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2018


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Reducing 3D Vibrations to 1D in Real Time

Park, G., Kuchenbecker, K. J.

Hands-on demonstration (4 pages) presented at AsiaHaptics, Incheon, South Korea, November 2018 (misc)

Abstract
For simple and realistic vibrotactile feedback, 3D accelerations from real contact interactions are usually rendered using a single-axis vibration actuator; this dimensional reduction can be performed in many ways. This demonstration implements a real-time conversion system that simultaneously measures 3D accelerations and renders corresponding 1D vibrations using a two-pen interface. In the demonstration, a user freely interacts with various objects using an In-Pen that contains a 3-axis accelerometer. The captured accelerations are converted to a single-axis signal, and an Out-Pen renders the reduced signal for the user to feel. We prepared seven conversion methods from the simple use of a single-axis signal to applying principal component analysis (PCA) so that users can compare the performance of each conversion method in this demonstration.

hi

Project Page [BibTex]

2018


Project Page [BibTex]


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A Large-Scale Fabric-Based Tactile Sensor Using Electrical Resistance Tomography

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

Hands-on demonstration (3 pages) presented at AsiaHaptics, Incheon, South Korea, November 2018 (misc)

Abstract
Large-scale tactile sensing is important for household robots and human-robot interaction because contacts can occur all over a robot’s body surface. This paper presents a new fabric-based tactile sensor that is straightforward to manufacture and can cover a large area. The tactile sensor is made of conductive and non-conductive fabric layers, and the electrodes are stitched with conductive thread, so the resulting device is flexible and stretchable. The sensor utilizes internal array electrodes and a reconstruction method called electrical resistance tomography (ERT) to achieve a high spatial resolution with a small number of electrodes. The developed sensor shows that only 16 electrodes can accurately estimate single and multiple contacts over a square that measures 20 cm by 20 cm.

hi

Project Page [BibTex]

Project Page [BibTex]


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A Value-Driven Eldercare Robot: Virtual and Physical Instantiations of a Case-Supported Principle-Based Behavior Paradigm

Anderson, M., Anderson, S., Berenz, V.

Proceedings of the IEEE, pages: 1,15, October 2018 (article)

Abstract
In this paper, a case-supported principle-based behavior paradigm is proposed to help ensure ethical behavior of autonomous machines. We argue that ethically significant behavior of autonomous systems should be guided by explicit ethical principles determined through a consensus of ethicists. Such a consensus is likely to emerge in many areas in which autonomous systems are apt to be deployed and for the actions they are liable to undertake. We believe that this is the case since we are more likely to agree on how machines ought to treat us than on how human beings ought to treat one another. Given such a consensus, particular cases of ethical dilemmas where ethicists agree on the ethically relevant features and the right course of action can be used to help discover principles that balance these features when they are in conflict. Such principles not only help ensure ethical behavior of complex and dynamic systems but also can serve as a basis for justification of this behavior. The requirements, methods, implementation, and evaluation components of the paradigm are detailed as well as its instantiation in both a simulated and real robot functioning in the domain of eldercare.

am

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Softness, Warmth, and Responsiveness Improve Robot Hugs

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

International Journal of Social Robotics, 11(1):49-64, October 2018 (article)

Abstract
Hugs are one of the first forms of contact and affection humans experience. Due to their prevalence and health benefits, roboticists are naturally interested in having robots one day hug humans as seamlessly as humans hug other humans. This project's purpose is to evaluate human responses to different robot physical characteristics and hugging behaviors. Specifically, we aim to test the hypothesis that a soft, warm, touch-sensitive PR2 humanoid robot can provide humans with satisfying hugs by matching both their hugging pressure and their hugging duration. Thirty relatively young and rather technical participants experienced and evaluated twelve hugs with the robot, divided into three randomly ordered trials that focused on physical robot characteristics (single factor, three levels) and nine randomly ordered trials with low, medium, and high hug pressure and duration (two factors, three levels each). Analysis of the results showed that people significantly prefer soft, warm hugs over hard, cold hugs. Furthermore, users prefer hugs that physically squeeze them and release immediately when they are ready for the hug to end. Taking part in the experiment also significantly increased positive user opinions of robots and robot use.

hi

link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]

link (url) 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.

am

playful website playful_IEEE_RAM link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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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.

am

link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [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.

am mg

video arXiv [BibTex]

video arXiv [BibTex]


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Statistical Modelling of Fingertip Deformations and Contact Forces during Tactile Interaction

Gueorguiev, D., Tzionas, D., Pacchierotti, C., Black, M. J., Kuchenbecker, K. J.

