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2019


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Limitations of the empirical Fisher approximation for natural gradient descent

Kunstner, F., Hennig, P., Balles, L.

Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 32, pages: 4158-4169, (Editors: H. Wallach and H. Larochelle and A. Beygelzimer and F. d’Alché-Buc and E. Fox and R. Garnett), Curran Associates, Inc., 33rd Annual Conference on Neural Information Processing Systems, December 2019 (conference)

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link (url) [BibTex]

2019


link (url) [BibTex]


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On the Transfer of Inductive Bias from Simulation to the Real World: a New Disentanglement Dataset

Gondal, M. W., Wuthrich, M., Miladinovic, D., Locatello, F., Breidt, M., Volchkov, V., Akpo, J., Bachem, O., Schölkopf, B., Bauer, S.

Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 32, pages: 15714-15725, (Editors: H. Wallach and H. Larochelle and A. Beygelzimer and F. d’Alché-Buc and E. Fox and R. Garnett), Curran Associates, Inc., 33rd Annual Conference on Neural Information Processing Systems, December 2019 (conference)

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link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Convergence Guarantees for Adaptive Bayesian Quadrature Methods

Kanagawa, M., Hennig, P.

Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 32, pages: 6234-6245, (Editors: H. Wallach and H. Larochelle and A. Beygelzimer and F. d’Alché-Buc and E. Fox and R. Garnett), Curran Associates, Inc., 33rd Annual Conference on Neural Information Processing Systems, December 2019 (conference)

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link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Interactive Augmented Reality for Robot-Assisted Surgery

Forte, M. P., Kuchenbecker, K. J.

Workshop extended abstract presented as a podium presentation at the IROS Workshop on Legacy Disruptors in Applied Telerobotics, Macau, November 2019 (misc) Accepted

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Project Page [BibTex]

Project Page [BibTex]


EM-Fusion: Dynamic Object-Level SLAM With Probabilistic Data Association
EM-Fusion: Dynamic Object-Level SLAM With Probabilistic Data Association

Strecke, M., Stückler, J.

In International Conference on Computer Vision, October 2019, arXiv:1904.11781 (inproceedings)

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preprint Project page Poster [BibTex]

preprint Project page Poster [BibTex]


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High-Fidelity Multiphysics Finite Element Modeling of Finger-Surface Interactions with Tactile Feedback

Serhat, G., Kuchenbecker, K. J.

Work-in-progress paper (2 pages) presented at the IEEE World Haptics Conference (WHC), Tokyo, Japan, July 2019 (misc)

Abstract
In this study, we develop a high-fidelity finite element (FE) analysis framework that enables multiphysics simulation of the human finger in contact with a surface that is providing tactile feedback. We aim to elucidate a variety of physical interactions that can occur at finger-surface interfaces, including contact, friction, vibration, and electrovibration. We also develop novel FE-based methods that will allow prediction of nonconventional features such as real finger-surface contact area and finger stickiness. We envision using the developed computational tools for efficient design and optimization of haptic devices by replacing expensive and lengthy experimental procedures with high-fidelity simulation.

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[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Fingertip Friction Enhances Perception of Normal Force Changes

Gueorguiev, D., Lambert, J., Thonnard, J., Kuchenbecker, K. J.

Work-in-progress paper (2 pages) presented at the IEEE World Haptics Conference (WHC), Tokyo, Japan, July 2019 (misc)

Abstract
Using a force-controlled robotic platform, we tested the human perception of positive and negative modulations in normal force during passive dynamic touch, which also induced a strong related change in the finger-surface lateral force. In a two-alternative forced-choice task, eleven participants had to detect brief variations in the normal force compared to a constant controlled pre-stimulation force of 1 N and report whether it had increased or decreased. The average 75% just noticeable difference (JND) was found to be around 0.25 N for detecting the peak change and 0.30 N for correctly reporting the increase or the decrease. Interestingly, the friction coefficient of a subject’s fingertip positively correlated with his or her performance at detecting the change and reporting its direction, which suggests that humans may use the lateral force as a sensory cue to perceive variations in the normal force.

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[BibTex]

[BibTex]


Objective and Subjective Assessment of Algorithms for Reducing Three-Axis Vibrations to One-Axis Vibrations
Objective and Subjective Assessment of Algorithms for Reducing Three-Axis Vibrations to One-Axis Vibrations

Park, G., Kuchenbecker, K. J.

