Multi-Camera System

Liu, P., Geppert, M., Heng, L., Sattler, T., Geiger, A., Pollefeys, M.

In International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS) 2018, International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems, October 2018 (inproceedings)

Abstract
We present a visual odometry (VO) algorithm for a multi-camera system and robust operation in challenging environments. Our algorithm consists of a pose tracker and a local mapper. The tracker estimates the current pose by minimizing photometric errors between the most recent keyframe and the current frame. The mapper initializes the depths of all sampled feature points using plane-sweeping stereo. To reduce pose drift, a sliding window optimizer is used to refine poses and structure jointly. Our formulation is flexible enough to support an arbitrary number of stereo cameras. We evaluate our algorithm thoroughly on five datasets. The datasets were captured in different conditions: daytime, night-time with near-infrared (NIR) illumination and night-time without NIR illumination. Experimental results show that a multi-camera setup makes the VO more robust to challenging environments, especially night-time conditions, in which a single stereo configuration fails easily due to the lack of features.

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pdf Project Page [BibTex]

pdf Project Page [BibTex]


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Learning Priors for Semantic 3D Reconstruction

Cherabier, I., Schönberger, J., Oswald, M., Pollefeys, M., Geiger, A.

In Computer Vision – ECCV 2018, Springer International Publishing, Cham, September 2018 (inproceedings)

Abstract
We present a novel semantic 3D reconstruction framework which embeds variational regularization into a neural network. Our network performs a fixed number of unrolled multi-scale optimization iterations with shared interaction weights. In contrast to existing variational methods for semantic 3D reconstruction, our model is end-to-end trainable and captures more complex dependencies between the semantic labels and the 3D geometry. Compared to previous learning-based approaches to 3D reconstruction, we integrate powerful long-range dependencies using variational coarse-to-fine optimization. As a result, our network architecture requires only a moderate number of parameters while keeping a high level of expressiveness which enables learning from very little data. Experiments on real and synthetic datasets demonstrate that our network achieves higher accuracy compared to a purely variational approach while at the same time requiring two orders of magnitude less iterations to converge. Moreover, our approach handles ten times more semantic class labels using the same computational resources.

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pdf suppmat Project Page Video DOI Project Page [BibTex]

pdf suppmat Project Page Video DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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Playful: Reactive Programming for Orchestrating Robotic Behavior

Berenz, V., Schaal, S.

IEEE Robotics Automation Magazine, 25(3):49-60, September 2018 (article) In press

Abstract
For many service robots, reactivity to changes in their surroundings is a must. However, developing software suitable for dynamic environments is difficult. Existing robotic middleware allows engineers to design behavior graphs by organizing communication between components. But because these graphs are structurally inflexible, they hardly support the development of complex reactive behavior. To address this limitation, we propose Playful, a software platform that applies reactive programming to the specification of robotic behavior.

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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 joeleccv18
Unsupervised Learning of Multi-Frame Optical Flow with Occlusions

Janai, J., Güney, F., Ranjan, A., Black, M. J., Geiger, A.

In European Conference on Computer Vision (ECCV), Lecture Notes in Computer Science, vol 11220, pages: 713-731, Springer, Cham, September 2018 (inproceedings)

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pdf suppmat Video Project Page DOI Project Page [BibTex]

pdf suppmat Video Project Page DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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Leveraging Contact Forces for Learning to Grasp

Merzic, H., Bogdanovic, M., Kappler, D., Righetti, L., Bohg, J.

arXiv, September 2018, Submitted to ICRA'19 (article) Submitted

Abstract
Grasping objects under uncertainty remains an open problem in robotics research. This uncertainty is often due to noisy or partial observations of the object pose or shape. To enable a robot to react appropriately to unforeseen effects, it is crucial that it continuously takes sensor feedback into account. While visual feedback is important for inferring a grasp pose and reaching for an object, contact feedback offers valuable information during manipulation and grasp acquisition. In this paper, we use model-free deep reinforcement learning to synthesize control policies that exploit contact sensing to generate robust grasping under uncertainty. We demonstrate our approach on a multi-fingered hand that exhibits more complex finger coordination than the commonly used two- fingered grippers. We conduct extensive experiments in order to assess the performance of the learned policies, with and without contact sensing. While it is possible to learn grasping policies without contact sensing, our results suggest that contact feedback allows for a significant improvement of grasping robustness under object pose uncertainty and for objects with a complex shape.

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video arXiv [BibTex]

video arXiv [BibTex]


Thumb xl beneccv18
SphereNet: Learning Spherical Representations for Detection and Classification in Omnidirectional Images

Coors, B., Condurache, A. P., Geiger, A.

European Conference on Computer Vision (ECCV), September 2018 (conference)

Abstract
Omnidirectional cameras offer great benefits over classical cameras wherever a wide field of view is essential, such as in virtual reality applications or in autonomous robots. Unfortunately, standard convolutional neural networks are not well suited for this scenario as the natural projection surface is a sphere which cannot be unwrapped to a plane without introducing significant distortions, particularly in the polar regions. In this work, we present SphereNet, a novel deep learning framework which encodes invariance against such distortions explicitly into convolutional neural networks. Towards this goal, SphereNet adapts the sampling locations of the convolutional filters, effectively reversing distortions, and wraps the filters around the sphere. By building on regular convolutions, SphereNet enables the transfer of existing perspective convolutional neural network models to the omnidirectional case. We demonstrate the effectiveness of our method on the tasks of image classification and object detection, exploiting two newly created semi-synthetic and real-world omnidirectional datasets.

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pdf suppmat Project Page [BibTex]


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Probabilistic Recurrent State-Space Models

Doerr, A., Daniel, C., Schiegg, M., Nguyen-Tuong, D., Schaal, S., Toussaint, M., Trimpe, S.