Extended abstract presented at the Hand, Brain and Technology conference (HBT), Ascona, Switzerland, August 2018 (misc)

Abstract
Little is known about the shape and properties of the human finger during haptic interaction, even though these are essential parameters for controlling wearable finger devices and deliver realistic tactile feedback. This study explores a framework for four-dimensional scanning (3D over time) and modelling of finger-surface interactions, aiming to capture the motion and deformations of the entire finger with high resolution while simultaneously recording the interfacial forces at the contact. Preliminary results show that when the fingertip is actively pressing a rigid surface, it undergoes lateral expansion and proximal/distal bending, deformations that cannot be captured by imaging of the contact area alone. Therefore, we are currently capturing a dataset that will enable us to create a statistical model of the finger’s deformations and predict the contact forces induced by tactile interaction with objects. This technique could improve current methods for tactile rendering in wearable haptic devices, which rely on general physical modelling of the skin’s compliance, by developing an accurate model of the variations in finger properties across the human population. The availability of such a model will also enable a more realistic simulation of virtual finger behaviour in virtual reality (VR) environments, as well as the ability to accurately model a specific user’s finger from lower resolution data. It may also be relevant for inferring the physical properties of the underlying tissue from observing the surface mesh deformations, as previously shown for body tissues.

hi

Project Page [BibTex]

Project Page [BibTex]


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Instrumentation, Data, and Algorithms for Visually Understanding Haptic Surface Properties

Burka, A. L.

University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, USA, August 2018, Department of Electrical and Systems Engineering (phdthesis)

Abstract
Autonomous robots need to efficiently walk over varied surfaces and grasp diverse objects. We hypothesize that the association between how such surfaces look and how they physically feel during contact can be learned from a database of matched haptic and visual data recorded from various end-effectors' interactions with hundreds of real-world surfaces. Testing this hypothesis required the creation of a new multimodal sensing apparatus, the collection of a large multimodal dataset, and development of a machine-learning pipeline. This thesis begins by describing the design and construction of the Portable Robotic Optical/Tactile ObservatioN PACKage (PROTONPACK, or Proton for short), an untethered handheld sensing device that emulates the capabilities of the human senses of vision and touch. Its sensory modalities include RGBD vision, egomotion, contact force, and contact vibration. Three interchangeable end-effectors (a steel tooling ball, an OptoForce three-axis force sensor, and a SynTouch BioTac artificial fingertip) allow for different material properties at the contact point and provide additional tactile data. We then detail the calibration process for the motion and force sensing systems, as well as several proof-of-concept surface discrimination experiments that demonstrate the reliability of the device and the utility of the data it collects. This thesis then presents a large-scale dataset of multimodal surface interaction recordings, including 357 unique surfaces such as furniture, fabrics, outdoor fixtures, and items from several private and public material sample collections. Each surface was touched with one, two, or three end-effectors, comprising approximately one minute per end-effector of tapping and dragging at various forces and speeds. We hope that the larger community of robotics researchers will find broad applications for the published dataset. Lastly, we demonstrate an algorithm that learns to estimate haptic surface properties given visual input. Surfaces were rated on hardness, roughness, stickiness, and temperature by the human experimenter and by a pool of purely visual observers. Then we trained an algorithm to perform the same task as well as infer quantitative properties calculated from the haptic data. Overall, the task of predicting haptic properties from vision alone proved difficult for both humans and computers, but a hybrid algorithm using a deep neural network and a support vector machine achieved a correlation between expected and actual regression output between approximately ρ = 0.3 and ρ = 0.5 on previously unseen surfaces.

hi

Project Page [BibTex]

Project Page [BibTex]


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Robust Visual Augmented Reality in Robot-Assisted Surgery

Forte, M. P.

Politecnico di Milano, Milan, Italy, July 2018, Department of Electronic, Information, and Biomedical Engineering (mastersthesis)

