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2020


Physical Variables Underlying Tactile Stickiness during Fingerpad Detachment
Physical Variables Underlying Tactile Stickiness during Fingerpad Detachment

Nam, S., Vardar, Y., Gueorguiev, D., Kuchenbecker, K. J.

Frontiers in Neuroscience, 14(235):1-14, April 2020 (article)

Abstract
One may notice a relatively wide range of tactile sensations even when touching the same hard, flat surface in similar ways. Little is known about the reasons for this variability, so we decided to investigate how the perceptual intensity of light stickiness relates to the physical interaction between the skin and the surface. We conducted a psychophysical experiment in which nine participants actively pressed their finger on a flat glass plate with a normal force close to 1.5 N and detached it after a few seconds. A custom-designed apparatus recorded the contact force vector and the finger contact area during each interaction as well as pre- and post-trial finger moisture. After detaching their finger, participants judged the stickiness of the glass using a nine-point scale. We explored how sixteen physical variables derived from the recorded data correlate with each other and with the stickiness judgments of each participant. These analyses indicate that stickiness perception mainly depends on the pre-detachment pressing duration, the time taken for the finger to detach, and the impulse in the normal direction after the normal force changes sign; finger-surface adhesion seems to build with pressing time, causing a larger normal impulse during detachment and thus a more intense stickiness sensation. We additionally found a strong between-subjects correlation between maximum real contact area and peak pull-off force, as well as between finger moisture and impulse.

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link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]


Learning to Predict Perceptual Distributions of Haptic Adjectives
Learning to Predict Perceptual Distributions of Haptic Adjectives

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

Frontiers in Neurorobotics, 13(116):1-16, Febuary 2020 (article)

Abstract
When humans touch an object with their fingertips, they can immediately describe its tactile properties using haptic adjectives, such as hardness and roughness; however, human perception is subjective and noisy, with significant variation across individuals and interactions. Recent research has worked to provide robots with similar haptic intelligence but was focused on identifying binary haptic adjectives, ignoring both attribute intensity and perceptual variability. Combining ordinal haptic adjective labels gathered from human subjects for a set of 60 objects with features automatically extracted from raw multi-modal tactile data collected by a robot repeatedly touching the same objects, we designed a machine-learning method that incorporates partial knowledge of the distribution of object labels into training; then, from a single interaction, it predicts a probability distribution over the set of ordinal labels. In addition to analyzing the collected labels (10 basic haptic adjectives) and demonstrating the quality of our method's predictions, we hold out specific features to determine the influence of individual sensor modalities on the predictive performance for each adjective. Our results demonstrate the feasibility of modeling both the intensity and the variation of haptic perception, two crucial yet previously neglected components of human haptic perception.

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DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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Exercising with Baxter: Preliminary Support for Assistive Social-Physical Human-Robot Interaction

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

Journal of NeuroEngineering and Rehabilitation, 17(19), Febuary 2020 (article)

Abstract
Background: The worldwide population of older adults will soon exceed the capacity of assisted living facilities. Accordingly, we aim to understand whether appropriately designed robots could help older adults stay active at home. Methods: Building on related literature as well as guidance from experts in game design, rehabilitation, and physical and occupational therapy, we developed eight human-robot exercise games for the Baxter Research Robot, six of which involve physical human-robot contact. After extensive iteration, these games were tested in an exploratory user study including 20 younger adult and 20 older adult users. Results: Only socially and physically interactive games fell in the highest ranges for pleasantness, enjoyment, engagement, cognitive challenge, and energy level. Our games successfully spanned three different physical, cognitive, and temporal challenge levels. User trust and confidence in Baxter increased significantly between pre- and post-study assessments. Older adults experienced higher exercise, energy, and engagement levels than younger adults, and women rated the robot more highly than men on several survey questions. Conclusions: The results indicate that social-physical exercise with a robot is more pleasant, enjoyable, engaging, cognitively challenging, and energetic than similar interactions that lack physical touch. In addition to this main finding, researchers working in similar areas can build on our design practices, our open-source resources, and the age-group and gender differences that we found.

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DOI Project Page [BibTex]

DOI Project Page [BibTex]


Safe and Fast Tracking on a Robot Manipulator: Robust MPC and Neural Network Control
Safe and Fast Tracking on a Robot Manipulator: Robust MPC and Neural Network Control

Nubert, J., Koehler, J., Berenz, V., Allgower, F., Trimpe, S.

