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2018


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Probabilistic Solutions To Ordinary Differential Equations As Non-Linear Bayesian Filtering: A New Perspective

Tronarp, F., Kersting, H., Särkkä, S., Hennig, P.

ArXiv preprint 2018, arXiv:1810.03440 [stat.ME], October 2018 (article)

Abstract
We formulate probabilistic numerical approximations to solutions of ordinary differential equations (ODEs) as problems in Gaussian process (GP) regression with non-linear measurement functions. This is achieved by defining the measurement sequence to consists of the observations of the difference between the derivative of the GP and the vector field evaluated at the GP---which are all identically zero at the solution of the ODE. When the GP has a state-space representation, the problem can be reduced to a Bayesian state estimation problem and all widely-used approximations to the Bayesian filtering and smoothing problems become applicable. Furthermore, all previous GP-based ODE solvers, which were formulated in terms of generating synthetic measurements of the vector field, come out as specific approximations. We derive novel solvers, both Gaussian and non-Gaussian, from the Bayesian state estimation problem posed in this paper and compare them with other probabilistic solvers in illustrative experiments.

pn

link (url) Project Page [BibTex]

2018



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Leveraging Contact Forces for Learning to Grasp

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

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

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

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video arXiv [BibTex]

video arXiv [BibTex]


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Kernel Recursive ABC: Point Estimation with Intractable Likelihood

Kajihara, T., Kanagawa, M., Yamazaki, K., Fukumizu, K.

Proceedings of the 35th International Conference on Machine Learning, pages: 2405-2414, PMLR, July 2018 (conference)

Abstract
We propose a novel approach to parameter estimation for simulator-based statistical models with intractable likelihood. Our proposed method involves recursive application of kernel ABC and kernel herding to the same observed data. We provide a theoretical explanation regarding why the approach works, showing (for the population setting) that, under a certain assumption, point estimates obtained with this method converge to the true parameter, as recursion proceeds. We have conducted a variety of numerical experiments, including parameter estimation for a real-world pedestrian flow simulator, and show that in most cases our method outperforms existing approaches.

pn

Paper [BibTex]

Paper [BibTex]


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Robust Physics-based Motion Retargeting with Realistic Body Shapes

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

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

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

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pdf video Project Page Project Page [BibTex]

pdf video Project Page Project Page [BibTex]


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Convergence Rates of Gaussian ODE Filters

Kersting, H., Sullivan, T. J., Hennig, P.

arXiv preprint 2018, arXiv:1807.09737 [math.NA], July 2018 (article)

Abstract
A recently-introduced class of probabilistic (uncertainty-aware) solvers for ordinary differential equations (ODEs) applies Gaussian (Kalman) filtering to initial value problems. These methods model the true solution $x$ and its first $q$ derivatives a priori as a Gauss--Markov process $\boldsymbol{X}$, which is then iteratively conditioned on information about $\dot{x}$. We prove worst-case local convergence rates of order $h^{q+1}$ for a wide range of versions of this Gaussian ODE filter, as well as global convergence rates of order $h^q$ in the case of $q=1$ and an integrated Brownian motion prior, and analyse how inaccurate information on $\dot{x}$ coming from approximate evaluations of $f$ affects these rates. Moreover, we present explicit formulas for the steady states and show that the posterior confidence intervals are well calibrated in all considered cases that exhibit global convergence---in the sense that they globally contract at the same rate as the truncation error.

pn

link (url) Project Page [BibTex]

link (url) Project Page [BibTex]


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Gaussian Processes and Kernel Methods: A Review on Connections and Equivalences

Kanagawa, M., Hennig, P., Sejdinovic, D., Sriperumbudur, B. K.