Abstract
The broader research objective of this line of research is to test the hypothesis that real-time stereo video analysis and augmented reality can increase safety and task efficiency in robot-assisted surgery. This master’s thesis aims to solve the first step needed to achieve this goal: the creation of a robust system that delivers the envisioned feedback to a surgeon while he or she controls a surgical robot that is identical to those used on human patients. Several approaches for applying augmented reality to da Vinci Surgical Systems have been proposed, but none of them entirely rely on a clinical robot; specifically, they require additional sensors, depend on access to the da Vinci API, are designed for a very specific task, or were tested on systems that are starkly different from those in clinical use. There has also been prior work that presents the real-world camera view and the computer graphics on separate screens, or not in real time. In other scenarios, the digital information is overlaid manually by the surgeons themselves or by computer scientists, rather than being generated automatically in response to the surgeon’s actions. We attempted to overcome the aforementioned constraints by acquiring input signals from the da Vinci stereo endoscope and providing augmented reality to the console in real time (less than 150 ms delay, including the 62 ms of inherent latency of the da Vinci). The potential benefits of the resulting system are broad because it was built to be general, rather than customized for any specific task. The entire platform is compatible with any generation of the da Vinci System and does not require a dVRK (da Vinci Research Kit) or access to the API. Thus, it can be applied to existing da Vinci Systems in operating rooms around the world.

hi

Project Page [BibTex]

Project Page [BibTex]


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Task-Driven PCA-Based Design Optimization of Wearable Cutaneous Devices

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

IEEE Robotics and Automation Letters, 3(3):2214-2221, July 2018, Presented at ICRA 2018 (article)

Abstract
Small size and low weight are critical requirements for wearable and portable haptic interfaces, making it essential to work toward the optimization of their sensing and actuation systems. This paper presents a new approach for task-driven design optimization of fingertip cutaneous haptic devices. Given one (or more) target tactile interactions to render and a cutaneous device to optimize, we evaluate the minimum number and best configuration of the device’s actuators to minimize the estimated haptic rendering error. First, we calculate the motion needed for the original cutaneous device to render the considered target interaction. Then, we run a principal component analysis (PCA) to search for possible couplings between the original motor inputs, looking also for the best way to reconfigure them. If some couplings exist, we can re-design our cutaneous device with fewer motors, optimally configured to render the target tactile sensation. The proposed approach is quite general and can be applied to different tactile sensors and cutaneous devices. We validated it using a BioTac tactile sensor and custom plate-based 3-DoF and 6-DoF fingertip cutaneous devices, considering six representative target tactile interactions. The algorithm was able to find couplings between each device’s motor inputs, proving it to be a viable approach to optimize the design of wearable and portable cutaneous devices. Finally, we present two examples of optimized designs for our 3-DoF fingertip cutaneous device.

hi

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [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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Teaching a Robot Bimanual Hand-Clapping Games via Wrist-Worn IMUs

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

Frontiers in Robotics and Artificial Intelligence, 5(85), July 2018 (article)

Abstract
Colleagues often shake hands in greeting, friends connect through high fives, and children around the world rejoice in hand-clapping games. As robots become more common in everyday human life, they will have the opportunity to join in these social-physical interactions, but few current robots are intended to touch people in friendly ways. This article describes how we enabled a Baxter Research Robot to both teach and learn bimanual hand-clapping games with a human partner. Our system monitors the user's motions via a pair of inertial measurement units (IMUs) worn on the wrists. We recorded a labeled library of 10 common hand-clapping movements from 10 participants; this dataset was used to train an SVM classifier to automatically identify hand-clapping motions from previously unseen participants with a test-set classification accuracy of 97.0%. Baxter uses these sensors and this classifier to quickly identify the motions of its human gameplay partner, so that it can join in hand-clapping games. This system was evaluated by N = 24 naïve users in an experiment that involved learning sequences of eight motions from Baxter, teaching Baxter eight-motion game patterns, and completing a free interaction period. The motion classification accuracy in this less structured setting was 85.9%, primarily due to unexpected variations in motion timing. The quantitative task performance results and qualitative participant survey responses showed that learning games from Baxter was significantly easier than teaching games to Baxter, and that the teaching role caused users to consider more teamwork aspects of the gameplay. Over the course of the experiment, people felt more understood by Baxter and became more willing to follow the example of the robot. Users felt uniformly safe interacting with Baxter, and they expressed positive opinions of Baxter and reported fun interacting with the robot. Taken together, the results indicate that this robot achieved credible social-physical interaction with humans and that its ability to both lead and follow systematically changed the human partner's experience.

hi

DOI [BibTex]

DOI [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.

am

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


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Reducing 3D Vibrations to 1D in Real Time

Park, G., Kuchenbecker, K. J.