In Proceedings of the International Conference on Machine Learning (ICML), International Conference on Machine Learning (ICML), July 2018 (inproceedings)

Abstract
State-space models (SSMs) are a highly expressive model class for learning patterns in time series data and for system identification. Deterministic versions of SSMs (e.g., LSTMs) proved extremely successful in modeling complex time-series data. Fully probabilistic SSMs, however, unfortunately often prove hard to train, even for smaller problems. To overcome this limitation, we propose a scalable initialization and training algorithm based on doubly stochastic variational inference and Gaussian processes. In the variational approximation we propose in contrast to related approaches to fully capture the latent state temporal correlations to allow for robust training.

am ics

arXiv pdf Project Page [BibTex]

arXiv pdf Project Page [BibTex]


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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]


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Robust Dense Mapping for Large-Scale Dynamic Environments

Barsan, I. A., Liu, P., Pollefeys, M., Geiger, A.

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

Abstract
We present a stereo-based dense mapping algorithm for large-scale dynamic urban environments. In contrast to other existing methods, we simultaneously reconstruct the static background, the moving objects, and the potentially moving but currently stationary objects separately, which is desirable for high-level mobile robotic tasks such as path planning in crowded environments. We use both instance-aware semantic segmentation and sparse scene flow to classify objects as either background, moving, or potentially moving, thereby ensuring that the system is able to model objects with the potential to transition from static to dynamic, such as parked cars. Given camera poses estimated from visual odometry, both the background and the (potentially) moving objects are reconstructed separately by fusing the depth maps computed from the stereo input. In addition to visual odometry, sparse scene flow is also used to estimate the 3D motions of the detected moving objects, in order to reconstruct them accurately. A map pruning technique is further developed to improve reconstruction accuracy and reduce memory consumption, leading to increased scalability. We evaluate our system thoroughly on the well-known KITTI dataset. Our system is capable of running on a PC at approximately 2.5Hz, with the primary bottleneck being the instance-aware semantic segmentation, which is a limitation we hope to address in future work.

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pdf Video Project Page Project Page [BibTex]

pdf Video Project Page 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]


Thumb xl screenshot 2018 05 18 16 38 40
Learning 3D Shape Completion under Weak Supervision

Stutz, D., Geiger, A.

Arxiv, May 2018 (article)

Abstract
We address the problem of 3D shape completion from sparse and noisy point clouds, a fundamental problem in computer vision and robotics. Recent approaches are either data-driven or learning-based: Data-driven approaches rely on a shape model whose parameters are optimized to fit the observations; Learning-based approaches, in contrast, avoid the expensive optimization step by learning to directly predict complete shapes from incomplete observations in a fully-supervised setting. However, full supervision is often not available in practice. In this work, we propose a weakly-supervised learning-based approach to 3D shape completion which neither requires slow optimization nor direct supervision. While we also learn a shape prior on synthetic data, we amortize, i.e., learn, maximum likelihood fitting using deep neural networks resulting in efficient shape completion without sacrificing accuracy. On synthetic benchmarks based on ShapeNet and ModelNet as well as on real robotics data from KITTI and Kinect, we demonstrate that the proposed amortized maximum likelihood approach is able to compete with fully supervised baselines and outperforms data-driven approaches, while requiring less supervision and being significantly faster.

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PDF Project Page Project Page [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)

am ics

arXiv (extended version) DOI Project Page [BibTex]

arXiv (extended version) DOI Project Page [BibTex]


Thumb xl despoina paper teaser
RayNet: Learning Volumetric 3D Reconstruction with Ray Potentials

Paschalidou, D., Ulusoy, A. O., Schmitt, C., Gool, L., Geiger, A.

In IEEE Conference on Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition (CVPR), IEEE Computer Society, IEEE International Conference on Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition (CVPR) 2018, 2018 (inproceedings)

Abstract
In this paper, we consider the problem of reconstructing a dense 3D model using images captured from different views. Recent methods based on convolutional neural networks (CNN) allow learning the entire task from data. However, they do not incorporate the physics of image formation such as perspective geometry and occlusion. Instead, classical approaches based on Markov Random Fields (MRF) with ray-potentials explicitly model these physical processes, but they cannot cope with large surface appearance variations across different viewpoints. In this paper, we propose RayNet, which combines the strengths of both frameworks. RayNet integrates a CNN that learns view-invariant feature representations with an MRF that explicitly encodes the physics of perspective projection and occlusion. We train RayNet end-to-end using empirical risk minimization. We thoroughly evaluate our approach on challenging real-world datasets and demonstrate its benefits over a piece-wise trained baseline, hand-crafted models as well as other learning-based approaches.

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pdf suppmat Video Project Page code Poster Project Page [BibTex]

pdf suppmat Video Project Page code Poster Project Page [BibTex]


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Combining learned and analytical models for predicting action effects

Kloss, A., Schaal, S., Bohg, J.

arXiv, 2018 (article) Submitted

Abstract
One of the most basic skills a robot should possess is predicting the effect of physical interactions with objects in the environment. This enables optimal action selection to reach a certain goal state. Traditionally, dynamics are approximated by physics-based analytical models. These models rely on specific state representations that may be hard to obtain from raw sensory data, especially if no knowledge of the object shape is assumed. More recently, we have seen learning approaches that can predict the effect of complex physical interactions directly from sensory input. It is however an open question how far these models generalize beyond their training data. In this work, we investigate the advantages and limitations of neural network based learning approaches for predicting the effects of actions based on sensory input and show how analytical and learned models can be combined to leverage the best of both worlds. As physical interaction task, we use planar pushing, for which there exists a well-known analytical model and a large real-world dataset. We propose to use a convolutional neural network to convert raw depth images or organized point clouds into a suitable representation for the analytical model and compare this approach to using neural networks for both, perception and prediction. A systematic evaluation of the proposed approach on a very large real-world dataset shows two main advantages of the hybrid architecture. Compared to a pure neural network, it significantly (i) reduces required training data and (ii) improves generalization to novel physical interaction.

