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2019


Learning to Explore in Motion and Interaction Tasks
Learning to Explore in Motion and Interaction Tasks

Bogdanovic, M., Righetti, L.

IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS), IEEE, November 2019 (conference)

Abstract
Model free reinforcement learning suffers from the high sampling complexity inherent to robotic manipulation or locomotion tasks. Most successful approaches typically use random sampling strategies which leads to slow policy convergence. In this paper we present a novel approach for efficient exploration that leverages previously learned tasks. We exploit the fact that the same system is used across many tasks and build a generative model for exploration based on data from previously solved tasks to improve learning new tasks. The approach also enables continuous learning of improved exploration strategies as novel tasks are learned. Extensive simulations on a robot manipulator performing a variety of motion and contact interaction tasks demonstrate the capabilities of the approach. In particular, our experiments suggest that the exploration strategy can more than double learning speed, especially when rewards are sparse. Moreover, the algorithm is robust to task variations and parameter tuning, making it beneficial for complex robotic problems.

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arXiv [BibTex]

2019


arXiv [BibTex]


Learning Variable Impedance Control for Contact Sensitive Tasks
Learning Variable Impedance Control for Contact Sensitive Tasks

Bogdanovic, M., Khadiv, M., Righetti, L.

arXiv preprint, arXiv:1907.07500, July 2019 (article)

Abstract
Reinforcement learning algorithms have shown great success in solving different problems ranging from playing video games to robotics. However, they struggle to solve delicate robotic problems, especially those involving contact interactions. Though in principle a policy outputting joint torques should be able to learn these tasks, in practice we see that they have difficulty to robustly solve the problem without any structure in the action space. In this paper, we investigate how the choice of action space can give robust performance in presence of contact uncertainties. We propose to learn a policy that outputs impedance and desired position in joint space as a function of system states without imposing any other structure to the problem. We compare the performance of this approach to torque and position control policies under different contact uncertainties. Extensive simulation results on two different systems, a hopper (floating-base) with intermittent contacts and a manipulator (fixed-base) wiping a table, show that our proposed approach outperforms policies outputting torque or position in terms of both learning rate and robustness to environment uncertainty.

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[BibTex]


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Variational Autoencoders Recover PCA Directions (by Accident)

Rolinek, M., Zietlow, D., Martius, G.

In Proceedings IEEE Conf. on Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition (CVPR), IEEE International Conference on Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition (CVPR) 2019, June 2019 (inproceedings)

Abstract
The Variational Autoencoder (VAE) is a powerful architecture capable of representation learning and generative modeling. When it comes to learning interpretable (disentangled) representations, VAE and its variants show unparalleled performance. However, the reasons for this are unclear, since a very particular alignment of the latent embedding is needed but the design of the VAE does not encourage it in any explicit way. We address this matter and offer the following explanation: the diagonal approximation in the encoder together with the inherent stochasticity force local orthogonality of the decoder. The local behavior of promoting both reconstruction and orthogonality matches closely how the PCA embedding is chosen. Alongside providing an intuitive understanding, we justify the statement with full theoretical analysis as well as with experiments.

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arXiv link (url) Project Page [BibTex]

arXiv link (url) Project Page [BibTex]


Leveraging Contact Forces for Learning to Grasp
Leveraging Contact Forces for Learning to Grasp

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

In Proceedings of the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA) 2019, IEEE, International Conference on Robotics and Automation, May 2019 (inproceedings)

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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Control What You Can: Intrinsically Motivated Task-Planning Agent

Blaes, S., Vlastelica, M., Zhu, J., Martius, G.

In Advances in Neural Information Processing (NeurIPS’19), pages: 12520-12531, Curran Associates, Inc., NeurIPS'19, 2019 (inproceedings)

Abstract
We present a novel intrinsically motivated agent that learns how to control the environment in the fastest possible manner by optimizing learning progress. It learns what can be controlled, how to allocate time and attention, and the relations between objects using surprise based motivation. The effectiveness of our method is demonstrated in a synthetic as well as a robotic manipulation environment yielding considerably improved performance and smaller sample complexity. In a nutshell, our work combines several task-level planning agent structures (backtracking search on task graph, probabilistic road-maps, allocation of search efforts) with intrinsic motivation to achieve learning from scratch.

