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2019


Life Improvement Science: A Manifesto
Life Improvement Science: A Manifesto

Lieder, F.

December 2019 (article) In revision

Abstract
Rapid technological advances present unprecedented opportunities for helping people thrive. This manifesto presents a road map for establishing a solid scientific foundation upon which those opportunities can be realized. It highlights fundamental open questions about the cognitive underpinnings of effective living and how they can be improved, supported, and augmented. These questions are at the core of my proposal for a new transdisciplinary research area called life improvement science. Recent advances have made these questions amenable to scientific rigor, and emerging approaches are paving the way towards practical strategies, clever interventions, and (intelligent) apps for empowering people to reach unprecedented levels of personal effectiveness and wellbeing.

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Life improvement science: a manifesto DOI [BibTex]


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Doing More with Less: Meta-Reasoning and Meta-Learning in Humans and Machines

Griffiths, T. L., Callaway, F., Chang, M. B., Grant, E., Krueger, P. M., Lieder, F.

Current Opinion in Behavioral Sciences, 29, pages: 24-30, October 2019 (article)

Abstract
Artificial intelligence systems use an increasing amount of computation and data to solve very specific problems. By contrast, human minds solve a wide range of problems using a fixed amount of computation and limited experience. We identify two abilities that we see as crucial to this kind of general intelligence: meta-reasoning (deciding how to allocate computational resources) and meta-learning (modeling the learning environment to make better use of limited data). We summarize the relevant AI literature and relate the resulting ideas to recent work in psychology.

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


Series Elastic Behavior of Biarticular Muscle-Tendon Structure in a Robotic Leg
Series Elastic Behavior of Biarticular Muscle-Tendon Structure in a Robotic Leg

Ruppert, F., Badri-Spröwitz, A.

Frontiers in Neurorobotics, 64, pages: 13, 13, August 2019 (article)

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Frontiers YouTube link (url) DOI [BibTex]

Frontiers YouTube link (url) DOI [BibTex]


Beyond Basins of Attraction: Quantifying Robustness of Natural Dynamics
Beyond Basins of Attraction: Quantifying Robustness of Natural Dynamics

Steve Heim, , Spröwitz, A.

IEEE Transactions on Robotics (T-RO) , 35(4), pages: 939-952, August 2019 (article)

Abstract
Properly designing a system to exhibit favorable natural dynamics can greatly simplify designing or learning the control policy. However, it is still unclear what constitutes favorable natural dynamics and how to quantify its effect. Most studies of simple walking and running models have focused on the basins of attraction of passive limit cycles and the notion of self-stability. We instead emphasize the importance of stepping beyond basins of attraction. In this paper, we show an approach based on viability theory to quantify robust sets in state-action space. These sets are valid for the family of all robust control policies, which allows us to quantify the robustness inherent to the natural dynamics before designing the control policy or specifying a control objective. We illustrate our formulation using spring-mass models, simple low-dimensional models of running systems. We then show an example application by optimizing robustness of a simulated planar monoped, using a gradient-free optimization scheme. Both case studies result in a nonlinear effective stiffness providing more robustness.

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arXiv preprint arXiv:1806.08081 T-RO link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]

arXiv preprint arXiv:1806.08081 T-RO link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]


Cognitive Prostheses for Goal Achievement
Cognitive Prostheses for Goal Achievement

Lieder, F., Chen, O. X., Krueger, P. M., Griffiths, T. L.

Nature Human Behavior, 3, August 2019 (article)

Abstract
Procrastination and impulsivity take a significant toll on people’s lives and the economy at large. Both can result from the misalignment of an action's proximal rewards with its long-term value. Therefore, aligning immediate reward with long-term value could be a way to help people overcome motivational barriers and make better decisions. Previous research has shown that game elements, such as points, levels, and badges, can be used to motivate people and nudge their decisions on serious matters. Here, we develop a new approach to decision support that leveragesartificial intelligence and game elements to restructure challenging sequential decision problems in such a way that it becomes easier for people to take the right course of action. A series of four increasingly more realistic experiments suggests that this approach can enable people to make better decisions faster, procrastinate less, complete their work on time, and waste less time on unimportant tasks. These findings suggest that our method is a promising step towards developing cognitive prostheses that help people achieve their goals by enhancing their motivation and decision-making in everyday life.