Arxiv e-prints, arXiv:1805.08845v1 [stat.ML], 2018 (article)

Abstract
This paper is an attempt to bridge the conceptual gaps between researchers working on the two widely used approaches based on positive definite kernels: Bayesian learning or inference using Gaussian processes on the one side, and frequentist kernel methods based on reproducing kernel Hilbert spaces on the other. It is widely known in machine learning that these two formalisms are closely related; for instance, the estimator of kernel ridge regression is identical to the posterior mean of Gaussian process regression. However, they have been studied and developed almost independently by two essentially separate communities, and this makes it difficult to seamlessly transfer results between them. Our aim is to overcome this potential difficulty. To this end, we review several old and new results and concepts from either side, and juxtapose algorithmic quantities from each framework to highlight close similarities. We also provide discussions on subtle philosophical and theoretical differences between the two approaches.

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arXiv [BibTex]

arXiv [BibTex]


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On Time Optimization of Centroidal Momentum Dynamics

Ponton, B., Herzog, A., Del Prete, A., Schaal, S., Righetti, L.

In 2018 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA), pages: 5776-5782, IEEE, Brisbane, Australia, 2018 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Recently, the centroidal momentum dynamics has received substantial attention to plan dynamically consistent motions for robots with arms and legs in multi-contact scenarios. However, it is also non convex which renders any optimization approach difficult and timing is usually kept fixed in most trajectory optimization techniques to not introduce additional non convexities to the problem. But this can limit the versatility of the algorithms. In our previous work, we proposed a convex relaxation of the problem that allowed to efficiently compute momentum trajectories and contact forces. However, our approach could not minimize a desired angular momentum objective which seriously limited its applicability. Noticing that the non-convexity introduced by the time variables is of similar nature as the centroidal dynamics one, we propose two convex relaxations to the problem based on trust regions and soft constraints. The resulting approaches can compute time-optimized dynamically consistent trajectories sufficiently fast to make the approach realtime capable. The performance of the algorithm is demonstrated in several multi-contact scenarios for a humanoid robot. In particular, we show that the proposed convex relaxation of the original problem finds solutions that are consistent with the original non-convex problem and illustrate how timing optimization allows to find motion plans that would be difficult to plan with fixed timing † †Implementation details and demos can be found in the source code available at https://git-amd.tuebingen.mpg.de/bponton/timeoptimization.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Dissecting Adam: The Sign, Magnitude and Variance of Stochastic Gradients

Balles, L., Hennig, P.

In Proceedings of the 35th International Conference on Machine Learning (ICML), 2018 (inproceedings) Accepted

Abstract
The ADAM optimizer is exceedingly popular in the deep learning community. Often it works very well, sometimes it doesn't. Why? We interpret ADAM as a combination of two aspects: for each weight, the update direction is determined by the sign of stochastic gradients, whereas the update magnitude is determined by an estimate of their relative variance. We disentangle these two aspects and analyze them in isolation, gaining insight into the mechanisms underlying ADAM. This analysis also extends recent results on adverse effects of ADAM on generalization, isolating the sign aspect as the problematic one. Transferring the variance adaptation to SGD gives rise to a novel method, completing the practitioner's toolbox for problems where ADAM fails.

pn

link (url) Project Page [BibTex]

link (url) Project Page [BibTex]


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Counterfactual Mean Embedding: A Kernel Method for Nonparametric Causal Inference

Muandet, K., Kanagawa, M., Saengkyongam, S., Marukata, S.

Arxiv e-prints, arXiv:1805.08845v1 [stat.ML], 2018 (article)

Abstract
This paper introduces a novel Hilbert space representation of a counterfactual distribution---called counterfactual mean embedding (CME)---with applications in nonparametric causal inference. Counterfactual prediction has become an ubiquitous tool in machine learning applications, such as online advertisement, recommendation systems, and medical diagnosis, whose performance relies on certain interventions. To infer the outcomes of such interventions, we propose to embed the associated counterfactual distribution into a reproducing kernel Hilbert space (RKHS) endowed with a positive definite kernel. Under appropriate assumptions, the CME allows us to perform causal inference over the entire landscape of the counterfactual distribution. The CME can be estimated consistently from observational data without requiring any parametric assumption about the underlying distributions. We also derive a rate of convergence which depends on the smoothness of the conditional mean and the Radon-Nikodym derivative of the underlying marginal distributions. Our framework can deal with not only real-valued outcome, but potentially also more complex and structured outcomes such as images, sequences, and graphs. Lastly, our experimental results on off-policy evaluation tasks demonstrate the advantages of the proposed estimator.