Hands-on demonstration presented at EuroHaptics, Pisa, Italy, June 2018 (misc)

Abstract
In this demonstration, you will hold two pen-shaped modules: an in-pen and an out-pen. The in-pen is instrumented with a high-bandwidth three-axis accelerometer, and the out-pen contains a one-axis voice coil actuator. Use the in-pen to interact with different surfaces; the measured 3D accelerations are continually converted into 1D vibrations and rendered with the out-pen for you to feel. You can test conversion methods that range from simply selecting a single axis to applying a discrete Fourier transform or principal component analysis for realistic and brisk real-time conversion.

hi

Project Page [BibTex]

Project Page [BibTex]


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Haptipedia: Exploring Haptic Device Design Through Interactive Visualizations

Seifi, H., Fazlollahi, F., Park, G., Kuchenbecker, K. J., MacLean, K. E.

Hands-on demonstration presented at EuroHaptics, Pisa, Italy, June 2018 (misc)

Abstract
How many haptic devices have been proposed in the last 30 years? How can we leverage this rich source of design knowledge to inspire future innovations? Our goal is to make historical haptic invention accessible through interactive visualization of a comprehensive library – a Haptipedia – of devices that have been annotated with designer-relevant metadata. In this demonstration, participants can explore Haptipedia’s growing library of grounded force feedback devices through several prototype visualizations, interact with 3D simulations of the device mechanisms and movements, and tell us about the attributes and devices that could make Haptipedia a useful resource for the haptic design community.

hi

Project Page [BibTex]

Project Page [BibTex]


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Delivering 6-DOF Fingertip Tactile Cues

Young, E., Kuchenbecker, K. J.

Work-in-progress paper (5 pages) presented at EuroHaptics, Pisa, Italy, June 2018 (misc)

hi

Project Page [BibTex]

Project Page [BibTex]


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Designing a Haptic Empathetic Robot Animal for Children with Autism

Burns, R., Kuchenbecker, K. J.

Workshop paper (4 pages) presented at the Robotics: Science and Systems Workshop on Robot-Mediated Autism Intervention: Hardware, Software and Curriculum, Pittsburgh, USA, June 2018 (misc)

Abstract
Children with autism often endure sensory overload, may be nonverbal, and have difficulty understanding and relaying emotions. These experiences result in heightened stress during social interaction. Animal-assisted intervention has been found to improve the behavior of children with autism during social interaction, but live animal companions are not always feasible. We are thus in the process of designing a robotic animal to mimic some successful characteristics of animal-assisted intervention while trying to improve on others. The over-arching hypothesis of this research is that an appropriately designed robot animal can reduce stress in children with autism and empower them to engage in social interaction.

hi

link (url) Project Page [BibTex]

link (url) Project Page [BibTex]


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Soft Multi-Axis Boundary-Electrode Tactile Sensors for Whole-Body Robotic Skin

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

Workshop paper (2 pages) presented at the RSS Pioneers Workshop, Pittsburgh, USA, June 2018 (misc)

hi

Project Page [BibTex]

Project Page [BibTex]


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Haptics and Haptic Interfaces

Kuchenbecker, K. J.

In Encyclopedia of Robotics, (Editors: Marcelo H. Ang and Oussama Khatib and Bruno Siciliano), Springer, May 2018 (incollection)

Abstract
Haptics is an interdisciplinary field that seeks to both understand and engineer touch-based interaction. Although a wide range of systems and applications are being investigated, haptics researchers often concentrate on perception and manipulation through the human hand. A haptic interface is a mechatronic system that modulates the physical interaction between a human and his or her tangible surroundings. Haptic interfaces typically involve mechanical, electrical, and computational layers that work together to sense user motions or forces, quickly process these inputs with other information, and physically respond by actuating elements of the user’s surroundings, thereby enabling him or her to act on and feel a remote and/or virtual environment.

hi

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [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.

am

pdf video code [BibTex]

pdf video code [BibTex]


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

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

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

am

pdf video [BibTex]

pdf video [BibTex]


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Automatically Rating Trainee Skill at a Pediatric Laparoscopic Suturing Task

Oquendo, Y. A., Riddle, E. W., Hiller, D., Blinman, T. A., Kuchenbecker, K. J.

Surgical Endoscopy, 32(4):1840-1857, April 2018 (article)

hi

DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


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Arm-Worn Tactile Displays

Kuchenbecker, K. J.

Cross-Cutting Challenge Interactive Discussion presented at the IEEE Haptics Symposium, San Francisco, USA, March 2018 (misc)

Abstract
Fingertips and hands captivate the attention of most haptic interface designers, but humans can feel touch stimuli across the entire body surface. Trying to create devices that both can be worn and can deliver good haptic sensations raises challenges that rarely arise in other contexts. Most notably, tactile cues such as vibration, tapping, and squeezing are far simpler to implement in wearable systems than kinesthetic haptic feedback. This interactive discussion will present a variety of relevant projects to which I have contributed, attempting to pull out common themes and ideas for the future.

hi

[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Haptipedia: An Expert-Sourced Interactive Device Visualization for Haptic Designers

Seifi, H., MacLean, K. E., Kuchenbecker, K. J., Park, G.