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arXiv pdf link (url) [BibTex]


Thumb xl yiyi paper teaser
Deep Marching Cubes: Learning Explicit Surface Representations

Liao, Y., Donne, S., Geiger, A.

In IEEE Conference on Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition (CVPR), IEEE Computer Society, IEEE International Conference on Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition (CVPR) 2018, 2018 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Existing learning based solutions to 3D surface prediction cannot be trained end-to-end as they operate on intermediate representations (eg, TSDF) from which 3D surface meshes must be extracted in a post-processing step (eg, via the marching cubes algorithm). In this paper, we investigate the problem of end-to-end 3D surface prediction. We first demonstrate that the marching cubes algorithm is not differentiable and propose an alternative differentiable formulation which we insert as a final layer into a 3D convolutional neural network. We further propose a set of loss functions which allow for training our model with sparse point supervision. Our experiments demonstrate that the model allows for predicting sub-voxel accurate 3D shapes of arbitrary topology. Additionally, it learns to complete shapes and to separate an object's inside from its outside even in the presence of sparse and incomplete ground truth. We investigate the benefits of our approach on the task of inferring shapes from 3D point clouds. Our model is flexible and can be combined with a variety of shape encoder and shape inference techniques.

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pdf suppmat Video Project Page Poster Project Page [BibTex]

pdf suppmat Video Project Page Poster Project Page [BibTex]


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Semantic Visual Localization

Schönberger, J., Pollefeys, M., Geiger, A., Sattler, T.

In IEEE Conference on Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition (CVPR), IEEE Computer Society, IEEE International Conference on Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition (CVPR) 2018, 2018 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Robust visual localization under a wide range of viewing conditions is a fundamental problem in computer vision. Handling the difficult cases of this problem is not only very challenging but also of high practical relevance, eg, in the context of life-long localization for augmented reality or autonomous robots. In this paper, we propose a novel approach based on a joint 3D geometric and semantic understanding of the world, enabling it to succeed under conditions where previous approaches failed. Our method leverages a novel generative model for descriptor learning, trained on semantic scene completion as an auxiliary task. The resulting 3D descriptors are robust to missing observations by encoding high-level 3D geometric and semantic information. Experiments on several challenging large-scale localization datasets demonstrate reliable localization under extreme viewpoint, illumination, and geometry changes.

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pdf suppmat Poster Project Page [BibTex]

pdf suppmat Poster Project Page [BibTex]


Thumb xl hassan teaser paper
Augmented Reality Meets Computer Vision: Efficient Data Generation for Urban Driving Scenes

Alhaija, H., Mustikovela, S., Mescheder, L., Geiger, A., Rother, C.

International Journal of Computer Vision (IJCV), 2018, 2018 (article)

Abstract
The success of deep learning in computer vision is based on the availability of large annotated datasets. To lower the need for hand labeled images, virtually rendered 3D worlds have recently gained popularity. Unfortunately, creating realistic 3D content is challenging on its own and requires significant human effort. In this work, we propose an alternative paradigm which combines real and synthetic data for learning semantic instance segmentation and object detection models. Exploiting the fact that not all aspects of the scene are equally important for this task, we propose to augment real-world imagery with virtual objects of the target category. Capturing real-world images at large scale is easy and cheap, and directly provides real background appearances without the need for creating complex 3D models of the environment. We present an efficient procedure to augment these images with virtual objects. In contrast to modeling complete 3D environments, our data augmentation approach requires only a few user interactions in combination with 3D models of the target object category. Leveraging our approach, we introduce a novel dataset of augmented urban driving scenes with 360 degree images that are used as environment maps to create realistic lighting and reflections on rendered objects. We analyze the significance of realistic object placement by comparing manual placement by humans to automatic methods based on semantic scene analysis. This allows us to create composite images which exhibit both realistic background appearance as well as a large number of complex object arrangements. Through an extensive set of experiments, we conclude the right set of parameters to produce augmented data which can maximally enhance the performance of instance segmentation models. Further, we demonstrate the utility of the proposed approach on training standard deep models for semantic instance segmentation and object detection of cars in outdoor driving scenarios. We test the models trained on our augmented data on the KITTI 2015 dataset, which we have annotated with pixel-accurate ground truth, and on the Cityscapes dataset. Our experiments demonstrate that the models trained on augmented imagery generalize better than those trained on fully synthetic data or models trained on limited amounts of annotated real data.

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pdf Project Page [BibTex]

pdf Project Page [BibTex]


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Which Training Methods for GANs do actually Converge?

Mescheder, L., Geiger, A., Nowozin, S.

International Conference on Machine learning (ICML), 2018 (conference)

Abstract
Recent work has shown local convergence of GAN training for absolutely continuous data and generator distributions. In this paper, we show that the requirement of absolute continuity is necessary: we describe a simple yet prototypical counterexample showing that in the more realistic case of distributions that are not absolutely continuous, unregularized GAN training is not always convergent. Furthermore, we discuss regularization strategies that were recently proposed to stabilize GAN training. Our analysis shows that GAN training with instance noise or zero-centered gradient penalties converges. On the other hand, we show that Wasserstein-GANs and WGAN-GP with a finite number of discriminator updates per generator update do not always converge to the equilibrium point. We discuss these results, leading us to a new explanation for the stability problems of GAN training. Based on our analysis, we extend our convergence results to more general GANs and prove local convergence for simplified gradient penalties even if the generator and data distributions lie on lower dimensional manifolds. We find these penalties to work well in practice and use them to learn high-resolution generative image models for a variety of datasets with little hyperparameter tuning.