IEEE Robotics and Automation Letters, 2020 (article) Accepted

Abstract
Fast feedback control and safety guarantees are essential in modern robotics. We present an approach that achieves both by combining novel robust model predictive control (MPC) with function approximation via (deep) neural networks (NNs). The result is a new approach for complex tasks with nonlinear, uncertain, and constrained dynamics as are common in robotics. Specifically, we leverage recent results in MPC research to propose a new robust setpoint tracking MPC algorithm, which achieves reliable and safe tracking of a dynamic setpoint while guaranteeing stability and constraint satisfaction. The presented robust MPC scheme constitutes a one-layer approach that unifies the often separated planning and control layers, by directly computing the control command based on a reference and possibly obstacle positions. As a separate contribution, we show how the computation time of the MPC can be drastically reduced by approximating the MPC law with a NN controller. The NN is trained and validated from offline samples of the MPC, yielding statistical guarantees, and used in lieu thereof at run time. Our experiments on a state-of-the-art robot manipulator are the first to show that both the proposed robust and approximate MPC schemes scale to real-world robotic systems.

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arXiv PDF DOI [BibTex]

arXiv PDF DOI [BibTex]

2007


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Relative Entropy Policy Search

Peters, J.

CLMC Technical Report: TR-CLMC-2007-2, Computational Learning and Motor Control Lab, Los Angeles, CA, 2007, clmc (techreport)

Abstract
This technical report describes a cute idea of how to create new policy search approaches. It directly relates to the Natural Actor-Critic methods but allows the derivation of one shot solutions. Future work may include the application to interesting problems.

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PDF link (url) [BibTex]

2007


PDF link (url) [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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Learning an Outlier-Robust Kalman Filter

Ting, J., Theodorou, E., Schaal, S.

CLMC Technical Report: TR-CLMC-2007-1, Los Angeles, CA, 2007, clmc (techreport)

Abstract
We introduce a modified Kalman filter that performs robust, real-time outlier detection, without the need for manual parameter tuning by the user. Systems that rely on high quality sensory data (for instance, robotic systems) can be sensitive to data containing outliers. The standard Kalman filter is not robust to outliers, and other variations of the Kalman filter have been proposed to overcome this issue. However, these methods may require manual parameter tuning, use of heuristics or complicated parameter estimation procedures. Our Kalman filter uses a weighted least squares-like approach by introducing weights for each data sample. A data sample with a smaller weight has a weaker contribution when estimating the current time step?s state. Using an incremental variational Expectation-Maximization framework, we learn the weights and system dynamics. We evaluate our Kalman filter algorithm on data from a robotic dog.

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PDF [BibTex]

PDF [BibTex]

2006


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Statistical Learning of LQG controllers

Theodorou, E.

Technical Report-2006-1, Computational Action and Vision Lab University of Minnesota, 2006, clmc (techreport)

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PDF [BibTex]

2006


PDF [BibTex]

2004


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Discovering optimal imitation strategies

Billard, A., Epars, Y., Calinon, S., Cheng, G., Schaal, S.

Robotics and Autonomous Systems, 47(2-3):68-77, 2004, clmc (article)

Abstract
This paper develops a general policy for learning relevant features of an imitation task. We restrict our study to imitation of manipulative tasks or of gestures. The imitation process is modeled as a hierarchical optimization system, which minimizes the discrepancy between two multi-dimensional datasets. To classify across manipulation strategies, we apply a probabilistic analysis to data in Cartesian and joint spaces. We determine a general metric that optimizes the policy of task reproduction, following strategy determination. The model successfully discovers strategies in six different imitative tasks and controls task reproduction by a full body humanoid robot.

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[BibTex]

2004


[BibTex]


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Rhythmic movement is not discrete

Schaal, S., Sternad, D., Osu, R., Kawato, M.

Nature Neuroscience, 7(10):1137-1144, 2004, clmc (article)

Abstract
Rhythmic movements, like walking, chewing, or scratching, are phylogenetically old mo-tor behaviors found in many organisms, ranging from insects to primates. In contrast, discrete movements, like reaching, grasping, or kicking, are behaviors that have reached sophistication primarily in younger species, particularly in primates. Neurophysiological and computational research on arm motor control has focused almost exclusively on dis-crete movements, essentially assuming similar neural circuitry for rhythmic tasks. In con-trast, many behavioral studies focused on rhythmic models, subsuming discrete move-ment as a special case. Here, using a human functional neuroimaging experiment, we show that in addition to areas activated in rhythmic movement, discrete movement in-volves several higher cortical planning areas, despite both movement conditions were confined to the same single wrist joint. These results provide the first neuroscientific evi-dence that rhythmic arm movement cannot be part of a more general discrete movement system, and may require separate neurophysiological and theoretical treatment.

