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2018


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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.

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link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]

2018


link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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Leveraging Contact Forces for Learning to Grasp

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

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

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

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video arXiv [BibTex]

video arXiv [BibTex]


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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.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Learning an Approximate Model Predictive Controller with Guarantees

Hertneck, M., Koehler, J., Trimpe, S., Allgöwer, F.

IEEE Control Systems Letters, 2(3):543-548, July 2018 (article)

Abstract
A supervised learning framework is proposed to approximate a model predictive controller (MPC) with reduced computational complexity and guarantees on stability and constraint satisfaction. The framework can be used for a wide class of nonlinear systems. Any standard supervised learning technique (e.g. neural networks) can be employed to approximate the MPC from samples. In order to obtain closed-loop guarantees for the learned MPC, a robust MPC design is combined with statistical learning bounds. The MPC design ensures robustness to inaccurate inputs within given bounds, and Hoeffding’s Inequality is used to validate that the learned MPC satisfies these bounds with high confidence. The result is a closed-loop statistical guarantee on stability and constraint satisfaction for the learned MPC. The proposed learning-based MPC framework is illustrated on a nonlinear benchmark problem, for which we learn a neural network controller with guarantees.

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arXiv PDF DOI [BibTex]

arXiv PDF DOI [BibTex]


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Robust Physics-based Motion Retargeting with Realistic Body Shapes

Borno, M. A., Righetti, L., Black, M. J., Delp, S. L., Fiume, E., Romero, J.

Computer Graphics Forum, 37, pages: 6:1-12, July 2018 (article)

Abstract
Motion capture is often retargeted to new, and sometimes drastically different, characters. When the characters take on realistic human shapes, however, we become more sensitive to the motion looking right. This means adapting it to be consistent with the physical constraints imposed by different body shapes. We show how to take realistic 3D human shapes, approximate them using a simplified representation, and animate them so that they move realistically using physically-based retargeting. We develop a novel spacetime optimization approach that learns and robustly adapts physical controllers to new bodies and constraints. The approach automatically adapts the motion of the mocap subject to the body shape of a target subject. This motion respects the physical properties of the new body and every body shape results in a different and appropriate movement. This makes it easy to create a varied set of motions from a single mocap sequence by simply varying the characters. In an interactive environment, successful retargeting requires adapting the motion to unexpected external forces. We achieve robustness to such forces using a novel LQR-tree formulation. We show that the simulated motions look appropriate to each character’s anatomy and their actions are robust to perturbations.

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pdf video Project Page Project Page [BibTex]

pdf video Project Page 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.

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [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.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [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)

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


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Distributed Event-Based State Estimation for Networked Systems: An LMI Approach

Muehlebach, M., Trimpe, S.

IEEE Transactions on Automatic Control, 63(1):269-276, January 2018 (article)

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arXiv (extended version) DOI Project Page [BibTex]

arXiv (extended version) DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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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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Learning a Structured Neural Network Policy for a Hopping Task.

Viereck, J., Kozolinsky, J., Herzog, A., Righetti, L.

IEEE Robotics and Automation Letters, 3(4):4092-4099, October 2018 (article)

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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The Impact of Robotics and Automation on Working Conditions and Employment [Ethical, Legal, and Societal Issues]

Pham, Q., Madhavan, R., Righetti, L., Smart, W., Chatila, R.

IEEE Robotics and Automation Magazine, 25(2):126-128, June 2018 (article)

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Lethal Autonomous Weapon Systems [Ethical, Legal, and Societal Issues]

Righetti, L., Pham, Q., Madhavan, R., Chatila, R.

IEEE Robotics \& Automation Magazine, 25(1):123-126, March 2018 (article)

Abstract
The topic of lethal autonomous weapon systems has recently caught public attention due to extensive news coverage and apocalyptic declarations from famous scientists and technologists. Weapon systems with increasing autonomy are being developed due to fast improvements in machine learning, robotics, and automation in general. These developments raise important and complex security, legal, ethical, societal, and technological issues that are being extensively discussed by scholars, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), militaries, governments, and the international community. Unfortunately, the robotics community has stayed out of the debate, for the most part, despite being the main provider of autonomous technologies. In this column, we review the main issues raised by the increase of autonomy in weapon systems and the state of the international discussion. We argue that the robotics community has a fundamental role to play in these discussions, for its own sake, to provide the often-missing technical expertise necessary to frame the debate and promote technological development in line with the IEEE Robotics and Automation Society (RAS) objective of advancing technology to benefit humanity.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

2006


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Dynamic Hebbian learning in adaptive frequency oscillators

Righetti, L., Buchli, J., Ijspeert, A.

Physica D: Nonlinear Phenomena, 216(2):269-281, 2006 (article)

Abstract
Nonlinear oscillators are widely used in biology, physics and engineering for modeling and control. They are interesting because of their synchronization properties when coupled to other dynamical systems. In this paper, we propose a learning rule for oscillators which adapts their frequency to the frequency of any periodic or pseudo-periodic input signal. Learning is done in a dynamic way: it is part of the dynamical system and not an offline process. An interesting property of our model is that it is easily generalizable to a large class of oscillators, from phase oscillators to relaxation oscillators and strange attractors with a generic learning rule. One major feature of our learning rule is that the oscillators constructed can adapt their frequency without any signal processing or the need to specify a time window or similar free parameters. All the processing is embedded in the dynamics of the adaptive oscillator. The convergence of the learning is proved for the Hopf oscillator, then numerical experiments are carried out to explore the learning capabilities of the system. Finally, we generalize the learning rule to non-harmonic oscillators like relaxation oscillators and strange attractors.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

2006


link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Engineering Entrainment and Adaptation in Limit Cycle Systems – From biological inspiration to applications in robotics

Buchli, J., Righetti, L., Ijspeert, A.

Biological Cybernetics, 95(6):645-664, December 2006 (article)

Abstract
Periodic behavior is key to life and is observed in multiple instances and at multiple time scales in our metabolism, our natural environment, and our engineered environment. A natural way of modeling or generating periodic behavior is done by using oscillators, i.e., dynamical systems that exhibit limit cycle behavior. While there is extensive literature on methods to analyze such dynamical systems, much less work has been done on methods to synthesize an oscillator to exhibit some specific desired characteristics. The goal of this article is twofold: (1) to provide a framework for characterizing and designing oscillators and (2) to review how classes of well-known oscillators can be understood and related to this framework. The basis of the framework is to characterize oscillators in terms of their fundamental temporal and spatial behavior and in terms of properties that these two behaviors can be designed to exhibit. This focus on fundamental properties is important because it allows us to systematically compare a large variety of oscillators that might at first sight appear very different from each other. We identify several specifications that are useful for design, such as frequency-locking behavior, phase-locking behavior, and specific output signal shape. We also identify two classes of design methods by which these specifications can be met, namely offline methods and online methods. By relating these specifications to our framework and by presenting several examples of how oscillators have been designed in the literature, this article provides a useful methodology and toolbox for designing oscillators for a wide range of purposes. In particular, the focus on synthesis of limit cycle dynamical systems should be useful both for engineering and for computational modeling of physical or biological phenomena.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]