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code video paper supplement slides poster Project Page [BibTex]


Thumb xl david paper teaser
Learning 3D Shape Completion from Laser Scan Data with Weak Supervision

Stutz, D., Geiger, A.

In IEEE Conference on Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition (CVPR), IEEE Computer Society, IEEE International Conference on Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition (CVPR) 2018, 2018 (inproceedings)

Abstract
3D shape completion from partial point clouds is a fundamental problem in computer vision and computer graphics. Recent approaches can be characterized as either data-driven or learning-based. Data-driven approaches rely on a shape model whose parameters are optimized to fit the observations. Learning-based approaches, in contrast, avoid the expensive optimization step and instead directly predict the complete shape from the incomplete observations using deep neural networks. However, full supervision is required which is often not available in practice. In this work, we propose a weakly-supervised learning-based approach to 3D shape completion which neither requires slow optimization nor direct supervision. While we also learn a shape prior on synthetic data, we amortize, ie, learn, maximum likelihood fitting using deep neural networks resulting in efficient shape completion without sacrificing accuracy. Tackling 3D shape completion of cars on ShapeNet and KITTI, we demonstrate that the proposed amortized maximum likelihood approach is able to compete with a fully supervised baseline and a state-of-the-art data-driven approach while being significantly faster. On ModelNet, we additionally show that the approach is able to generalize to other object categories as well.

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pdf suppmat Project Page Poster Project Page [BibTex]

pdf suppmat Project Page Poster Project Page [BibTex]


Thumb xl stutz
Learning 3D Shape Completion under Weak Supervision

Stutz, D., Geiger, A.

International Journal of Computer Vision (IJCV), 2018, 2018 (article)

Abstract
We address the problem of 3D shape completion from sparse and noisy point clouds, a fundamental problem in computer vision and robotics. Recent approaches are either data-driven or learning-based: Data-driven approaches rely on a shape model whose parameters are optimized to fit the observations; Learning-based approaches, in contrast, avoid the expensive optimization step by learning to directly predict complete shapes from incomplete observations in a fully-supervised setting. However, full supervision is often not available in practice. In this work, we propose a weakly-supervised learning-based approach to 3D shape completion which neither requires slow optimization nor direct supervision. While we also learn a shape prior on synthetic data, we amortize, i.e., learn, maximum likelihood fitting using deep neural networks resulting in efficient shape completion without sacrificing accuracy. On synthetic benchmarks based on ShapeNet and ModelNet as well as on real robotics data from KITTI and Kinect, we demonstrate that the proposed amortized maximum likelihood approach is able to compete with a fully supervised baseline and outperforms the data-driven approach of Engelmann et al., while requiring less supervision and being significantly faster.

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pdf Project Page [BibTex]

pdf Project Page [BibTex]


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Learning Transformation Invariant Representations with Weak Supervision

Coors, B., Condurache, A., Mertins, A., Geiger, A.

In International Conference on Computer Vision Theory and Applications, International Conference on Computer Vision Theory and Applications, 2018 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Deep convolutional neural networks are the current state-of-the-art solution to many computer vision tasks. However, their ability to handle large global and local image transformations is limited. Consequently, extensive data augmentation is often utilized to incorporate prior knowledge about desired invariances to geometric transformations such as rotations or scale changes. In this work, we combine data augmentation with an unsupervised loss which enforces similarity between the predictions of augmented copies of an input sample. Our loss acts as an effective regularizer which facilitates the learning of transformation invariant representations. We investigate the effectiveness of the proposed similarity loss on rotated MNIST and the German Traffic Sign Recognition Benchmark (GTSRB) in the context of different classification models including ladder networks. Our experiments demonstrate improvements with respect to the standard data augmentation approach for supervised and semi-supervised learning tasks, in particular in the presence of little annotated data. In addition, we analyze the performance of the proposed approach with respect to its hyperparameters, including the strength of the regularization as well as the layer where representation similarity is enforced.

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pdf [BibTex]

pdf [BibTex]


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Object Scene Flow

Menze, M., Heipke, C., Geiger, A.

ISPRS Journal of Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing, 2018 (article)

Abstract
This work investigates the estimation of dense three-dimensional motion fields, commonly referred to as scene flow. While great progress has been made in recent years, large displacements and adverse imaging conditions as observed in natural outdoor environments are still very challenging for current approaches to reconstruction and motion estimation. In this paper, we propose a unified random field model which reasons jointly about 3D scene flow as well as the location, shape and motion of vehicles in the observed scene. We formulate the problem as the task of decomposing the scene into a small number of rigidly moving objects sharing the same motion parameters. Thus, our formulation effectively introduces long-range spatial dependencies which commonly employed local rigidity priors are lacking. Our inference algorithm then estimates the association of image segments and object hypotheses together with their three-dimensional shape and motion. We demonstrate the potential of the proposed approach by introducing a novel challenging scene flow benchmark which allows for a thorough comparison of the proposed scene flow approach with respect to various baseline models. In contrast to previous benchmarks, our evaluation is the first to provide stereo and optical flow ground truth for dynamic real-world urban scenes at large scale. Our experiments reveal that rigid motion segmentation can be utilized as an effective regularizer for the scene flow problem, improving upon existing two-frame scene flow methods. At the same time, our method yields plausible object segmentations without requiring an explicitly trained recognition model for a specific object class.

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Project Page [BibTex]

Project Page [BibTex]


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On Time Optimization of Centroidal Momentum Dynamics

Ponton, B., Herzog, A., Del Prete, A., Schaal, S., Righetti, L.

In 2018 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA), pages: 5776-5782, IEEE, Brisbane, Australia, 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]

2010


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Reinforcement learning of full-body humanoid motor skills

Stulp, F., Buchli, J., Theodorou, E., Schaal, S.