Work-in-progress paper (3 pages) presented at the IEEE Haptics Symposium, San Francisco, USA, March 2018 (misc)

Abstract
Much of three decades of haptic device invention is effectively lost to today’s designers: dispersion across time, region, and discipline imposes an incalculable drag on innovation in this field. Our goal is to make historical haptic invention accessible through interactive navigation of a comprehensive library – a Haptipedia – of devices that have been annotated with designer-relevant metadata. To build this open resource, we will systematically mine the literature and engage the haptics community for expert annotation. In a multi-year broad-based initiative, we will empirically derive salient attributes of haptic devices, design an interactive visualization tool where device creators and repurposers can efficiently explore and search Haptipedia, and establish methods and tools to manually and algorithmically collect data from the haptics literature and our community of experts. This paper outlines progress in compiling an initial corpus of grounded force-feedback devices and their attributes, and it presents a concept sketch of the interface we envision.

hi

Project Page [BibTex]

Project Page [BibTex]


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Exercising with Baxter: Design and Evaluation of Assistive Social-Physical Human-Robot Interaction

Fitter, N. T., Mohan, M., Kuchenbecker, K. J., Johnson, M. J.

Workshop paper (6 pages) presented at the HRI Workshop on Personal Robots for Exercising and Coaching, Chicago, USA, March 2018 (misc)

Abstract
The worldwide population of older adults is steadily increasing and will soon exceed the capacity of assisted living facilities. Accordingly, we aim to understand whether appropriately designed robots could help older adults stay active and engaged while living at home. We developed eight human-robot exercise games for the Baxter Research Robot with the guidance of experts in game design, therapy, and rehabilitation. After extensive iteration, these games were employed in a user study that tested their viability with 20 younger and 20 older adult users. All participants were willing to enter Baxter’s workspace and physically interact with the robot. User trust and confidence in Baxter increased significantly between pre- and post-experiment assessments, and one individual from the target user population supplied us with abundant positive feedback about her experience. The preliminary results presented in this paper indicate potential for the use of two-armed human-scale robots for social-physical exercise interaction.

hi

link (url) Project Page [BibTex]

link (url) Project Page [BibTex]


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Emotionally Supporting Humans Through Robot Hugs

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

Workshop paper (2 pages) presented at the HRI Pioneers Workshop, Chicago, USA, March 2018 (misc)

Abstract
Hugs are one of the first forms of contact and affection humans experience. Due to their prevalence and health benefits, we want to enable robots to safely hug humans. This research strives to create and study a high fidelity robotic system that provides emotional support to people through hugs. This paper outlines our previous work evaluating human responses to a prototype’s physical and behavioral characteristics, and then it lays out our ongoing and future work.

hi

link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]

link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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Towards a Statistical Model of Fingertip Contact Deformations from 4D Data

Gueorguiev, D., Tzionas, D., Pacchierotti, C., Black, M. J., Kuchenbecker, K. J.

Work-in-progress paper (3 pages) presented at the IEEE Haptics Symposium, San Francisco, USA, March 2018 (misc)

Abstract
Little is known about the shape and properties of the human finger during haptic interaction even though this knowledge is essential to control wearable finger devices and deliver realistic tactile feedback. This study explores a framework for four-dimensional scanning and modeling of finger-surface interactions, aiming to capture the motion and deformations of the entire finger with high resolution. The results show that when the fingertip is actively pressing a rigid surface, it undergoes lateral expansion of about 0.2 cm and proximal/distal bending of about 30◦, deformations that cannot be captured by imaging of the contact area alone. This project constitutes a first step towards an accurate statistical model of the finger’s behavior during haptic interaction.

hi

link (url) Project Page [BibTex]

link (url) Project Page [BibTex]


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Can Humans Infer Haptic Surface Properties from Images?

Burka, A., Kuchenbecker, K. J.