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arXiv [BibTex]

arXiv [BibTex]


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Model-based Kernel Sum Rule: Kernel Bayesian Inference with Probabilistic Models

Nishiyama, Y., Kanagawa, M., Gretton, A., Fukumizu, K.

Arxiv e-prints, arXiv:1409.5178v2 [stat.ML], 2018 (article)

Abstract
Kernel Bayesian inference is a powerful nonparametric approach to performing Bayesian inference in reproducing kernel Hilbert spaces or feature spaces. In this approach, kernel means are estimated instead of probability distributions, and these estimates can be used for subsequent probabilistic operations (as for inference in graphical models) or in computing the expectations of smooth functions, for instance. Various algorithms for kernel Bayesian inference have been obtained by combining basic rules such as the kernel sum rule (KSR), kernel chain rule, kernel product rule and kernel Bayes' rule. However, the current framework only deals with fully nonparametric inference (i.e., all conditional relations are learned nonparametrically), and it does not allow for flexible combinations of nonparametric and parametric inference, which are practically important. Our contribution is in providing a novel technique to realize such combinations. We introduce a new KSR referred to as the model-based KSR (Mb-KSR), which employs the sum rule in feature spaces under a parametric setting. Incorporating the Mb-KSR into existing kernel Bayesian framework provides a richer framework for hybrid (nonparametric and parametric) kernel Bayesian inference. As a practical application, we propose a novel filtering algorithm for state space models based on the Mb-KSR, which combines the nonparametric learning of an observation process using kernel mean embedding and the additive Gaussian noise model for a state transition process. While we focus on additive Gaussian noise models in this study, the idea can be extended to other noise models, such as the Cauchy and alpha-stable noise models.

pn

arXiv [BibTex]

arXiv [BibTex]


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A probabilistic model for the numerical solution of initial value problems

Schober, M., Särkkä, S., Philipp Hennig,

Statistics and Computing, Springer US, 2018 (article)

Abstract
We study connections between ordinary differential equation (ODE) solvers and probabilistic regression methods in statistics. We provide a new view of probabilistic ODE solvers as active inference agents operating on stochastic differential equation models that estimate the unknown initial value problem (IVP) solution from approximate observations of the solution derivative, as provided by the ODE dynamics. Adding to this picture, we show that several multistep methods of Nordsieck form can be recast as Kalman filtering on q-times integrated Wiener processes. Doing so provides a family of IVP solvers that return a Gaussian posterior measure, rather than a point estimate. We show that some such methods have low computational overhead, nontrivial convergence order, and that the posterior has a calibrated concentration rate. Additionally, we suggest a step size adaptation algorithm which completes the proposed method to a practically useful implementation, which we experimentally evaluate using a representative set of standard codes in the DETEST benchmark set.

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PDF Code DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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Probabilistic Approaches to Stochastic Optimization

Mahsereci, M.

Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen, Germany, 2018 (phdthesis)

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link (url) Project Page [BibTex]

link (url) Project Page [BibTex]


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Probabilistic Ordinary Differential Equation Solvers — Theory and Applications

Schober, M.

Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen, Germany, 2018 (phdthesis)

ei pn

[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Learning a Structured Neural Network Policy for a Hopping Task.