In Proceedings of the IEEE World Haptics Conference, pages: 467-472, July 2019 (inproceedings)

Abstract
A typical approach to creating realistic vibrotactile feedback is reducing 3D vibrations recorded by an accelerometer to 1D signals that can be played back on a haptic actuator, but some of the information is often lost in this dimensional reduction process. This paper describes seven representative algorithms and proposes four metrics based on the spectral match, the temporal match, and the average value and the variability of them across 3D rotations. These four performance metrics were applied to four texture recordings, and the method utilizing the discrete fourier transform (DFT) was found to be the best regardless of the sensing axis. We also recruited 16 participants to assess the perceptual similarity achieved by each algorithm in real time. We found the four metrics correlated well with the subjectively rated similarities for the six dimensional reduction algorithms, with the exception of taking the 3D vector magnitude, which was perceived to be good despite its low spectral and temporal match metrics.

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


Inflatable Haptic Sensor for the Torso of a Hugging Robot
Inflatable Haptic Sensor for the Torso of a Hugging Robot

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

Work-in-progress paper (2 pages) presented at the IEEE World Haptics Conference (WHC), Tokyo, Japan, July 2019 (misc)

Abstract
During hugs, humans naturally provide and intuit subtle non-verbal cues that signify the strength and duration of an exchanged hug. Personal preferences for this close interaction may vary greatly between people; robots do not currently have the abilities to perceive or understand these preferences. This work-in-progress paper discusses designing, building, and testing a novel inflatable torso that can simultaneously soften a robot and act as a tactile sensor to enable more natural and responsive hugging. Using PVC vinyl, a microphone, and a barometric pressure sensor, we created a small test chamber to demonstrate a proof of concept for the full torso. While contacting the chamber in several ways common in hugs (pat, squeeze, scratch, and rub), we recorded data from the two sensors. The preliminary results suggest that the complementary haptic sensing channels allow us to detect coarse and fine contacts typically experienced during hugs, regardless of user hand placement.

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Project Page [BibTex]

Project Page [BibTex]


Understanding the Pull-off Force of the Human Fingerpad
Understanding the Pull-off Force of the Human Fingerpad

Nam, S., Kuchenbecker, K. J.

Work-in-progress paper (2 pages) presented at the IEEE World Haptics Conference (WHC), Tokyo, Japan, July 2019 (misc)

Abstract
To understand the adhesive force that occurs when a finger pulls off of a smooth surface, we built an apparatus to measure the fingerpad’s moisture, normal force, and real contact area over time during interactions with a glass plate. We recorded a total of 450 trials (45 interactions by each of ten human subjects), capturing a wide range of values across the aforementioned variables. The experimental results showed that the pull-off force increases with larger finger contact area and faster detachment rate. Additionally, moisture generally increases the contact area of the finger, but too much moisture can restrict the increase in the pull-off force.

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[BibTex]

[BibTex]


The Haptician and the Alphamonsters
The Haptician and the Alphamonsters

Forte, M. P., L’Orsa, R., Mohan, M., Nam, S., Kuchenbecker, K. J.

Student Innovation Challenge on Implementing Haptics in Virtual Reality Environment presented at the IEEE World Haptics Conference, Tokyo, Japan, July 2019, Maria Paola Forte, Rachael L'Orsa, Mayumi Mohan, and Saekwang Nam contributed equally to this publication (misc)

Abstract
Dysgraphia is a neurological disorder characterized by writing disabilities that affects between 7% and 15% of children. It presents itself in the form of unfinished letters, letter distortion, inconsistent letter size, letter collision, etc. Traditional therapeutic exercises require continuous assistance from teachers or occupational therapists. Autonomous partial or full haptic guidance can produce positive results, but children often become bored with the repetitive nature of such activities. Conversely, virtual rehabilitation with video games represents a new frontier for occupational therapy due to its highly motivational nature. Virtual reality (VR) adds an element of novelty and entertainment to therapy, thus motivating players to perform exercises more regularly. We propose leveraging the HTC VIVE Pro and the EXOS Wrist DK2 to create an immersive spellcasting “exergame” (exercise game) that helps motivate children with dysgraphia to improve writing fluency.