Work-in-progress paper (3 pages) presented at the IEEE Haptics Symposium, San Francisco, USA, March 2018 (misc)

Abstract
Human children typically experience their surroundings both visually and haptically, providing ample opportunities to learn rich cross-sensory associations. To thrive in human environments and interact with the real world, robots also need to build models of these cross-sensory associations; current advances in machine learning should make it possible to infer models from large amounts of data. We previously built a visuo-haptic sensing device, the Proton Pack, and are using it to collect a large database of matched multimodal data from tool-surface interactions. As a benchmark to compare with machine learning performance, we conducted a human subject study (n = 84) on estimating haptic surface properties (here: hardness, roughness, friction, and warmness) from images. Using a 100-surface subset of our database, we showed images to study participants and collected 5635 ratings of the four haptic properties, which we compared with ratings made by the Proton Pack operator and with physical data recorded using motion, force, and vibration sensors. Preliminary results indicate weak correlation between participant and operator ratings, but potential for matching up certain human ratings (particularly hardness and roughness) with features from the literature.

hi

Project Page [BibTex]

Project Page [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]


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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]


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Immersive Low-Cost Virtual Reality Treatment for Phantom Limb Pain: Evidence from Two Cases

Ambron, E., Miller, A., Kuchenbecker, K. J., Buxbaum, L. J., Coslett, H. B.

Frontiers in Neurology, 9(67):1-7, 2018 (article)

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DOI Project Page [BibTex]

DOI 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]

2008


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Learning to control in operational space

Peters, J., Schaal, S.

International Journal of Robotics Research, 27, pages: 197-212, 2008, clmc (article)

Abstract
One of the most general frameworks for phrasing control problems for complex, redundant robots is operational space control. However, while this framework is of essential importance for robotics and well-understood from an analytical point of view, it can be prohibitively hard to achieve accurate control in face of modeling errors, which are inevitable in com- plex robots, e.g., humanoid robots. In this paper, we suggest a learning approach for opertional space control as a direct inverse model learning problem. A first important insight for this paper is that a physically cor- rect solution to the inverse problem with redundant degrees-of-freedom does exist when learning of the inverse map is performed in a suitable piecewise linear way. The second crucial component for our work is based on the insight that many operational space controllers can be understood in terms of a constrained optimal control problem. The cost function as- sociated with this optimal control problem allows us to formulate a learn- ing algorithm that automatically synthesizes a globally consistent desired resolution of redundancy while learning the operational space controller. From the machine learning point of view, this learning problem corre- sponds to a reinforcement learning problem that maximizes an immediate reward. We employ an expectation-maximization policy search algorithm in order to solve this problem. Evaluations on a three degrees of freedom robot arm are used to illustrate the suggested approach. The applica- tion to a physically realistic simulator of the anthropomorphic SARCOS Master arm demonstrates feasibility for complex high degree-of-freedom robots. We also show that the proposed method works in the setting of learning resolved motion rate control on real, physical Mitsubishi PA-10 medical robotics arm.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

2008


link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Adaptation to a sub-optimal desired trajectory

M. Mistry, E. A. G. L. T. Y. S. S. M. K.

Advances in Computational Motor Control VII, Symposium at the Society for Neuroscience Meeting, Washington DC, 2008, 2008, clmc (article)

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PDF [BibTex]

PDF [BibTex]


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Human movement generation based on convergent flow fields: A computational model and a behavioral experiment

Hoffmann, H., Schaal, S.

In Advances in Computational Motor Control VII, Symposium at the Society for Neuroscience Meeting, Washington DC, 2008, 2008, clmc (inproceedings)

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link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Operational space control: A theoretical and emprical comparison

Nakanishi, J., Cory, R., Mistry, M., Peters, J., Schaal, S.

International Journal of Robotics Research, 27(6):737-757, 2008, clmc (article)

Abstract
Dexterous manipulation with a highly redundant movement system is one of the hallmarks of hu- man motor skills. From numerous behavioral studies, there is strong evidence that humans employ compliant task space control, i.e., they focus control only on task variables while keeping redundant degrees-of-freedom as compliant as possible. This strategy is robust towards unknown disturbances and simultaneously safe for the operator and the environment. The theory of operational space con- trol in robotics aims to achieve similar performance properties. However, despite various compelling theoretical lines of research, advanced operational space control is hardly found in actual robotics imple- mentations, in particular new kinds of robots like humanoids and service robots, which would strongly profit from compliant dexterous manipulation. To analyze the pros and cons of different approaches to operational space control, this paper focuses on a theoretical and empirical evaluation of different methods that have been suggested in the literature, but also some new variants of operational space controllers. We address formulations at the velocity, acceleration and force levels. First, we formulate all controllers in a common notational framework, including quaternion-based orientation control, and discuss some of their theoretical properties. Second, we present experimental comparisons of these approaches on a seven-degree-of-freedom anthropomorphic robot arm with several benchmark tasks. As an aside, we also introduce a novel parameter estimation algorithm for rigid body dynamics, which ensures physical consistency, as this issue was crucial for our successful robot implementations. Our extensive empirical results demonstrate that one of the simplified acceleration-based approaches can be advantageous in terms of task performance, ease of parameter tuning, and general robustness and compliance in face of inevitable modeling errors.