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


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Resource-rational analysis: Understanding human cognition as the optimal use of limited computational resources

Lieder, F., Griffiths, T. L.

Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 43, E1, Febuary 2019 (article)

Abstract
Modeling human cognition is challenging because there are infinitely many mechanisms that can generate any given observation. Some researchers address this by constraining the hypothesis space through assumptions about what the human mind can and cannot do, while others constrain it through principles of rationality and adaptation. Recent work in economics, psychology, neuroscience, and linguistics has begun to integrate both approaches by augmenting rational models with cognitive constraints, incorporating rational principles into cognitive architectures, and applying optimality principles to understanding neural representations. We identify the rational use of limited resources as a unifying principle underlying these diverse approaches, expressing it in a new cognitive modeling paradigm called resource-rational analysis. The integration of rational principles with realistic cognitive constraints makes resource-rational analysis a promising framework for reverse-engineering cognitive mechanisms and representations. It has already shed new light on the debate about human rationality and can be leveraged to revisit classic questions of cognitive psychology within a principled computational framework. We demonstrate that resource-rational models can reconcile the mind's most impressive cognitive skills with people's ostensive irrationality. Resource-rational analysis also provides a new way to connect psychological theory more deeply with artificial intelligence, economics, neuroscience, and linguistics.

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


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A Robustness Analysis of Inverse Optimal Control of Bipedal Walking

Rebula, J. R., Schaal, S., Finley, J., Righetti, L.

IEEE Robotics and Automation Letters, 4(4):4531-4538, 2019 (article)

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


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Statistical Coverage Control of Mobile Sensor Networks

Arslan, Ö.

IEEE Transactions on Robotics, 35(4):889-908, 2019 (article)

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


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Rigid vs compliant contact: an experimental study on biped walking

Khadiv, M., Moosavian, S. A. A., Yousefi-Koma, A., Sadedel, M., Ehsani-Seresht, A., Mansouri, S.

Multibody System Dynamics, 45(4):379-401, 2019 (article)

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


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Birch tar production does not prove Neanderthal behavioral complexity

Schmidt, P., Blessing, M., Rageot, M., Iovita, R., Pfleging, J., Nickel, K. G., Righetti, L., Tennie, C.

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), 116(36):17707-17711, 2019 (article)

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


A Rational Reinterpretation of Dual Process Theories
A Rational Reinterpretation of Dual Process Theories

Milli, S., Lieder, F., Griffiths, T. L.

2019 (article)

Abstract
Highly influential "dual-process" accounts of human cognition postulate the coexistence of a slow accurate system with a fast error-prone system. But why would there be just two systems rather than, say, one or 93? Here, we argue that a dual-process architecture might be neither arbitrary nor irrational, but might instead reflect a rational tradeoff between the cognitive flexibility afforded by multiple systems and the time and effort required to choose between them. We investigate what the optimal set and number of cognitive systems would be depending on the structure of the environment. We find that the optimal number of systems depends on the variability of the environment and the difficulty of deciding when which system should be used. Furthermore, when having two systems is optimal, then the first system is fast but error-prone and the second system is slow but accurate. Our findings thereby provide a rational reinterpretation of dual-process theories.

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]

2013


3-D Object Reconstruction of Symmetric Objects by Fusing Visual and Tactile Sensing
3-D Object Reconstruction of Symmetric Objects by Fusing Visual and Tactile Sensing

Illonen, J., Bohg, J., Kyrki, V.

The International Journal of Robotics Research, 33(2):321-341, Sage, October 2013 (article)

Abstract
In this work, we propose to reconstruct a complete 3-D model of an unknown object by fusion of visual and tactile information while the object is grasped. Assuming the object is symmetric, a first hypothesis of its complete 3-D shape is generated. A grasp is executed on the object with a robotic manipulator equipped with tactile sensors. Given the detected contacts between the fingers and the object, the initial full object model including the symmetry parameters can be refined. This refined model will then allow the planning of more complex manipulation tasks. The main contribution of this work is an optimal estimation approach for the fusion of visual and tactile data applying the constraint of object symmetry. The fusion is formulated as a state estimation problem and solved with an iterative extended Kalman filter. The approach is validated experimentally using both artificial and real data from two different robotic platforms.