In Humanoid Robots (Humanoids), 2010 10th IEEE-RAS International Conference on, pages: 405-410, December 2010, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
Applying reinforcement learning to humanoid robots is challenging because humanoids have a large number of degrees of freedom and state and action spaces are continuous. Thus, most reinforcement learning algorithms would become computationally infeasible and require a prohibitive amount of trials to explore such high-dimensional spaces. In this paper, we present a probabilistic reinforcement learning approach, which is derived from the framework of stochastic optimal control and path integrals. The algorithm, called Policy Improvement with Path Integrals (PI2), has a surprisingly simple form, has no open tuning parameters besides the exploration noise, is model-free, and performs numerically robustly in high dimensional learning problems. We demonstrate how PI2 is able to learn full-body motor skills on a 34-DOF humanoid robot. To demonstrate the generality of our approach, we also apply PI2 in the context of variable impedance control, where both planned trajectories and gain schedules for each joint are optimized simultaneously.

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link (url) [BibTex]

2010


link (url) [BibTex]


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Relative Entropy Policy Search

Peters, J., Mülling, K., Altun, Y.

In Proceedings of the Twenty-Fourth National Conference on Artificial Intelligence, pages: 1607-1612, (Editors: Fox, M. , D. Poole), AAAI Press, Menlo Park, CA, USA, Twenty-Fourth National Conference on Artificial Intelligence (AAAI-10), July 2010 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Policy search is a successful approach to reinforcement learning. However, policy improvements often result in the loss of information. Hence, it has been marred by premature convergence and implausible solutions. As first suggested in the context of covariant policy gradients (Bagnell and Schneider 2003), many of these problems may be addressed by constraining the information loss. In this paper, we continue this path of reasoning and suggest the Relative Entropy Policy Search (REPS) method. The resulting method differs significantly from previous policy gradient approaches and yields an exact update step. It works well on typical reinforcement learning benchmark problems.

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PDF Web [BibTex]

PDF Web [BibTex]


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Reinforcement learning of motor skills in high dimensions: A path integral approach

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

In Robotics and Automation (ICRA), 2010 IEEE International Conference on, pages: 2397-2403, May 2010, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
Reinforcement learning (RL) is one of the most general approaches to learning control. Its applicability to complex motor systems, however, has been largely impossible so far due to the computational difficulties that reinforcement learning encounters in high dimensional continuous state-action spaces. In this paper, we derive a novel approach to RL for parameterized control policies based on the framework of stochastic optimal control with path integrals. While solidly grounded in optimal control theory and estimation theory, the update equations for learning are surprisingly simple and have no danger of numerical instabilities as neither matrix inversions nor gradient learning rates are required. Empirical evaluations demonstrate significant performance improvements over gradient-based policy learning and scalability to high-dimensional control problems. Finally, a learning experiment on a robot dog illustrates the functionality of our algorithm in a real-world scenario. We believe that our new algorithm, Policy Improvement with Path Integrals (PI2), offers currently one of the most efficient, numerically robust, and easy to implement algorithms for RL in robotics.

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link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Inverse dynamics control of floating base systems using orthogonal decomposition

Mistry, M., Buchli, J., Schaal, S.

In Robotics and Automation (ICRA), 2010 IEEE International Conference on, pages: 3406-3412, May 2010, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
Model-based control methods can be used to enable fast, dexterous, and compliant motion of robots without sacrificing control accuracy. However, implementing such techniques on floating base robots, e.g., humanoids and legged systems, is non-trivial due to under-actuation, dynamically changing constraints from the environment, and potentially closed loop kinematics. In this paper, we show how to compute the analytically correct inverse dynamics torques for model-based control of sufficiently constrained floating base rigid-body systems, such as humanoid robots with one or two feet in contact with the environment. While our previous inverse dynamics approach relied on an estimation of contact forces to compute an approximate inverse dynamics solution, here we present an analytically correct solution by using an orthogonal decomposition to project the robot dynamics onto a reduced dimensional space, independent of contact forces. We demonstrate the feasibility and robustness of our approach on a simulated floating base bipedal humanoid robot and an actual robot dog locomoting over rough terrain.

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link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Fast, robust quadruped locomotion over challenging terrain

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

In Robotics and Automation (ICRA), 2010 IEEE International Conference on, pages: 2665-2670, May 2010, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
We present a control architecture for fast quadruped locomotion over rough terrain. We approach the problem by decomposing it into many sub-systems, in which we apply state-of-the-art learning, planning, optimization and control techniques to achieve robust, fast locomotion. Unique features of our control strategy include: (1) a system that learns optimal foothold choices from expert demonstration using terrain templates, (2) a body trajectory optimizer based on the Zero-Moment Point (ZMP) stability criterion, and (3) a floating-base inverse dynamics controller that, in conjunction with force control, allows for robust, compliant locomotion over unperceived obstacles. We evaluate the performance of our controller by testing it on the LittleDog quadruped robot, over a wide variety of rough terrain of varying difficulty levels. We demonstrate the generalization ability of this controller by presenting test results from an independent external test team on terrains that have never been shown to us.

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link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Policy learning algorithmis for motor learning (Algorithmen zum automatischen Erlernen von Motorfähigkigkeiten)

Peters, J., Kober, J., Schaal, S.

Automatisierungstechnik, 58(12):688-694, 2010, clmc (article)

Abstract
Robot learning methods which allow au- tonomous robots to adapt to novel situations have been a long standing vision of robotics, artificial intelligence, and cognitive sciences. However, to date, learning techniques have yet to ful- fill 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. If possible, scaling was usually only achieved in precisely pre-structured domains. In this paper, we investigate the ingredients for a general ap- proach 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 algo- rithms 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 structu- res for task representation and execution.

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link (url) [BibTex]


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A Bayesian approach to nonlinear parameter identification for rigid-body dynamics

Ting, J., DSouza, A., Schaal, S.