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link (url) Project Page [BibTex]

link (url) Project Page [BibTex]


Autonomous Identification and Goal-Directed Invocation of Event-Predictive Behavioral Primitives
Autonomous Identification and Goal-Directed Invocation of Event-Predictive Behavioral Primitives

Gumbsch, C., Butz, M. V., Martius, G.

IEEE Transactions on Cognitive and Developmental Systems, 2019 (article)

Abstract
Voluntary behavior of humans appears to be composed of small, elementary building blocks or behavioral primitives. While this modular organization seems crucial for the learning of complex motor skills and the flexible adaption of behavior to new circumstances, the problem of learning meaningful, compositional abstractions from sensorimotor experiences remains an open challenge. Here, we introduce a computational learning architecture, termed surprise-based behavioral modularization into event-predictive structures (SUBMODES), that explores behavior and identifies the underlying behavioral units completely from scratch. The SUBMODES architecture bootstraps sensorimotor exploration using a self-organizing neural controller. While exploring the behavioral capabilities of its own body, the system learns modular structures that predict the sensorimotor dynamics and generate the associated behavior. In line with recent theories of event perception, the system uses unexpected prediction error signals, i.e., surprise, to detect transitions between successive behavioral primitives. We show that, when applied to two robotic systems with completely different body kinematics, the system manages to learn a variety of complex behavioral primitives. Moreover, after initial self-exploration the system can use its learned predictive models progressively more effectively for invoking model predictive planning and goal-directed control in different tasks and environments.

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arXiv PDF video link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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Machine Learning for Haptics: Inferring Multi-Contact Stimulation From Sparse Sensor Configuration

Sun, H., Martius, G.

Frontiers in Neurorobotics, 13, pages: 51, 2019 (article)

Abstract
Robust haptic sensation systems are essential for obtaining dexterous robots. Currently, we have solutions for small surface areas such as fingers, but affordable and robust techniques for covering large areas of an arbitrary 3D surface are still missing. Here, we introduce a general machine learning framework to infer multi-contact haptic forces on a 3D robot’s limb surface from internal deformation measured by only a few physical sensors. The general idea of this framework is to predict first the whole surface deformation pattern from the sparsely placed sensors and then to infer number, locations and force magnitudes of unknown contact points. We show how this can be done even if training data can only be obtained for single-contact points using transfer learning at the example of a modified limb of the Poppy robot. With only 10 strain-gauge sensors we obtain a high accuracy also for multiple-contact points. The method can be applied to arbitrarily shaped surfaces and physical sensor types, as long as training data can be obtained.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Robust Humanoid Locomotion Using Trajectory Optimization and Sample-Efficient Learning

Yeganegi, M. H., Khadiv, M., Moosavian, S. A. A., Zhu, J., Prete, A. D., Righetti, L.

Proceedings International Conference on Humanoid Robots, IEEE, 2019 IEEE-RAS International Conference on Humanoid Robots, 2019 (conference)

Abstract
Trajectory optimization (TO) is one of the most powerful tools for generating feasible motions for humanoid robots. However, including uncertainties and stochasticity in the TO problem to generate robust motions can easily lead to intractable problems. Furthermore, since the models used in TO have always some level of abstraction, it can be hard to find a realistic set of uncertainties in the model space. In this paper we leverage a sample-efficient learning technique (Bayesian optimization) to robustify TO for humanoid locomotion. The main idea is to use data from full-body simulations to make the TO stage robust by tuning the cost weights. To this end, we split the TO problem into two phases. The first phase solves a convex optimization problem for generating center of mass (CoM) trajectories based on simplified linear dynamics. The second stage employs iterative Linear-Quadratic Gaussian (iLQG) as a whole-body controller to generate full body control inputs. Then we use Bayesian optimization to find the cost weights to use in the first stage that yields robust performance in the simulation/experiment, in the presence of different disturbance/uncertainties. The results show that the proposed approach is able to generate robust motions for different sets of disturbances and uncertainties.