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Web DOI Project Page [BibTex]

2013


Web DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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Optimal control of reaching includes kinematic constraints

Mistry, M., Theodorou, E., Schaal, S., Kawato, M.

Journal of Neurophysiology, 2013, clmc (article)

Abstract
We investigate adaptation under a reaching task with an acceleration-based force field perturbation designed to alter the nominal straight hand trajectory in a potentially benign manner:pushing the hand of course in one direction before subsequently restoring towards the target. In this particular task, an explicit strategy to reduce motor effort requires a distinct deviation from the nominal rectilinear hand trajectory. Rather, our results display a clear directional preference during learning, as subjects adapted perturbed curved trajectories towards their initial baselines. We model this behavior using the framework of stochastic optimal control theory and an objective function that trades-of the discordant requirements of 1) target accuracy, 2) motor effort, and 3) desired trajectory. Our work addresses the underlying objective of a reaching movement, and we suggest that robustness, particularly against internal model uncertainly, is as essential to the reaching task as terminal accuracy and energy effciency.

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PDF [BibTex]

PDF [BibTex]


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Dynamical Movement Primitives: Learning Attractor Models for Motor Behaviors

Ijspeert, A., Nakanishi, J., Pastor, P., Hoffmann, H., Schaal, S.

Neural Computation, (25):328-373, 2013, clmc (article)

Abstract
Nonlinear dynamical systems have been used in many disciplines to model complex behaviors, including biological motor control, robotics, perception, economics, traffic prediction, and neuroscience. While often the unexpected emergent behavior of nonlinear systems is the focus of investigations, it is of equal importance to create goal-directed behavior (e.g., stable locomotion from a system of coupled oscillators under perceptual guidance). Modeling goal-directed behavior with nonlinear systems is, however, rather difficult due to the parameter sensitivity of these systems, their complex phase transitions in response to subtle parameter changes, and the difficulty of analyzing and predicting their long-term behavior; intuition and time-consuming parameter tuning play a major role. This letter presents and reviews dynamical movement primitives, a line of research for modeling attractor behaviors of autonomous nonlinear dynamical systems with the help of statistical learning techniques. The essence of our approach is to start with a simple dynamical system, such as a set of linear differential equations, and transform those into a weakly nonlinear system with prescribed attractor dynamics by meansof a learnable autonomous forcing term. Both point attractors and limit cycle attractors of almost arbitrary complexity can be generated. We explain the design principle of our approach and evaluate its properties in several example applications in motor control and robotics.

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link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Optimal distribution of contact forces with inverse-dynamics control

Righetti, L., Buchli, J., Mistry, M., Kalakrishnan, M., Schaal, S.

The International Journal of Robotics Research, 32(3):280-298, March 2013 (article)

Abstract
The development of legged robots for complex environments requires controllers that guarantee both high tracking performance and compliance with the environment. More specifically the control of the contact interaction with the environment is of crucial importance to ensure stable, robust and safe motions. In this contribution we develop an inverse-dynamics controller for floating-base robots under contact constraints that can minimize any combination of linear and quadratic costs in the contact constraints and the commands. Our main result is the exact analytical derivation of the controller. Such a result is particularly relevant for legged robots as it allows us to use torque redundancy to directly optimize contact interactions. For example, given a desired locomotion behavior, we can guarantee the minimization of contact forces to reduce slipping on difficult terrains while ensuring high tracking performance of the desired motion. The main advantages of the controller are its simplicity, computational efficiency and robustness to model inaccuracies. We present detailed experimental results on simulated humanoid and quadruped robots as well as a real quadruped robot. The experiments demonstrate that the controller can greatly improve the robustness of locomotion of the robots.1

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Controlled Reduction with Unactuated Cyclic Variables: Application to 3D Bipedal Walking with Passive Yaw Rotation

Gregg, R., Righetti, L.

IEEE Transactions on Automatic Control, 58(10):2679-2685, October 2013 (article)

Abstract
This technical note shows that viscous damping can shape momentum conservation laws in a manner that stabilizes yaw rotation and enables steering for underactuated 3D walking. We first show that unactuated cyclic variables can be controlled by passively shaped conservation laws given a stabilizing controller in the actuated coordinates. We then exploit this result to realize controlled geometric reduction with multiple unactuated cyclic variables. We apply this underactuated control strategy to a five-link 3D biped to produce exponentially stable straight-ahead walking and steering in the presence of passive yawing.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

2011


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

Kalakrishnan, Mrinal, Buchli, Jonas, Pastor, Peter, Mistry, Michael, Schaal, S.