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Student Innovation Challenge – Virtual Reality [BibTex]

Student Innovation Challenge – Virtual Reality [BibTex]


Fingertip Interaction Metrics Correlate with Visual and Haptic Perception of Real Surfaces
Fingertip Interaction Metrics Correlate with Visual and Haptic Perception of Real Surfaces

Vardar, Y., Wallraven, C., Kuchenbecker, K. J.

In Proceedings of the IEEE World Haptics Conference (WHC), pages: 395-400, Tokyo, Japan, July 2019 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Both vision and touch contribute to the perception of real surfaces. Although there have been many studies on the individual contributions of each sense, it is still unclear how each modality’s information is processed and integrated. To fill this gap, we investigated the similarity of visual and haptic perceptual spaces, as well as how well they each correlate with fingertip interaction metrics. Twenty participants interacted with ten different surfaces from the Penn Haptic Texture Toolkit by either looking at or touching them and judged their similarity in pairs. By analyzing the resulting similarity ratings using multi-dimensional scaling (MDS), we found that surfaces are similarly organized within the three-dimensional perceptual spaces of both modalities. Also, between-participant correlations were significantly higher in the haptic condition. In a separate experiment, we obtained the contact forces and accelerations acting on one finger interacting with each surface in a controlled way. We analyzed the collected fingertip interaction data in both the time and frequency domains. Our results suggest that the three perceptual dimensions for each modality can be represented by roughness/smoothness, hardness/softness, and friction, and that these dimensions can be estimated by surface vibration power, tap spectral centroid, and kinetic friction coefficient, respectively.

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DOI Project Page [BibTex]

DOI Project Page [BibTex]


Implementation of a 6-{DOF} Parallel Continuum Manipulator for Delivering Fingertip Tactile Cues
Implementation of a 6-DOF Parallel Continuum Manipulator for Delivering Fingertip Tactile Cues

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

IEEE Transactions on Haptics, 12(3):295-306, June 2019 (article)

Abstract
Existing fingertip haptic devices can deliver different subsets of tactile cues in a compact package, but we have not yet seen a wearable six-degree-of-freedom (6-DOF) display. This paper presents the Fuppeteer (short for Fingertip Puppeteer), a device that is capable of controlling the position and orientation of a flat platform, such that any combination of normal and shear force can be delivered at any location on any human fingertip. We build on our previous work of designing a parallel continuum manipulator for fingertip haptics by presenting a motorized version in which six flexible Nitinol wires are actuated via independent roller mechanisms and proportional-derivative controllers. We evaluate the settling time and end-effector vibrations observed during system responses to step inputs. After creating a six-dimensional lookup table and adjusting simulated inputs using measured Jacobians, we show that the device can make contact with all parts of the fingertip with a mean error of 1.42 mm. Finally, we present results from a human-subject study. A total of 24 users discerned 9 evenly distributed contact locations with an average accuracy of 80.5%. Translational and rotational shear cues were identified reasonably well near the center of the fingertip and more poorly around the edges.

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DOI [BibTex]


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Variational Autoencoders Recover PCA Directions (by Accident)

Rolinek, M., Zietlow, D., Martius, G.

In Proceedings IEEE Conf. on Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition (CVPR), IEEE International Conference on Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition (CVPR) 2019, June 2019 (inproceedings)

Abstract
The Variational Autoencoder (VAE) is a powerful architecture capable of representation learning and generative modeling. When it comes to learning interpretable (disentangled) representations, VAE and its variants show unparalleled performance. However, the reasons for this are unclear, since a very particular alignment of the latent embedding is needed but the design of the VAE does not encourage it in any explicit way. We address this matter and offer the following explanation: the diagonal approximation in the encoder together with the inherent stochasticity force local orthogonality of the decoder. The local behavior of promoting both reconstruction and orthogonality matches closely how the PCA embedding is chosen. Alongside providing an intuitive understanding, we justify the statement with full theoretical analysis as well as with experiments.