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https://arxiv.org/abs/1907.04616 [BibTex]

https://arxiv.org/abs/1907.04616 [BibTex]

2015


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Kinematic and gait similarities between crawling human infants and other quadruped mammals

Righetti, L., Nylen, A., Rosander, K., Ijspeert, A.

Frontiers in Neurology, 6(17), February 2015 (article)

Abstract
Crawling on hands and knees is an early pattern of human infant locomotion, which offers an interesting way of studying quadrupedalism in one of its simplest form. We investigate how crawling human infants compare to other quadruped mammals, especially primates. We present quantitative data on both the gait and kinematics of seven 10-month-old crawling infants. Body movements were measured with an optoelectronic system giving precise data on 3-dimensional limb movements. Crawling on hands and knees is very similar to the locomotion of non-human primates in terms of the quite protracted arm at touch-down, the coordination between the spine movements in the lateral plane and the limbs, the relatively extended limbs during locomotion and the strong correlation between stance duration and speed of locomotion. However, there are important differences compared to primates, such as the choice of a lateral-sequence walking gait, which is similar to most non-primate mammals and the relatively stiff elbows during stance as opposed to the quite compliant gaits of primates. These finding raise the question of the role of both the mechanical structure of the body and neural control on the determination of these characteristics.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

2015


link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Novel plasticity rule can explain the development of sensorimotor intelligence

Der, R., Martius, G.

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 112(45):E6224-E6232, 2015 (article)

Abstract
Grounding autonomous behavior in the nervous system is a fundamental challenge for neuroscience. In particular, self-organized behavioral development provides more questions than answers. Are there special functional units for curiosity, motivation, and creativity? This paper argues that these features can be grounded in synaptic plasticity itself, without requiring any higher-level constructs. We propose differential extrinsic plasticity (DEP) as a new synaptic rule for self-learning systems and apply it to a number of complex robotic systems as a test case. Without specifying any purpose or goal, seemingly purposeful and adaptive rhythmic behavior is developed, displaying a certain level of sensorimotor intelligence. These surprising results require no system-specific modifications of the DEP rule. They rather arise from the underlying mechanism of spontaneous symmetry breaking, which is due to the tight brain body environment coupling. The new synaptic rule is biologically plausible and would be an interesting target for neurobiological investigation. We also argue that this neuronal mechanism may have been a catalyst in natural evolution.

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link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]

link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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Trajectory generation for multi-contact momentum control

Herzog, A., Rotella, N., Schaal, S., Righetti, L.

In 2015 IEEE-RAS 15th International Conference on Humanoid Robots (Humanoids), pages: 874-880, IEEE, Seoul, South Korea, 2015 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Simplified models of the dynamics such as the linear inverted pendulum model (LIPM) have proven to perform well for biped walking on flat ground. However, for more complex tasks the assumptions of these models can become limiting. For example, the LIPM does not allow for the control of contact forces independently, is limited to co-planar contacts and assumes that the angular momentum is zero. In this paper, we propose to use the full momentum equations of a humanoid robot in a trajectory optimization framework to plan its center of mass, linear and angular momentum trajectories. The model also allows for planning desired contact forces for each end-effector in arbitrary contact locations. We extend our previous results on linear quadratic regulator (LQR) design for momentum control by computing the (linearized) optimal momentum feedback law in a receding horizon fashion. The resulting desired momentum and the associated feedback law are then used in a hierarchical whole body control approach. Simulation experiments show that the approach is computationally fast and is able to generate plans for locomotion on complex terrains while demonstrating good tracking performance for the full humanoid control.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Quantifying Emergent Behavior of Autonomous Robots

Martius, G., Olbrich, E.

Entropy, 17(10):7266, 2015 (article)

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Humanoid Momentum Estimation Using Sensed Contact Wrenches

Rotella, N., Herzog, A., Schaal, S., Righetti, L.