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link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Learning from demonstration and adaptation of biped locomotion

Nakanishi, J., Morimoto, J., Endo, G., Cheng, G., Schaal, S., Kawato, M.

Robotics and Autonomous Systems, 47(2-3):79-91, 2004, clmc (article)

Abstract
In this paper, we introduce a framework for learning biped locomotion using dynamical movement primitives based on non-linear oscillators. Our ultimate goal is to establish a design principle of a controller in order to achieve natural human-like locomotion. We suggest dynamical movement primitives as a central pattern generator (CPG) of a biped robot, an approach we have previously proposed for learning and encoding complex human movements. Demonstrated trajectories are learned through movement primitives by locally weighted regression, and the frequency of the learned trajectories is adjusted automatically by a novel frequency adaptation algorithmbased on phase resetting and entrainment of coupled oscillators. Numerical simulations and experimental implementation on a physical robot demonstrate the effectiveness of the proposed locomotioncontroller.

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link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Towards Tractable Parameter-Free Statistical Learning (Phd Thesis)

D’Souza, A

Department of Computer Science, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, 2004, clmc (phdthesis)

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link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Feedback error learning and nonlinear adaptive control

Nakanishi, J., Schaal, S.

Neural Networks, 17(10):1453-1465, 2004, clmc (article)

Abstract
In this paper, we present our theoretical investigations of the technique of feedback error learning (FEL) from the viewpoint of adaptive control. We first discuss the relationship between FEL and nonlinear adaptive control with adaptive feedback linearization, and show that FEL can be interpreted as a form of nonlinear adaptive control. Second, we present a Lyapunov analysis suggesting that the condition of strictly positive realness (SPR) associated with the tracking error dynamics is a sufficient condition for asymptotic stability of the closed-loop dynamics. Specifically, for a class of second order SISO systems, we show that this condition reduces to KD^2 > KP; where KP and KD are positive position and velocity feedback gains, respectively. Moreover, we provide a ÔpassivityÕ-based stability analysis which suggests that SPR of the tracking error dynamics is a necessary and sufficient condition for asymptotic hyperstability. Thus, the condition KD^2>KP mentioned above is not only a sufficient but also necessary condition to guarantee asymptotic hyperstability of FEL, i.e. the tracking error is bounded and asymptotically converges to zero. As a further point, we explore the adaptive control and FEL framework for feedforward control formulations, and derive an additional sufficient condition for asymptotic stability in the sense of Lyapunov. Finally, we present numerical simulations to illustrate the stability properties of FEL obtained from our mathematical analysis.

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link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]

1997


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Locally weighted learning

Atkeson, C. G., Moore, A. W., Schaal, S.

Artificial Intelligence Review, 11(1-5):11-73, 1997, clmc (article)

Abstract
This paper surveys locally weighted learning, a form of lazy learning and memory-based learning, and focuses on locally weighted linear regression. The survey discusses distance functions, smoothing parameters, weighting functions, local model structures, regularization of the estimates and bias, assessing predictions, handling noisy data and outliers, improving the quality of predictions by tuning fit parameters, interference between old and new data, implementing locally weighted learning efficiently, and applications of locally weighted learning. A companion paper surveys how locally weighted learning can be used in robot learning and control. Keywords: locally weighted regression, LOESS, LWR, lazy learning, memory-based learning, least commitment learning, distance functions, smoothing parameters, weighting functions, global tuning, local tuning, interference.

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link (url) [BibTex]

1997


link (url) [BibTex]


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Locally weighted learning for control

Atkeson, C. G., Moore, A. W., Schaal, S.

Artificial Intelligence Review, 11(1-5):75-113, 1997, clmc (article)

Abstract
Lazy learning methods provide useful representations and training algorithms for learning about complex phenomena during autonomous adaptive control of complex systems. This paper surveys ways in which locally weighted learning, a type of lazy learning, has been applied by us to control tasks. We explain various forms that control tasks can take, and how this affects the choice of learning paradigm. The discussion section explores the interesting impact that explicitly remembering all previous experiences has on the problem of learning to control. Keywords: locally weighted regression, LOESS, LWR, lazy learning, memory-based learning, least commitment learning, forward models, inverse models, linear quadratic regulation (LQR), shifting setpoint algorithm, dynamic programming.

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link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]