International Journal of Robotics Research, 30(2):236-258, February 2011 (article)

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[BibTex]

2011


[BibTex]


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Bayesian robot system identification with input and output noise

Ting, J., D’Souza, A., Schaal, S.

Neural Networks, 24(1):99-108, 2011, clmc (article)

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

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link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Learning variable impedance control

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

International Journal of Robotics Research, 2011, clmc (article)

Abstract
One of the hallmarks of the performance, versatility, and robustness of biological motor control is the ability to adapt the impedance of the overall biomechanical system to different task requirements and stochastic disturbances. A transfer of this principle to robotics is desirable, for instance to enable robots to work robustly and safely in everyday human environments. It is, however, not trivial to derive variable impedance controllers for practical high degree-of-freedom (DOF) robotic tasks. In this contribution, we accomplish such variable impedance control with the reinforcement learning (RL) algorithm PISq ({f P}olicy {f I}mprovement with {f P}ath {f I}ntegrals). PISq is a model-free, sampling based learning method derived from first principles of stochastic optimal control. The PISq algorithm requires no tuning of algorithmic parameters besides the exploration noise. The designer can thus fully focus on cost function design to specify the task. From the viewpoint of robotics, a particular useful property of PISq is that it can scale to problems of many DOFs, so that reinforcement learning on real robotic systems becomes feasible. We sketch the PISq algorithm and its theoretical properties, and how it is applied to gain scheduling for variable impedance control. We evaluate our approach by presenting results on several simulated and real robots. We consider tasks involving accurate tracking through via-points, and manipulation tasks requiring physical contact with the environment. In these tasks, the optimal strategy requires both tuning of a reference trajectory emph{and} the impedance of the end-effector. The results show that we can use path integral based reinforcement learning not only for planning but also to derive variable gain feedback controllers in realistic scenarios. Thus, the power of variable impedance control is made available to a wide variety of robotic systems and practical applications.

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link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Toward simple control for complex, autonomous robotic applications: combining discrete and rhythmic motor primitives

Degallier, S., Righetti, L., Gay, S., Ijspeert, A.

Autonomous Robots, 31(2-3):155-181, October 2011 (article)

Abstract
Vertebrates are able to quickly adapt to new environments in a very robust, seemingly effortless way. To explain both this adaptivity and robustness, a very promising perspective in neurosciences is the modular approach to movement generation: Movements results from combinations of a finite set of stable motor primitives organized at the spinal level. In this article we apply this concept of modular generation of movements to the control of robots with a high number of degrees of freedom, an issue that is challenging notably because planning complex, multidimensional trajectories in time-varying environments is a laborious and costly process. We thus propose to decrease the complexity of the planning phase through the use of a combination of discrete and rhythmic motor primitives, leading to the decoupling of the planning phase (i.e. the choice of behavior) and the actual trajectory generation. Such implementation eases the control of, and the switch between, different behaviors by reducing the dimensionality of the high-level commands. Moreover, since the motor primitives are generated by dynamical systems, the trajectories can be smoothly modulated, either by high-level commands to change the current behavior or by sensory feedback information to adapt to environmental constraints. In order to show the generality of our approach, we apply the framework to interactive drumming and infant crawling in a humanoid robot. These experiments illustrate the simplicity of the control architecture in terms of planning, the integration of different types of feedback (vision and contact) and the capacity of autonomously switching between different behaviors (crawling and simple reaching).

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Understanding haptics by evolving mechatronic systems

Loeb, G. E., Tsianos, G.A., Fishel, J.A., Wettels, N., Schaal, S.

Progress in Brain Research, 192, pages: 129, 2011 (article)

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[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Intelligent Mobility—Autonomous Outdoor Robotics at the DFKI

Joyeux, S., Schwendner, J., Kirchner, F., Babu, A., Grimminger, F., Machowinski, J., Paranhos, P., Gaudig, C.

KI, 25(2):133-139, May 2011 (article)

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]

1998


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Constructive incremental learning from only local information

Schaal, S., Atkeson, C. G.