Neural Networks, 2010, clmc (article)

Abstract
For complex robots such as humanoids, model-based control is highly beneficial for accurate tracking while keeping negative feedback gains low for compliance. However, in such multi degree-of-freedom lightweight systems, conventional identification of rigid body dynamics models using CAD data and actuator models is inaccurate due to unknown nonlinear robot dynamic effects. An alternative method is data-driven parameter estimation, but significant noise in measured and inferred variables affects it adversely. Moreover, standard estimation procedures may give physically inconsistent results due to unmodeled nonlinearities or insufficiently rich data. This paper addresses these problems, proposing a Bayesian system identification technique for linear or piecewise linear systems. Inspired by Factor Analysis regression, we develop a computationally efficient variational Bayesian regression algorithm that is robust to ill-conditioned data, automatically detects relevant features, and identifies input and output noise. We evaluate our approach on rigid body parameter estimation for various robotic systems, achieving an error of up to three times lower than other state-of-the-art machine learning methods.

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link (url) [BibTex]


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A first optimal control solution for a complex, nonlinear, tendon driven neuromuscular finger model

Theodorou, E. A., Todorov, E., Valero-Cuevas, F.

Proceedings of the ASME 2010 Summer Bioengineering Conference August 30-September 2, 2010, Naples, Florida, USA, 2010, clmc (article)

Abstract
In this work we present the first constrained stochastic op- timal feedback controller applied to a fully nonlinear, tendon driven index finger model. Our model also takes into account an extensor mechanism, and muscle force-length and force-velocity properties. We show this feedback controller is robust to noise and perturbations to the dynamics, while successfully handling the nonlinearities and high dimensionality of the system. By ex- tending prior methods, we are able to approximate physiological realism by ensuring positivity of neural commands and tendon tensions at all timesthus can, for the first time, use the optimal control framework to predict biologically plausible tendon tensions for a nonlinear neuromuscular finger model. METHODS 1 Muscle Model The rigid-body triple pendulum finger model with slightly viscous joints is actuated by Hill-type muscle models. Joint torques are generated by the seven muscles of the index fin-

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PDF [BibTex]

PDF [BibTex]


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Locally weighted regression for control

Ting, J., Vijayakumar, S., Schaal, S.

In Encyclopedia of Machine Learning, pages: 613-624, (Editors: Sammut, C.;Webb, G. I.), Springer, 2010, clmc (inbook)

Abstract
This is article addresses two topics: learning control and locally weighted regression.

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link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Are reaching movements planned in kinematic or dynamic coordinates?

Ellmer, A., Schaal, S.

In Abstracts of Neural Control of Movement Conference (NCM 2010), Naples, Florida, 2010, 2010, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
Whether human reaching movements are planned and optimized in kinematic (task space) or dynamic (joint or muscle space) coordinates is still an issue of debate. The first hypothesis implies that a planner produces a desired end-effector position at each point in time during the reaching movement, whereas the latter hypothesis includes the dynamics of the muscular-skeletal control system to produce a continuous end-effector trajectory. Previous work by Wolpert et al (1995) showed that when subjects were led to believe that their straight reaching paths corresponded to curved paths as shown on a computer screen, participants adapted the true path of their hand such that they would visually perceive a straight line in visual space, despite that they actually produced a curved path. These results were interpreted as supporting the stance that reaching trajectories are planned in kinematic coordinates. However, this experiment could only demonstrate that adaptation to altered paths, i.e. the position of the end-effector, did occur, but not that the precise timing of end-effector position was equally planned, i.e., the trajectory. Our current experiment aims at filling this gap by explicitly testing whether position over time, i.e. velocity, is a property of reaching movements that is planned in kinematic coordinates. In the current experiment, the velocity profiles of cursor movements corresponding to the participant's hand motions were skewed either to the left or to the right; the path itself was left unaltered. We developed an adaptation paradigm, where the skew of the velocity profile was introduced gradually and participants reported no awareness of any manipulation. Preliminary results indicate that the true hand motion of participants did not alter, i.e. there was no adaptation so as to counterbalance the introduced skew. However, for some participants, peak hand velocities were lowered for higher skews, which suggests that participants interpreted the manipulation as mere noise due to variance in their own movement. In summary, for a visuomotor transformation task, the hypothesis of a planned continuous end-effector trajectory predicts adaptation to a modified velocity profile. The current experiment found no systematic adaptation under such transformation, but did demonstrate an effect that is more in accordance that subjects could not perceive the manipulation and rather interpreted as an increase of noise.

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[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Optimality in Neuromuscular Systems

Theodorou, E. A., Valero-Cuevas, F.

In 32nd Annual International Conference of the IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society, 2010, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
Abstract? We provide an overview of optimal control meth- ods to nonlinear neuromuscular systems and discuss their lim- itations. Moreover we extend current optimal control methods to their application to neuromuscular models with realistically numerous musculotendons; as most prior work is limited to torque-driven systems. Recent work on computational motor control has explored the used of control theory and esti- mation as a conceptual tool to understand the underlying computational principles of neuromuscular systems. After all, successful biological systems regularly meet conditions for stability, robustness and performance for multiple classes of complex tasks. Among a variety of proposed control theory frameworks to explain this, stochastic optimal control has become a dominant framework to the point of being a standard computational technique to reproduce kinematic trajectories of reaching movements (see [12]) In particular, we demonstrate the application of optimal control to a neuromuscular model of the index finger with all seven musculotendons producing a tapping task. Our simu- lations include 1) a muscle model that includes force- length and force-velocity characteristics; 2) an anatomically plausible biomechanical model of the index finger that includes a tendi- nous network for the extensor mechanism and 3) a contact model that is based on a nonlinear spring-damper attached at the end effector of the index finger. We demonstrate that it is feasible to apply optimal control to systems with realistically large state vectors and conclude that, while optimal control is an adequate formalism to create computational models of neuro- musculoskeletal systems, there remain important challenges and limitations that need to be considered and overcome such as contact transitions, curse of dimensionality, and constraints on states and controls.