In 2015 IEEE-RAS 15th International Conference on Humanoid Robots (Humanoids), pages: 556-563, IEEE, Seoul, South Korea, 2015 (inproceedings)

Abstract
This work presents approaches for the estimation of quantities important for the control of the momentum of a humanoid robot. In contrast to previous approaches which use simplified models such as the Linear Inverted Pendulum Model, we present estimators based on the momentum dynamics of the robot. By using this simple yet dynamically-consistent model, we avoid the issues of using simplified models for estimation. We develop an estimator for the center of mass and full momentum which can be reformulated to estimate center of mass offsets as well as external wrenches applied to the robot. The observability of these estimators is investigated and their performance is evaluated in comparison to previous approaches.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

2014


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Self-Exploration of the Stumpy Robot with Predictive Information Maximization

Martius, G., Jahn, L., Hauser, H., V. Hafner, V.

In Proc. From Animals to Animats, SAB 2014, 8575, pages: 32-42, LNCS, Springer, 2014 (inproceedings)

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[BibTex]

2014


[BibTex]


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Dual Execution of Optimized Contact Interaction Trajectories

Toussaint, M., Ratliff, N., Bohg, J., Righetti, L., Englert, P., Schaal, S.

In 2014 IEEE/RSJ Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems, pages: 47-54, IEEE, Chicago, USA, 2014 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Efficient manipulation requires contact to reduce uncertainty. The manipulation literature refers to this as funneling: a methodology for increasing reliability and robustness by leveraging haptic feedback and control of environmental interaction. However, there is a fundamental gap between traditional approaches to trajectory optimization and this concept of robustness by funneling: traditional trajectory optimizers do not discover force feedback strategies. From a POMDP perspective, these behaviors could be regarded as explicit observation actions planned to sufficiently reduce uncertainty thereby enabling a task. While we are sympathetic to the full POMDP view, solving full continuous-space POMDPs in high-dimensions is hard. In this paper, we propose an alternative approach in which trajectory optimization objectives are augmented with new terms that reward uncertainty reduction through contacts, explicitly promoting funneling. This augmentation shifts the responsibility of robustness toward the actual execution of the optimized trajectories. Directly tracing trajectories through configuration space would lose all robustness-dual execution achieves robustness by devising force controllers to reproduce the temporal interaction profile encoded in the dual solution of the optimization problem. This work introduces dual execution in depth and analyze its performance through robustness experiments in both simulation and on a real-world robotic platform.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Robot Learning by Guided Self-Organization

Martius, G., Der, R., Herrmann, J. M.

In Guided Self-Organization: Inception, 9, pages: 223-260, Emergence, Complexity and Computation, Springer Berlin Heidelberg, 2014 (incollection)

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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An autonomous manipulation system based on force control and optimization

Righetti, L., Kalakrishnan, M., Pastor, P., Binney, J., Kelly, J., Voorhies, R. C., Sukhatme, G. S., Schaal, S.

Autonomous Robots, 36(1-2):11-30, January 2014 (article)

Abstract
In this paper we present an architecture for autonomous manipulation. Our approach is based on the belief that contact interactions during manipulation should be exploited to improve dexterity and that optimizing motion plans is useful to create more robust and repeatable manipulation behaviors. We therefore propose an architecture where state of the art force/torque control and optimization-based motion planning are the core components of the system. We give a detailed description of the modules that constitute the complete system and discuss the challenges inherent to creating such a system. We present experimental results for several grasping and manipulation tasks to demonstrate the performance and robustness of our approach.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Learning of grasp selection based on shape-templates

Herzog, A., Pastor, P., Kalakrishnan, M., Righetti, L., Bohg, J., Asfour, T., Schaal, S.