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link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Movement reproduction and obstacle avoidance with dynamic movement primitives and potential fields

Park, D., Hoffmann, H., Pastor, P., Schaal, S.

In IEEE International Conference on Humanoid Robots, 2008., 2008, clmc (inproceedings)

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PDF [BibTex]

PDF [BibTex]


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The dual role of uncertainty in force field learning

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

In Abstracts of the Eighteenth Annual Meeting of Neural Control of Movement (NCM), Naples, Florida, April 29-May 4, 2008, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
Force field experiments have been a successful paradigm for studying the principles of planning, execution, and learning in human arm movements. Subjects have been shown to cope with the disturbances generated by force fields by learning internal models of the underlying dynamics to predict disturbance effects or by increasing arm impedance (via co-contraction) if a predictive approach becomes infeasible. Several studies have addressed the issue uncertainty in force field learning. Scheidt et al. demonstrated that subjects exposed to a viscous force field of fixed structure but varying strength (randomly changing from trial to trial), learn to adapt to the mean disturbance, regardless of the statistical distribution. Takahashi et al. additionally show a decrease in strength of after-effects after learning in the randomly varying environment. Thus they suggest that the nervous system adopts a dual strategy: learning an internal model of the mean of the random environment, while simultaneously increasing arm impedance to minimize the consequence of errors. In this study, we examine what role variance plays in the learning of uncertain force fields. We use a 7 degree-of-freedom exoskeleton robot as a manipulandum (Sarcos Master Arm, Sarcos, Inc.), and apply a 3D viscous force field of fixed structure and strength randomly selected from trial to trial. Additionally, in separate blocks of trials, we alter the variance of the randomly selected strength multiplier (while keeping a constant mean). In each block, after sufficient learning has occurred, we apply catch trials with no force field and measure the strength of after-effects. As expected in higher variance cases, results show increasingly smaller levels of after-effects as the variance is increased, thus implying subjects choose the robust strategy of increasing arm impedance to cope with higher levels of uncertainty. Interestingly, however, subjects show an increase in after-effect strength with a small amount of variance as compared to the deterministic (zero variance) case. This result implies that a small amount of variability aides in internal model formation, presumably a consequence of the additional amount of exploration conducted in the workspace of the task.

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[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Dynamic movement primitives for movement generation motivated by convergent force fields in frog

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

In Adaptive Motion of Animals and Machines (AMAM), 2008, clmc (inproceedings)

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PDF [BibTex]

PDF [BibTex]


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Efficient inverse kinematics algorithms for highdimensional movement systems

Tevatia, G., Schaal, S.

CLMC Technical Report: TR-CLMC-2008-1, 2008, clmc (techreport)

Abstract
Real-time control of the endeffector of a humanoid robot in external coordinates requires computationally efficient solutions of the inverse kinematics problem. In this context, this paper investigates methods of resolved motion rate control (RMRC) that employ optimization criteria to resolve kinematic redundancies. In particular we focus on two established techniques, the pseudo inverse with explicit optimization and the extended Jacobian method. We prove that the extended Jacobian method includes pseudo-inverse methods as a special solution. In terms of computational complexity, however, pseudo-inverse and extended Jacobian differ significantly in favor of pseudo-inverse methods. Employing numerical estimation techniques, we introduce a computationally efficient version of the extended Jacobian with performance comparable to the original version. Our results are illustrated in simulation studies with a multiple degree-offreedom robot, and were evaluated on an actual 30 degree-of-freedom full-body humanoid robot.

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link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Behavioral experiments on reinforcement learning in human motor control