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PDF [BibTex]

PDF [BibTex]


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Efficient learning and feature detection in high dimensional regression

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

Neural Computation, 22, pages: 831-886, 2010, clmc (article)

Abstract
We present a novel algorithm for efficient learning and feature selection in high- dimensional regression problems. We arrive at this model through a modification of the standard regression model, enabling us to derive a probabilistic version of the well-known statistical regression technique of backfitting. Using the Expectation- Maximization algorithm, along with variational approximation methods to overcome intractability, we extend our algorithm to include automatic relevance detection of the input features. This Variational Bayesian Least Squares (VBLS) approach retains its simplicity as a linear model, but offers a novel statistically robust â??black- boxâ? approach to generalized linear regression with high-dimensional inputs. It can be easily extended to nonlinear regression and classification problems. In particular, we derive the framework of sparse Bayesian learning, e.g., the Relevance Vector Machine, with VBLS at its core, offering significant computational and robustness advantages for this class of methods. We evaluate our algorithm on synthetic and neurophysiological data sets, as well as on standard regression and classification benchmark data sets, comparing it with other competitive statistical approaches and demonstrating its suitability as a drop-in replacement for other generalized linear regression techniques.

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link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Stochastic Differential Dynamic Programming

Theodorou, E., Tassa, Y., Todorov, E.

In the proceedings of American Control Conference (ACC 2010) , 2010, clmc (article)

Abstract
We present a generalization of the classic Differential Dynamic Programming algorithm. We assume the existence of state- and control-dependent process noise, and proceed to derive the second-order expansion of the cost-to-go. Despite having quartic and cubic terms in the initial expression, we show that these vanish, leaving us with the same quadratic structure as standard DDP.

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PDF [BibTex]

PDF [BibTex]


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Learning Policy Improvements with Path Integrals

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

In International Conference on Artificial Intelligence and Statistics (AISTATS 2010), 2010, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
With the goal to generate more scalable algo- rithms with higher efficiency and fewer open parameters, reinforcement learning (RL) has recently moved towards combining classi- cal techniques from optimal control and dy- namic programming with modern learning techniques from statistical estimation the- ory. In this vein, this paper suggests the framework of stochastic optimal control with path integrals to derive a novel approach to RL with parametrized policies. While solidly grounded in value function estimation and optimal control based on the stochastic Hamilton-Jacobi-Bellman (HJB) equations, policy improvements can be transformed into an approximation problem of a path inte- gral which has no open parameters other than the exploration noise. The resulting algorithm can be conceived of as model- based, semi-model-based, or even model free, depending on how the learning problem is structured. Our new algorithm demon- strates interesting similarities with previous RL research in the framework of proba- bility matching and provides intuition why the slightly heuristically motivated proba- bility matching approach can actually per- form well. Empirical evaluations demon- strate significant performance improvements over gradient-based policy learning and scal- ability to high-dimensional control problems. We believe that Policy Improvement with Path Integrals (PI2) offers currently one of the most efficient, numerically robust, and easy to implement algorithms for RL based on trajectory roll-outs.

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PDF [BibTex]

PDF [BibTex]


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Learning optimal control solutions: a path integral approach

Theodorou, E., Schaal, S.

In Abstracts of Neural Control of Movement Conference (NCM 2010), Naples, Florida, 2010, 2010, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
Investigating principles of human motor control in the framework of optimal control has had a long tradition in neural control of movement, and has recently experienced a new surge of investigations. Ideally, optimal control problems are addresses as a reinforcement learning (RL) problem, which would allow to investigate both the process of acquiring an optimal control solution as well as the solution itself. Unfortunately, the applicability of RL to complex neural and biomechanics systems has been largely impossible so far due to the computational difficulties that arise in high dimensional continuous state-action spaces. As a way out, research has focussed on computing optimal control solutions based on iterative optimal control methods that are based on linear and quadratic approximations of dynamical models and cost functions. These methods require perfect knowledge of the dynamics and cost functions while they are based on gradient and Newton optimization schemes. Their applicability is also restricted to low dimensional problems due to problematic convergence in high dimensions. Moreover, the process of computing the optimal solution is removed from the learning process that might be plausible in biology. In this work, we present a new reinforcement learning method for learning optimal control solutions or motor control. This method, based on the framework of stochastic optimal control with path integrals, has a very solid theoretical foundation, while resulting in surprisingly simple learning algorithms. It is also possible to apply this approach without knowledge of the system model, and to use a wide variety of complex nonlinear cost functions for optimization. We illustrate the theoretical properties of this approach and its applicability to learning motor control tasks for reaching movements and locomotion studies. We discuss its applicability to learning desired trajectories, variable stiffness control (co-contraction), and parameterized control policies. We also investigate the applicability to signal dependent noise control systems. We believe that the suggested method offers one of the easiest to use approaches to learning optimal control suggested in the literature so far, which makes it ideally suited for computational investigations of biological motor control.

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[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Learning control in robotics – trajectory-based opitimal control techniques

Schaal, S., Atkeson, C. G.