Neural Computation, 10(8):2047-2084, 1998, clmc (article)

Abstract
We introduce a constructive, incremental learning system for regression problems that models data by means of spatially localized linear models. In contrast to other approaches, the size and shape of the receptive field of each locally linear model as well as the parameters of the locally linear model itself are learned independently, i.e., without the need for competition or any other kind of communication. Independent learning is accomplished by incrementally minimizing a weighted local cross validation error. As a result, we obtain a learning system that can allocate resources as needed while dealing with the bias-variance dilemma in a principled way. The spatial localization of the linear models increases robustness towards negative interference. Our learning system can be interpreted as a nonparametric adaptive bandwidth smoother, as a mixture of experts where the experts are trained in isolation, and as a learning system which profits from combining independent expert knowledge on the same problem. This paper illustrates the potential learning capabilities of purely local learning and offers an interesting and powerful approach to learning with receptive fields. 

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link (url) [BibTex]

1998


link (url) [BibTex]


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Local adaptive subspace regression

Vijayakumar, S., Schaal, S.

Neural Processing Letters, 7(3):139-149, 1998, clmc (article)

Abstract
Incremental learning of sensorimotor transformations in high dimensional spaces is one of the basic prerequisites for the success of autonomous robot devices as well as biological movement systems. So far, due to sparsity of data in high dimensional spaces, learning in such settings requires a significant amount of prior knowledge about the learning task, usually provided by a human expert. In this paper we suggest a partial revision of the view. Based on empirical studies, we observed that, despite being globally high dimensional and sparse, data distributions from physical movement systems are locally low dimensional and dense. Under this assumption, we derive a learning algorithm, Locally Adaptive Subspace Regression, that exploits this property by combining a dynamically growing local dimensionality reduction technique  as a preprocessing step with a nonparametric learning technique, locally weighted regression, that also learns the region of validity of the regression. The usefulness of the algorithm and the validity of its assumptions are illustrated for a synthetic data set, and for data of the inverse dynamics of human arm movements and an actual 7 degree-of-freedom anthropomorphic robot arm. 

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link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]

1995


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Memory-based neural networks for robot learning

Atkeson, C. G., Schaal, S.

Neurocomputing, 9, pages: 1-27, 1995, clmc (article)

Abstract
This paper explores a memory-based approach to robot learning, using memory-based neural networks to learn models of the task to be performed. Steinbuch and Taylor presented neural network designs to explicitly store training data and do nearest neighbor lookup in the early 1960s. In this paper their nearest neighbor network is augmented with a local model network, which fits a local model to a set of nearest neighbors. This network design is equivalent to a statistical approach known as locally weighted regression, in which a local model is formed to answer each query, using a weighted regression in which nearby points (similar experiences) are weighted more than distant points (less relevant experiences). We illustrate this approach by describing how it has been used to enable a robot to learn a difficult juggling task. Keywords: memory-based, robot learning, locally weighted regression, nearest neighbor, local models.

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link (url) [BibTex]

1995


link (url) [BibTex]

1994


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Robot juggling: An implementation of memory-based learning

Schaal, S., Atkeson, C. G.

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

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

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link (url) [BibTex]

1994


link (url) [BibTex]

1993


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Design concurrent calculation: A CAD- and data-integrated approach

Schaal, S., Ehrlenspiel, K.

Journal of Engineering Design, 4, pages: 71-85, 1993, clmc (article)

Abstract
Besides functional regards, product design demands increasingly more for further reaching considerations. Quality alone cannot suffice anymore to compete in the market; design for manufacturability, for assembly, for recycling, etc., are well-known keywords. Those can largely be reduced to the necessity of design for costs. This paper focuses on a CAD-based approach to design concurrent calculation. It will discuss how, in the meantime well-established, tools like feature technology, knowledge-based systems, and relational databases can be blended into one coherent concept to achieve an entirely CAD- and data-integrated cost information tool. This system is able to extract data from the CAD-system, combine it with data about the company specific manufacturing environment, and subsequently autonomously evaluate manufacturability aspects and costs of the given CAD-model. Within minutes the designer gets quantitative in-formation about the major cost sources of his/her design. Additionally, some alternative methods for approximating manu-facturing times from empirical data, namely neural networks and local weighted regression, are introduced.

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[BibTex]

1993


[BibTex]