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

In Abstracts of the Eighteenth Annual Meeting of Neural Control of Movement (NCM), Naples, Florida, April 29-May 4, 2008, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
Reinforcement learning (RL) - learning solely based on reward or cost feedback - is widespread in robotics control and has been also suggested as computational model for human motor control. In human motor control, however, hardly any experiment studied reinforcement learning. Here, we study learning based on visual cost feedback in a reaching task and did three experiments: (1) to establish a simple enough experiment for RL, (2) to study spatial localization of RL, and (3) to study the dependence of RL on the cost function. In experiment (1), subjects sit in front of a drawing tablet and look at a screen onto which the drawing pen's position is projected. Beginning from a start point, their task is to move with the pen through a target point presented on screen. Visual feedback about the pen's position is given only before movement onset. At the end of a movement, subjects get visual feedback only about the cost of this trial. We choose as cost the squared distance between target and virtual pen position at the target line. Above a threshold value, the cost was fixed at this value. In the mapping of the pen's position onto the screen, we added a bias (unknown to subject) and Gaussian noise. As result, subjects could learn the bias, and thus, showed reinforcement learning. In experiment (2), we randomly altered the target position between three different locations (three different directions from start point: -45, 0, 45). For each direction, we chose a different bias. As result, subjects learned all three bias values simultaneously. Thus, RL can be spatially localized. In experiment (3), we varied the sensitivity of the cost function by multiplying the squared distance with a constant value C, while keeping the same cut-off threshold. As in experiment (2), we had three target locations. We assigned to each location a different C value (this assignment was randomized between subjects). Since subjects learned the three locations simultaneously, we could directly compare the effect of the different cost functions. As result, we found an optimal C value; if C was too small (insensitive cost), learning was slow; if C was too large (narrow cost valley), the exploration time was longer and learning delayed. Thus, reinforcement learning in human motor control appears to be sen

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[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Movement generation by learning from demonstration and generalization to new targets

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

In Adaptive Motion of Animals and Machines (AMAM), 2008, clmc (inproceedings)

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PDF [BibTex]

PDF [BibTex]


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Combining dynamic movement primitives and potential fields for online obstacle avoidance

Park, D., Hoffmann, H., Schaal, S.

In Adaptive Motion of Animals and Machines (AMAM), Cleveland, Ohio, 2008, 2008, clmc (inproceedings)

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link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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A library for locally weighted projection regression

Klanke, S., Vijayakumar, S., Schaal, S.

Journal of Machine Learning Research, 9, pages: 623-626, 2008, clmc (article)

Abstract
In this paper we introduce an improved implementation of locally weighted projection regression (LWPR), a supervised learning algorithm that is capable of handling high-dimensional input data. As the key features, our code supports multi-threading, is available for multiple platforms, and provides wrappers for several programming languages.

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link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Computational model for movement learning under uncertain cost

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

In Abstracts of the Society of Neuroscience Meeting (SFN 2008), Washington, DC 2008, 2008, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
Stochastic optimal control is a framework for computing control commands that lead to an optimal behavior under a given cost. Despite the long history of optimal control in engineering, it has been only recently applied to describe human motion. So far, stochastic optimal control has been mainly used in tasks that are already learned, such as reaching to a target. For learning, however, there are only few cases where optimal control has been applied. The main assumptions of stochastic optimal control that restrict its application to tasks after learning are the a priori knowledge of (1) a quadratic cost function (2) a state space model that captures the kinematics and/or dynamics of musculoskeletal system and (3) a measurement equation that models the proprioceptive and/or exteroceptive feedback. Under these assumptions, a sequence of control gains is computed that is optimal with respect to the prespecified cost function. In our work, we relax the assumption of the a priori known cost function and provide a computational framework for modeling tasks that involve learning. Typically, a cost function consists of two parts: one part that models the task constraints, like squared distance to goal at movement endpoint, and one part that integrates over the squared control commands. In learning a task, the first part of this cost function will be adapted. We use an expectation-maximization scheme for learning: the expectation step optimizes the task constraints through gradient descent of a reward function and the maximizing step optimizes the control commands. Our computational model is tested and compared with data given from a behavioral experiment. In this experiment, subjects sit in front of a drawing tablet and look at a screen onto which the drawing-pen's position is projected. Beginning from a start point, their task is to move with the pen through a target point presented on screen. Visual feedback about the pen's position is given only before movement onset. At the end of a movement, subjects get visual feedback only about the cost of this trial. In the mapping of the pen's position onto the screen, we added a bias (unknown to subject) and Gaussian noise. Therefore the cost is a function of this bias. The subjects were asked to reach to the target and minimize this cost over trials. In this behavioral experiment, subjects could learn the bias and thus showed reinforcement learning. With our computational model, we could model the learning process over trials. Particularly, the dependence on parameters of the reward function (Gaussian width) and the modulation of movement variance over time were similar in experiment and model.

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[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Optimization strategies in human reinforcement learning

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

Advances in Computational Motor Control VII, Symposium at the Society for Neuroscience Meeting, Washington DC, 2008, 2008, clmc (article)

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PDF [BibTex]

PDF [BibTex]