Robotics and Automation Magazine, 17(2):20-29, 2010, clmc (article)

Abstract
In a not too distant future, robots will be a natural part of daily life in human society, providing assistance in many areas ranging from clinical applications, education and care giving, to normal household environments [1]. It is hard to imagine that all possible tasks can be preprogrammed in such robots. Robots need to be able to learn, either by themselves or with the help of human supervision. Additionally, wear and tear on robots in daily use needs to be automatically compensated for, which requires a form of continuous self-calibration, another form of learning. Finally, robots need to react to stochastic and dynamic environments, i.e., they need to learn how to optimally adapt to uncertainty and unforeseen changes. Robot learning is going to be a key ingredient for the future of autonomous robots. While robot learning covers a rather large field, from learning to perceive, to plan, to make decisions, etc., we will focus this review on topics of learning control, in particular, as it is concerned with learning control in simulated or actual physical robots. In general, learning control refers to the process of acquiring a control strategy for a particular control system and a particular task by trial and error. Learning control is usually distinguished from adaptive control [2] in that the learning system can have rather general optimization objectivesâ??not just, e.g., minimal tracking errorâ??and is permitted to fail during the process of learning, while adaptive control emphasizes fast convergence without failure. Thus, learning control resembles the way that humans and animals acquire new movement strategies, while adaptive control is a special case of learning control that fulfills stringent performance constraints, e.g., as needed in life-critical systems like airplanes. Learning control has been an active topic of research for at least three decades. However, given the lack of working robots that actually use learning components, more work needs to be done before robot learning will make it beyond the laboratory environment. This article will survey some ongoing and past activities in robot learning to assess where the field stands and where it is going. We will largely focus on nonwheeled robots and less on topics of state estimation, as typically explored in wheeled robots [3]â??6], and we emphasize learning in continuous state-action spaces rather than discrete state-action spaces [7], [8]. We will illustrate the different topics of robot learning with examples from our own research with anthropomorphic and humanoid robots.

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link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Learning, planning, and control for quadruped locomotion over challenging terrain

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

International Journal of Robotics Research, 30(2):236-258, 2010, clmc (article)

Abstract
We present a control architecture for fast quadruped locomotion over rough terrain. We approach the problem by decomposing it into many sub-systems, in which we apply state-of-the-art learning, planning, optimization, and control techniques to achieve robust, fast locomotion. Unique features of our control strategy include: (1) a system that learns optimal foothold choices from expert demonstration using terrain templates, (2) a body trajectory optimizer based on the Zero- Moment Point (ZMP) stability criterion, and (3) a floating-base inverse dynamics controller that, in conjunction with force control, allows for robust, compliant locomotion over unperceived obstacles. We evaluate the performance of our controller by testing it on the LittleDog quadruped robot, over a wide variety of rough terrains of varying difficulty levels. The terrain that the robot was tested on includes rocks, logs, steps, barriers, and gaps, with obstacle sizes up to the leg length of the robot. We demonstrate the generalization ability of this controller by presenting results from testing performed by an independent external test team on terrain that has never been shown to us.

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link (url) Project Page [BibTex]

link (url) Project Page [BibTex]


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Constrained Accelerations for Controlled Geometric Reduction: Sagittal-Plane Decoupling for Bipedal Locomotion

Gregg, R., Righetti, L., Buchli, J., Schaal, S.

In 2010 10th IEEE-RAS International Conference on Humanoid Robots, pages: 1-7, IEEE, Nashville, USA, 2010 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Energy-shaping control methods have produced strong theoretical results for asymptotically stable 3D bipedal dynamic walking in the literature. In particular, geometric controlled reduction exploits robot symmetries to control momentum conservation laws that decouple the sagittal-plane dynamics, which are easier to stabilize. However, the associated control laws require high-dimensional matrix inverses multiplied with complicated energy-shaping terms, often making these control theories difficult to apply to highly-redundant humanoid robots. This paper presents a first step towards the application of energy-shaping methods on real robots by casting controlled reduction into a framework of constrained accelerations for inverse dynamics control. By representing momentum conservation laws as constraints in acceleration space, we construct a general expression for desired joint accelerations that render the constraint surface invariant. By appropriately choosing an orthogonal projection, we show that the unconstrained (reduced) dynamics are decoupled from the constrained dynamics. Any acceleration-based controller can then be used to stabilize this planar subsystem, including passivity-based methods. The resulting control law is surprisingly simple and represents a practical way to employ control theoretic stability results in robotic platforms. Simulated walking of a 3D compass-gait biped show correspondence between the new and original controllers, and simulated motions of a 16-DOF humanoid demonstrate the applicability of this method.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Variable impedance control - a reinforcement learning approach

Buchli, J., Theodorou, E., Stulp, F., Schaal, S.

In Robotics Science and Systems (2010), Zaragoza, Spain, June 27-30, 2010, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
One of the hallmarks of the performance, versatility, and robustness of biological motor control is the ability to adapt the impedance of the overall biomechanical system to different task requirements and stochastic disturbances. A transfer of this principle to robotics is desirable, for instance to enable robots to work robustly and safely in everyday human environments. It is, however, not trivial to derive variable impedance controllers for practical high DOF robotic tasks. In this contribution, we accomplish such gain scheduling with a reinforcement learning approach algorithm, PI2 (Policy Improvement with Path Integrals). PI2 is a model-free, sampling based learning method derived from first principles of optimal control. The PI2 algorithm requires no tuning of algorithmic parameters besides the exploration noise. The designer can thus fully focus on cost function design to specify the task. From the viewpoint of robotics, a particular useful property of PI2 is that it can scale to problems of many DOFs, so that RL on real robotic systems becomes feasible. We sketch the PI2 algorithm and its theoretical properties, and how it is applied to gain scheduling. We evaluate our approach by presenting results on two different simulated robotic systems, a 3-DOF Phantom Premium Robot and a 6-DOF Kuka Lightweight Robot. We investigate tasks where the optimal strategy requires both tuning of the impedance of the end-effector, and tuning of a reference trajectory. The results show that we can use path integral based RL not only for planning but also to derive variable gain feedback controllers in realistic scenarios. Thus, the power of variable impedance control is made available to a wide variety of robotic systems and practical applications.

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link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]