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arXiv link (url) Project Page [BibTex]

arXiv link (url) Project Page [BibTex]


Explorations of Shape-Changing Haptic Interfaces for Blind and Sighted Pedestrian Navigation
Explorations of Shape-Changing Haptic Interfaces for Blind and Sighted Pedestrian Navigation

Spiers, A., Kuchenbecker, K. J.

pages: 6, Workshop paper (6 pages) presented at the CHI 2019 Workshop on Hacking Blind Navigation, May 2019 (misc) Accepted

Abstract
Since the 1960s, technologists have worked to develop systems that facilitate independent navigation by vision-impaired (VI) pedestrians. These devices vary in terms of conveyed information and feedback modality. Unfortunately, many such prototypes never progress beyond laboratory testing. Conversely, smartphone-based navigation systems for sighted pedestrians have grown in robustness and capabilities, to the point of now being ubiquitous. How can we leverage the success of sighted navigation technology, which is driven by a larger global market, as a way to progress VI navigation systems? We believe one possibility is to make common devices that benefit both VI and sighted individuals, by providing information in a way that does not distract either user from their tasks or environment. To this end we have developed physical interfaces that eschew visual, audio or vibratory feedback, instead relying on the natural human ability to perceive the shape of a handheld object.

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[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Internal Array Electrodes Improve the Spatial Resolution of Soft Tactile Sensors Based on Electrical Resistance Tomography

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

In Proceedings of the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA), pages: 5411-5417, Montreal, Canada, May 2019, Hyosang Lee and Kyungseo Park contributed equally to this publication (inproceedings)

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link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]

link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]


Haptipedia: Accelerating Haptic Device Discovery to Support Interaction & Engineering Design
Haptipedia: Accelerating Haptic Device Discovery to Support Interaction & Engineering Design

Seifi, H., Fazlollahi, F., Oppermann, M., Sastrillo, J. A., Ip, J., Agrawal, A., Park, G., Kuchenbecker, K. J., MacLean, K. E.

In Proceedings of the ACM SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI), Glasgow, Scotland, May 2019 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Creating haptic experiences often entails inventing, modifying, or selecting specialized hardware. However, experience designers are rarely engineers, and 30 years of haptic inventions are buried in a fragmented literature that describes devices mechanically rather than by potential purpose. We conceived of Haptipedia to unlock this trove of examples: Haptipedia presents a device corpus for exploration through metadata that matter to both device and experience designers. It is a taxonomy of device attributes that go beyond physical description to capture potential utility, applied to a growing database of 105 grounded force-feedback devices, and accessed through a public visualization that links utility to morphology. Haptipedia's design was driven by both systematic review of the haptic device literature and rich input from diverse haptic designers. We describe Haptipedia's reception (including hopes it will redefine device reporting standards) and our plans for its sustainability through community participation.

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Project Page [BibTex]

Project Page [BibTex]


Improving Haptic Adjective Recognition with Unsupervised Feature Learning
Improving Haptic Adjective Recognition with Unsupervised Feature Learning

Richardson, B. A., Kuchenbecker, K. J.

In Proceedings of the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA), pages: 3804-3810, Montreal, Canada, May 2019 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Humans can form an impression of how a new object feels simply by touching its surfaces with the densely innervated skin of the fingertips. Many haptics researchers have recently been working to endow robots with similar levels of haptic intelligence, but these efforts almost always employ hand-crafted features, which are brittle, and concrete tasks, such as object recognition. We applied unsupervised feature learning methods, specifically K-SVD and Spatio-Temporal Hierarchical Matching Pursuit (ST-HMP), to rich multi-modal haptic data from a diverse dataset. We then tested the learned features on 19 more abstract binary classification tasks that center on haptic adjectives such as smooth and squishy. The learned features proved superior to traditional hand-crafted features by a large margin, almost doubling the average F1 score across all adjectives. Additionally, particular exploratory procedures (EPs) and sensor channels were found to support perception of certain haptic adjectives, underlining the need for diverse interactions and multi-modal haptic data.

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link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]

link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]


Accurate Vision-based Manipulation through Contact Reasoning
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 2019 (inproceedings) Accepted

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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Video link (url) [BibTex]

Video link (url) [BibTex]


Learning Latent Space Dynamics for Tactile Servoing
Learning Latent Space Dynamics for Tactile Servoing

Sutanto, G., Ratliff, N., Sundaralingam, B., Chebotar, Y., Su, Z., Handa, A., Fox, D.

In Proceedings of the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA) 2019, IEEE, International Conference on Robotics and Automation, May 2019 (inproceedings) Accepted

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pdf video [BibTex]

pdf video [BibTex]


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DeepOBS: A Deep Learning Optimizer Benchmark Suite

Schneider, F., Balles, L., Hennig, P.