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

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

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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

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

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

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Unsupervised Contact Learning for Humanoid Estimation and Control

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

In 2018 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA), pages: 411-417, IEEE, Brisbane, Australia, 2018 (inproceedings)

Abstract
This work presents a method for contact state estimation using fuzzy clustering to learn contact probability for full, six-dimensional humanoid contacts. The data required for training is solely from proprioceptive sensors - endeffector contact wrench sensors and inertial measurement units (IMUs) - and the method is completely unsupervised. The resulting cluster means are used to efficiently compute the probability of contact in each of the six endeffector degrees of freedom (DoFs) independently. This clustering-based contact probability estimator is validated in a kinematics-based base state estimator in a simulation environment with realistic added sensor noise for locomotion over rough, low-friction terrain on which the robot is subject to foot slip and rotation. The proposed base state estimator which utilizes these six DoF contact probability estimates is shown to perform considerably better than that which determines kinematic contact constraints purely based on measured normal force.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Learning Task-Specific Dynamics to Improve Whole-Body Control

Gams, A., Mason, S., Ude, A., Schaal, S., Righetti, L.

In Hua, IEEE, Beijing, China, November 2018 (inproceedings)

Abstract
In task-based inverse dynamics control, reference accelerations used to follow a desired plan can be broken down into feedforward and feedback trajectories. The feedback term accounts for tracking errors that are caused from inaccurate dynamic models or external disturbances. On underactuated, free-floating robots, such as humanoids, high feedback terms can be used to improve tracking accuracy; however, this can lead to very stiff behavior or poor tracking accuracy due to limited control bandwidth. In this paper, we show how to reduce the required contribution of the feedback controller by incorporating learned task-space reference accelerations. Thus, we i) improve the execution of the given specific task, and ii) offer the means to reduce feedback gains, providing for greater compliance of the system. With a systematic approach we also reduce heuristic tuning of the model parameters and feedback gains, often present in real-world experiments. In contrast to learning task-specific joint-torques, which might produce a similar effect but can lead to poor generalization, our approach directly learns the task-space dynamics of the center of mass of a humanoid robot. Simulated and real-world results on the lower part of the Sarcos Hermes humanoid robot demonstrate the applicability of the approach.

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link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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An MPC Walking Framework With External Contact Forces

Mason, S., Rotella, N., Schaal, S., Righetti, L.

In 2018 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA), pages: 1785-1790, IEEE, Brisbane, Australia, May 2018 (inproceedings)

Abstract
In this work, we present an extension to a linear Model Predictive Control (MPC) scheme that plans external contact forces for the robot when given multiple contact locations and their corresponding friction cone. To this end, we set up a two-step optimization problem. In the first optimization, we compute the Center of Mass (CoM) trajectory, foot step locations, and introduce slack variables to account for violating the imposed constraints on the Zero Moment Point (ZMP). We then use the slack variables to trigger the second optimization, in which we calculate the optimal external force that compensates for the ZMP tracking error. This optimization considers multiple contacts positions within the environment by formulating the problem as a Mixed Integer Quadratic Program (MIQP) that can be solved at a speed between 100-300 Hz. Once contact is created, the MIQP reduces to a single Quadratic Program (QP) that can be solved in real-time ({\textless}; 1kHz). Simulations show that the presented walking control scheme can withstand disturbances 2-3× larger with the additional force provided by a hand contact.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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

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

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

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

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

2014


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Probabilistic Progress Bars

Kiefel, M., Schuler, C., Hennig, P.

In Conference on Pattern Recognition (GCPR), 8753, pages: 331-341, Lecture Notes in Computer Science, (Editors: Jiang, X., Hornegger, J., and Koch, R.), Springer, GCPR, September 2014 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Predicting the time at which the integral over a stochastic process reaches a target level is a value of interest in many applications. Often, such computations have to be made at low cost, in real time. As an intuitive example that captures many features of this problem class, we choose progress bars, a ubiquitous element of computer user interfaces. These predictors are usually based on simple point estimators, with no error modelling. This leads to fluctuating behaviour confusing to the user. It also does not provide a distribution prediction (risk values), which are crucial for many other application areas. We construct and empirically evaluate a fast, constant cost algorithm using a Gauss-Markov process model which provides more information to the user.

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website+code pdf DOI [BibTex]

2014


website+code pdf DOI [BibTex]


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Probabilistic Solutions to Differential Equations and their Application to Riemannian Statistics

Hennig, P., Hauberg, S.