Autonomous Robots, 36(1-2):51-65, January 2014 (article)

Abstract
The ability to grasp unknown objects still remains an unsolved problem in the robotics community. One of the challenges is to choose an appropriate grasp configuration, i.e., the 6D pose of the hand relative to the object and its finger configuration. In this paper, we introduce an algorithm that is based on the assumption that similarly shaped objects can be grasped in a similar way. It is able to synthesize good grasp poses for unknown objects by finding the best matching object shape templates associated with previously demonstrated grasps. The grasp selection algorithm is able to improve over time by using the information of previous grasp attempts to adapt the ranking of the templates to new situations. We tested our approach on two different platforms, the Willow Garage PR2 and the Barrett WAM robot, which have very different hand kinematics. Furthermore, we compared our algorithm with other grasp planners and demonstrated its superior performance. The results presented in this paper show that the algorithm is able to find good grasp configurations for a large set of unknown objects from a relatively small set of demonstrations, and does improve its performance over time.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Balancing experiments on a torque-controlled humanoid with hierarchical inverse dynamics

Herzog, A., Righetti, L., Grimminger, F., Pastor, P., Schaal, S.

In 2014 IEEE/RSJ Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems, pages: 981-988, IEEE, Chicago, USA, 2014 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Recently several hierarchical inverse dynamics controllers based on cascades of quadratic programs have been proposed for application on torque controlled robots. They have important theoretical benefits but have never been implemented on a torque controlled robot where model inaccuracies and real-time computation requirements can be problematic. In this contribution we present an experimental evaluation of these algorithms in the context of balance control for a humanoid robot. The presented experiments demonstrate the applicability of the approach under real robot conditions (i.e. model uncertainty, estimation errors, etc). We propose a simplification of the optimization problem that allows us to decrease computation time enough to implement it in a fast torque control loop. We implement a momentum-based balance controller which shows robust performance in face of unknown disturbances, even when the robot is standing on only one foot. In a second experiment, a tracking task is evaluated to demonstrate the performance of the controller with more complicated hierarchies. Our results show that hierarchical inverse dynamics controllers can be used for feedback control of humanoid robots and that momentum-based balance control can be efficiently implemented on a real robot.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Full Dynamics LQR Control of a Humanoid Robot: An Experimental Study on Balancing and Squatting

Mason, S., Righetti, L., Schaal, S.

In 2014 IEEE-RAS International Conference on Humanoid Robots, pages: 374-379, IEEE, Madrid, Spain, 2014 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Humanoid robots operating in human environments require whole-body controllers that can offer precise tracking and well-defined disturbance rejection behavior. In this contribution, we propose an experimental evaluation of a linear quadratic regulator (LQR) using a linearization of the full robot dynamics together with the contact constraints. The advantage of the controller is that it explicitly takes into account the coupling between the different joints to create optimal feedback controllers for whole-body control. We also propose a method to explicitly regulate other tasks of interest, such as the regulation of the center of mass of the robot or its angular momentum. In order to evaluate the performance of linear optimal control designs in a real-world scenario (model uncertainty, sensor noise, imperfect state estimation, etc), we test the controllers in a variety of tracking and balancing experiments on a torque controlled humanoid (e.g. balancing, split plane balancing, squatting, pushes while squatting, and balancing on a wheeled platform). The proposed control framework shows a reliable push recovery behavior competitive with more sophisticated balance controllers, rejecting impulses up to 11.7 Ns with peak forces of 650 N, with the added advantage of great computational simplicity. Furthermore, the controller is able to track squatting trajectories up to 1 Hz without relinearization, suggesting that the linearized dynamics is sufficient for significant ranges of motion.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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State Estimation for a Humanoid Robot

Rotella, N., Bloesch, M., Righetti, L., Schaal, S.

In 2014 IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems, pages: 952-958, IEEE, Chicago, USA, 2014 (inproceedings)

Abstract
This paper introduces a framework for state estimation on a humanoid robot platform using only common proprioceptive sensors and knowledge of leg kinematics. The presented approach extends that detailed in prior work on a point-foot quadruped platform by adding the rotational constraints imposed by the humanoid's flat feet. As in previous work, the proposed Extended Kalman Filter accommodates contact switching and makes no assumptions about gait or terrain, making it applicable on any humanoid platform for use in any task. A nonlinear observability analysis is performed on both the point-foot and flat-foot filters and it is concluded that the addition of rotational constraints significantly simplifies singular cases and improves the observability characteristics of the system. Results on a simulated walking dataset demonstrate the performance gain of the flat-foot filter as well as confirm the results of the presented observability analysis.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]