7th International Conference on Learning Representations (ICLR), May 2019 (conference)

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link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


Leveraging Contact Forces for Learning to Grasp
Leveraging Contact Forces for Learning to Grasp

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

In Proceedings of the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA) 2019, IEEE, International Conference on Robotics and Automation, May 2019 (inproceedings)

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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Bimanual Wrist-Squeezing Haptic Feedback Changes Speed-Force Tradeoff in Robotic Surgery Training

Cao, E., Machaca, S., Bernard, T., Wolfinger, B., Patterson, Z., Chi, A., Adrales, G. L., Kuchenbecker, K. J., Brown, J. D.

Extended abstract presented as an ePoster at the Annual Meeting of the Society of American Gastrointestinal and Endoscopic Surgeons (SAGES), Baltimore, USA, April 2019 (misc) Accepted

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[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Interactive Augmented Reality for Robot-Assisted Surgery

Forte, M. P., Kuchenbecker, K. J.

Extended abstract presented as an Emerging Technology ePoster at the Annual Meeting of the Society of American Gastrointestinal and Endoscopic Surgeons (SAGES), Baltimore, Maryland, USA, April 2019 (misc) Accepted

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Project Page [BibTex]

Project Page [BibTex]


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Fast and Robust Shortest Paths on Manifolds Learned from Data

Arvanitidis, G., Hauberg, S., Hennig, P., Schober, M.

Proceedings of the 22nd International Conference on Artificial Intelligence and Statistics (AISTATS), 89, pages: 1506-1515, (Editors: Kamalika Chaudhuri and Masashi Sugiyama), PMLR, April 2019 (conference)

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PDF link (url) [BibTex]

PDF link (url) [BibTex]


Active Probabilistic Inference on Matrices for Pre-Conditioning in Stochastic Optimization
Active Probabilistic Inference on Matrices for Pre-Conditioning in Stochastic Optimization

de Roos, F., Hennig, P.

Proceedings of the 22nd International Conference on Artificial Intelligence and Statistics (AISTATS), 89, pages: 1448-1457, (Editors: Kamalika Chaudhuri and Masashi Sugiyama), PMLR, April 2019 (conference)

Abstract
Pre-conditioning is a well-known concept that can significantly improve the convergence of optimization algorithms. For noise-free problems, where good pre-conditioners are not known a priori, iterative linear algebra methods offer one way to efficiently construct them. For the stochastic optimization problems that dominate contemporary machine learning, however, this approach is not readily available. We propose an iterative algorithm inspired by classic iterative linear solvers that uses a probabilistic model to actively infer a pre-conditioner in situations where Hessian-projections can only be constructed with strong Gaussian noise. The algorithm is empirically demonstrated to efficiently construct effective pre-conditioners for stochastic gradient descent and its variants. Experiments on problems of comparably low dimensionality show improved convergence. In very high-dimensional problems, such as those encountered in deep learning, the pre-conditioner effectively becomes an automatic learning-rate adaptation scheme, which we also empirically show to work well.

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PDF link (url) [BibTex]

PDF link (url) [BibTex]


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A Design Tool for Therapeutic Social-Physical Human-Robot Interactions

Mohan, M., Kuchenbecker, K. J.

Workshop paper (3 pages) presented at the HRI Pioneers Workshop, Daegu, South Korea, March 2019 (misc) Accepted

Abstract
We live in an aging society; social-physical human-robot interaction has the potential to keep our elderly adults healthy by motivating them to exercise. After summarizing prior work, this paper proposes a tool that can be used to design exercise and therapy interactions to be performed by an upper-body humanoid robot. The interaction design tool comprises a teleoperation system that transmits the operator’s arm motions, head motions and facial expression along with an interface to monitor and assess the motion of the user interacting with the robot. We plan to use this platform to create dynamic and intuitive exercise interactions.

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Project Page [BibTex]

Project Page [BibTex]


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How Does It Feel to Clap Hands with a Robot?

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

International Journal of Social Robotics, 2019 (article) Accepted

Abstract
Future robots may need lighthearted physical interaction capabilities to connect with people in meaningful ways. To begin exploring how users perceive playful human–robot hand-to-hand interaction, we conducted a study with 20 participants. Each user played simple hand-clapping games with the Rethink Robotics Baxter Research Robot during a 1-h-long session involving 24 randomly ordered conditions that varied in facial reactivity, physical reactivity, arm stiffness, and clapping tempo. Survey data and experiment recordings demonstrate that this interaction is viable: all users successfully completed the experiment and mentioned enjoying at least one game without prompting. Hand-clapping tempo was highly salient to users, and human-like robot errors were more widely accepted than mechanical errors. Furthermore, perceptions of Baxter varied in the following statistically significant ways: facial reactivity increased the robot’s perceived pleasantness and energeticness; physical reactivity decreased pleasantness, energeticness, and dominance; higher arm stiffness increased safety and decreased dominance; and faster tempo increased energeticness and increased dominance. These findings can motivate and guide roboticists who want to design social–physical human–robot interactions.

