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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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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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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]

2007


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Point-spread functions for backscattered imaging in the scanning electron microscope

Hennig, P., Denk, W.

Journal of Applied Physics , 102(12):1-8, December 2007 (article)

Abstract
One knows the imaging system's properties are central to the correct interpretation of any image. In a scanning electron microscope regions of different composition generally interact in a highly nonlinear way during signal generation. Using Monte Carlo simulations we found that in resin-embedded, heavy metal-stained biological specimens staining is sufficiently dilute to allow an approximately linear treatment. We then mapped point-spread functions for backscattered-electron contrast, for primary energies of 3 and 7 keV and for different detector specifications. The point-spread functions are surprisingly well confined (both laterally and in depth) compared even to the distribution of only those scattered electrons that leave the sample again.

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Web DOI [BibTex]

2007


Web DOI [BibTex]


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The new robotics - towards human-centered machines

Schaal, S.

HFSP Journal Frontiers of Interdisciplinary Research in the Life Sciences, 1(2):115-126, 2007, clmc (article)

Abstract
Research in robotics has moved away from its primary focus on industrial applications. The New Robotics is a vision that has been developed in past years by our own university and many other national and international research instiutions and addresses how increasingly more human-like robots can live among us and take over tasks where our current society has shortcomings. Elder care, physical therapy, child education, search and rescue, and general assistance in daily life situations are some of the examples that will benefit from the New Robotics in the near future. With these goals in mind, research for the New Robotics has to embrace a broad interdisciplinary approach, ranging from traditional mathematical issues of robotics to novel issues in psychology, neuroscience, and ethics. This paper outlines some of the important research problems that will need to be resolved to make the New Robotics a reality.

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link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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iCub - The Design and Realization of an Open Humanoid Platform for Cognitive and Neuroscience Research

Tsagarakis, N., Metta, G., Sandini, G., Vernon, D., Beira, R., Becchi, F., Righetti, L., Santos-Victor, J., Ijspeert, A., Carrozza, M., Caldwell, D.

Advanced Robotics, 21(10):1151-1175, 2007 (article)

Abstract
The development of robotic cognition and the advancement of understanding of human cognition form two of the current greatest challenges in robotics and neuroscience, respectively. The RobotCub project aims to develop an embodied robotic child (iCub) with the physical (height 90 cm and mass less than 23 kg) and ultimately cognitive abilities of a 2.5-year-old human child. The iCub will be a freely available open system which can be used by scientists in all cognate disciplines from developmental psychology to epigenetic robotics to enhance understanding of cognitive systems through the study of cognitive development. The iCub will be open both in software, but more importantly in all aspects of the hardware and mechanical design. In this paper the design of the mechanisms and structures forming the basic 'body' of the iCub are described. The papers considers kinematic structures dynamic design criteria, actuator specification and selection, and detailed mechanical and electronic design. The paper concludes with tests of the performance of sample joints, and comparison of these results with the design requirements and simulation projects.

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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]