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[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Control What You Can: Intrinsically Motivated Task-Planning Agent

Blaes, S., Vlastelica, M., Zhu, J., Martius, G.

In Advances in Neural Information Processing (NeurIPS’19), pages: 12520-12531, Curran Associates, Inc., NeurIPS'19, 2019 (inproceedings)

Abstract
We present a novel intrinsically motivated agent that learns how to control the environment in the fastest possible manner by optimizing learning progress. It learns what can be controlled, how to allocate time and attention, and the relations between objects using surprise based motivation. The effectiveness of our method is demonstrated in a synthetic as well as a robotic manipulation environment yielding considerably improved performance and smaller sample complexity. In a nutshell, our work combines several task-level planning agent structures (backtracking search on task graph, probabilistic road-maps, allocation of search efforts) with intrinsic motivation to achieve learning from scratch.

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link (url) Project Page [BibTex]

link (url) Project Page [BibTex]


Autonomous Identification and Goal-Directed Invocation of Event-Predictive Behavioral Primitives
Autonomous Identification and Goal-Directed Invocation of Event-Predictive Behavioral Primitives

Gumbsch, C., Butz, M. V., Martius, G.

IEEE Transactions on Cognitive and Developmental Systems, 2019 (article)

Abstract
Voluntary behavior of humans appears to be composed of small, elementary building blocks or behavioral primitives. While this modular organization seems crucial for the learning of complex motor skills and the flexible adaption of behavior to new circumstances, the problem of learning meaningful, compositional abstractions from sensorimotor experiences remains an open challenge. Here, we introduce a computational learning architecture, termed surprise-based behavioral modularization into event-predictive structures (SUBMODES), that explores behavior and identifies the underlying behavioral units completely from scratch. The SUBMODES architecture bootstraps sensorimotor exploration using a self-organizing neural controller. While exploring the behavioral capabilities of its own body, the system learns modular structures that predict the sensorimotor dynamics and generate the associated behavior. In line with recent theories of event perception, the system uses unexpected prediction error signals, i.e., surprise, to detect transitions between successive behavioral primitives. We show that, when applied to two robotic systems with completely different body kinematics, the system manages to learn a variety of complex behavioral primitives. Moreover, after initial self-exploration the system can use its learned predictive models progressively more effectively for invoking model predictive planning and goal-directed control in different tasks and environments.

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arXiv PDF video link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]


Toward Expert-Sourcing of a Haptic Device Repository
Toward Expert-Sourcing of a Haptic Device Repository

Seifi, H., Ip, J., Agrawal, A., Kuchenbecker, K. J., MacLean, K. E.

Glasgow, UK, 2019 (misc)

Abstract
Haptipedia is an online taxonomy, database, and visualization that aims to accelerate ideation of new haptic devices and interactions in human-computer interaction, virtual reality, haptics, and robotics. The current version of Haptipedia (105 devices) was created through iterative design, data entry, and evaluation by our team of experts. Next, we aim to greatly increase the number of devices and keep Haptipedia updated by soliciting data entry and verification from haptics experts worldwide.

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link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Machine Learning for Haptics: Inferring Multi-Contact Stimulation From Sparse Sensor Configuration

Sun, H., Martius, G.

Frontiers in Neurorobotics, 13, pages: 51, 2019 (article)

Abstract
Robust haptic sensation systems are essential for obtaining dexterous robots. Currently, we have solutions for small surface areas such as fingers, but affordable and robust techniques for covering large areas of an arbitrary 3D surface are still missing. Here, we introduce a general machine learning framework to infer multi-contact haptic forces on a 3D robot’s limb surface from internal deformation measured by only a few physical sensors. The general idea of this framework is to predict first the whole surface deformation pattern from the sparsely placed sensors and then to infer number, locations and force magnitudes of unknown contact points. We show how this can be done even if training data can only be obtained for single-contact points using transfer learning at the example of a modified limb of the Poppy robot. With only 10 strain-gauge sensors we obtain a high accuracy also for multiple-contact points. The method can be applied to arbitrarily shaped surfaces and physical sensor types, as long as training data can be obtained.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]


Automated Generation of Reactive Programs from Human Demonstration for Orchestration of Robot Behaviors
Automated Generation of Reactive Programs from Human Demonstration for Orchestration of Robot Behaviors

Berenz, V., Bjelic, A., Mainprice, J.

ArXiv, 2019 (article)

Abstract
Social robots or collaborative robots that have to interact with people in a reactive way are difficult to program. This difficulty stems from the different skills required by the programmer: to provide an engaging user experience the behavior must include a sense of aesthetics while robustly operating in a continuously changing environment. The Playful framework allows composing such dynamic behaviors using a basic set of action and perception primitives. Within this framework, a behavior is encoded as a list of declarative statements corresponding to high-level sensory-motor couplings. To facilitate non-expert users to program such behaviors, we propose a Learning from Demonstration (LfD) technique that maps motion capture of humans directly to a Playful script. The approach proceeds by identifying the sensory-motor couplings that are active at each step using the Viterbi path in a Hidden Markov Model (HMM). Given these activation patterns, binary classifiers called evaluations are trained to associate activations to sensory data. Modularity is increased by clustering the sensory-motor couplings, leading to a hierarchical tree structure. The novelty of the proposed approach is that the learned behavior is encoded not in terms of trajectories in a task space, but as couplings between sensory information and high-level motor actions. This provides advantages in terms of behavioral generalization and reactivity displayed by the robot.

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Support Video link (url) [BibTex]


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Learning to Disentangle Latent Physical Factors for Video Prediction

Zhu, D., Munderloh, M., Rosenhahn, B., Stückler, J.

In German Conference on Pattern Recognition (GCPR), 2019, to appear (inproceedings)

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dataset & evaluation code video preprint [BibTex]

dataset & evaluation code video preprint [BibTex]


Probabilistic Linear Solvers: A Unifying View
Probabilistic Linear Solvers: A Unifying View

Bartels, S., Cockayne, J., Ipsen, I. C. F., Hennig, P.

Statistics and Computing, 2019 (article) Accepted

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link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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3D Birds-Eye-View Instance Segmentation

Elich, C., Engelmann, F., Kontogianni, T., Leibe, B.

In German Conference on Pattern Recognition (GCPR), 2019, arXiv:1904.02199, to appear (inproceedings)

ev

[BibTex]

[BibTex]

2009


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Path integral-based stochastic optimal control for rigid body dynamics

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

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

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

am

link (url) [BibTex]

2009


link (url) [BibTex]


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Learning locomotion over rough terrain using terrain templates

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

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

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

am

link (url) Project Page [BibTex]

link (url) Project Page [BibTex]


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

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

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

am

link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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

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

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

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

am

link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Human optimization strategies under reward feedback

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

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

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

am

[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Bayesian Methods for Autonomous Learning Systems (Phd Thesis)

Ting, J.

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

am

PDF [BibTex]

PDF [BibTex]


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

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

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

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

am

link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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The SL simulation and real-time control software package

Schaal, S.

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

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

am

link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Local dimensionality reduction for non-parametric regression

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

Neural Processing Letters, 2009, clmc (article)

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

am

link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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The SL simulation and real-time control software package

Schaal, S.

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

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

am

link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Learning and generalization of motor skills by learning from demonstration

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

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

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

am

link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Compliant quadruped locomotion over rough terrain

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

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

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

am

link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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A Sensor-Based Learning Algorithm for the Self-Organization of Robot Behavior

Hesse, F., Martius, G., Der, R., Herrmann, J. M.

Algorithms, 2(1):398-409, 2009 (article)

Abstract
Ideally, sensory information forms the only source of information to a robot. We consider an algorithm for the self-organization of a controller. At short timescales the controller is merely reactive but the parameter dynamics and the acquisition of knowledge by an internal model lead to seemingly purposeful behavior on longer timescales. As a paradigmatic example, we study the simulation of an underactuated snake-like robot. By interacting with the real physical system formed by the robotic hardware and the environment, the controller achieves a sensitive and body-specific actuation of the robot.

al

link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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

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

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

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

am

PDF [BibTex]

PDF [BibTex]