In Proceedings of the 17th International Conference on Artificial Intelligence and Statistics, 33, pages: 347-355, JMLR: Workshop and Conference Proceedings, (Editors: S Kaski and J Corander), Microtome Publishing, Brookline, MA, AISTATS, April 2014 (inproceedings)

Abstract
We study a probabilistic numerical method for the solution of both boundary and initial value problems that returns a joint Gaussian process posterior over the solution. Such methods have concrete value in the statistics on Riemannian manifolds, where non-analytic ordinary differential equations are involved in virtually all computations. The probabilistic formulation permits marginalising the uncertainty of the numerical solution such that statistics are less sensitive to inaccuracies. This leads to new Riemannian algorithms for mean value computations and principal geodesic analysis. Marginalisation also means results can be less precise than point estimates, enabling a noticeable speed-up over the state of the art. Our approach is an argument for a wider point that uncertainty caused by numerical calculations should be tracked throughout the pipeline of machine learning algorithms.

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pdf Youtube Supplements Project page link (url) [BibTex]

pdf Youtube Supplements Project page link (url) [BibTex]


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Local Gaussian Regression

Meier, F., Hennig, P., Schaal, S.

arXiv preprint, March 2014, clmc (misc)

Abstract
Abstract: Locally weighted regression was created as a nonparametric learning method that is computationally efficient, can learn from very large amounts of data and add data incrementally. An interesting feature of locally weighted regression is that it can work with ...

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Web link (url) [BibTex]

Web link (url) [BibTex]


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Probabilistic ODE Solvers with Runge-Kutta Means

Schober, M., Duvenaud, D., Hennig, P.

In Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 27, pages: 739-747, (Editors: Z. Ghahramani, M. Welling, C. Cortes, N.D. Lawrence and K.Q. Weinberger), Curran Associates, Inc., 28th Annual Conference on Neural Information Processing Systems (NIPS), 2014 (inproceedings)

ei pn

Web link (url) [BibTex]

Web link (url) [BibTex]


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Active Learning of Linear Embeddings for Gaussian Processes

Garnett, R., Osborne, M., Hennig, P.

In Proceedings of the 30th Conference on Uncertainty in Artificial Intelligence, pages: 230-239, (Editors: NL Zhang and J Tian), AUAI Press , Corvallis, Oregon, UAI2014, 2014, another link: http://arxiv.org/abs/1310.6740 (inproceedings)

ei pn

PDF Web [BibTex]

PDF Web [BibTex]


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Probabilistic Shortest Path Tractography in DTI Using Gaussian Process ODE Solvers

Schober, M., Kasenburg, N., Feragen, A., Hennig, P., Hauberg, S.

In Medical Image Computing and Computer-Assisted Intervention – MICCAI 2014, Lecture Notes in Computer Science Vol. 8675, pages: 265-272, (Editors: P. Golland, N. Hata, C. Barillot, J. Hornegger and R. Howe), Springer, Heidelberg, MICCAI, 2014 (inproceedings)

ei pn

DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


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Sampling for Inference in Probabilistic Models with Fast Bayesian Quadrature

Gunter, T., Osborne, M., Garnett, R., Hennig, P., Roberts, S.

In Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 27, pages: 2789-2797, (Editors: Z. Ghahramani, M. Welling, C. Cortes, N.D. Lawrence and K.Q. Weinberger), Curran Associates, Inc., 28th Annual Conference on Neural Information Processing Systems (NIPS), 2014 (inproceedings)

ei pn

Web link (url) [BibTex]

Web link (url) [BibTex]


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Incremental Local Gaussian Regression

Meier, F., Hennig, P., Schaal, S.

In Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 27, pages: 972-980, (Editors: Z. Ghahramani, M. Welling, C. Cortes, N.D. Lawrence and K.Q. Weinberger), 28th Annual Conference on Neural Information Processing Systems (NIPS), 2014, clmc (inproceedings)

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PDF link (url) [BibTex]

PDF link (url) [BibTex]


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Efficient Bayesian Local Model Learning for Control

Meier, F., Hennig, P., Schaal, S.

In Proceedings of the IEEE International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems, pages: 2244 - 2249, IROS, 2014, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
Model-based control is essential for compliant controland force control in many modern complex robots, like humanoidor disaster robots. Due to many unknown and hard tomodel nonlinearities, analytical models of such robots are oftenonly very rough approximations. However, modern optimizationcontrollers frequently depend on reasonably accurate models,and degrade greatly in robustness and performance if modelerrors are too large. For a long time, machine learning hasbeen expected to provide automatic empirical model synthesis,yet so far, research has only generated feasibility studies butno learning algorithms that run reliably on complex robots.In this paper, we combine two promising worlds of regressiontechniques to generate a more powerful regression learningsystem. On the one hand, locally weighted regression techniquesare computationally efficient, but hard to tune due to avariety of data dependent meta-parameters. On the other hand,Bayesian regression has rather automatic and robust methods toset learning parameters, but becomes quickly computationallyinfeasible for big and high-dimensional data sets. By reducingthe complexity of Bayesian regression in the spirit of local modellearning through variational approximations, we arrive at anovel algorithm that is computationally efficient and easy toinitialize for robust learning. Evaluations on several datasetsdemonstrate very good learning performance and the potentialfor a general regression learning tool for robotics.

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PDF link (url) DOI [BibTex]

PDF link (url) DOI [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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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]

2011


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Optimal Reinforcement Learning for Gaussian Systems

Hennig, P.

In Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 24, pages: 325-333, (Editors: J Shawe-Taylor and RS Zemel and P Bartlett and F Pereira and KQ Weinberger), Twenty-Fifth Annual Conference on Neural Information Processing Systems (NIPS), 2011 (inproceedings)

Abstract
The exploration-exploitation trade-off is among the central challenges of reinforcement learning. The optimal Bayesian solution is intractable in general. This paper studies to what extent analytic statements about optimal learning are possible if all beliefs are Gaussian processes. A first order approximation of learning of both loss and dynamics, for nonlinear, time-varying systems in continuous time and space, subject to a relatively weak restriction on the dynamics, is described by an infinite-dimensional partial differential equation. An approximate finitedimensional projection gives an impression for how this result may be helpful.

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PDF Web [BibTex]

2011


PDF Web [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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Learning Force Control Policies for Compliant Manipulation

Kalakrishnan, M., Righetti, L., Pastor, P., Schaal, S.

In 2011 IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems, pages: 4639-4644, IEEE, San Francisco, USA, sep 2011 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Developing robots capable of fine manipulation skills is of major importance in order to build truly assistive robots. These robots need to be compliant in their actuation and control in order to operate safely in human environments. Manipulation tasks imply complex contact interactions with the external world, and involve reasoning about the forces and torques to be applied. Planning under contact conditions is usually impractical due to computational complexity, and a lack of precise dynamics models of the environment. We present an approach to acquiring manipulation skills on compliant robots through reinforcement learning. The initial position control policy for manipulation is initialized through kinesthetic demonstration. We augment this policy with a force/torque profile to be controlled in combination with the position trajectories. We use the Policy Improvement with Path Integrals (PI2) algorithm to learn these force/torque profiles by optimizing a cost function that measures task success. We demonstrate our approach on the Barrett WAM robot arm equipped with a 6-DOF force/torque sensor on two different manipulation tasks: opening a door with a lever door handle, and picking up a pen off the table. We show that the learnt force control policies allow successful, robust execution of the tasks.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Control of legged robots with optimal distribution of contact forces

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

In 2011 11th IEEE-RAS International Conference on Humanoid Robots, pages: 318-324, IEEE, Bled, Slovenia, 2011 (inproceedings)

Abstract
The development of agile and safe humanoid robots require controllers that guarantee both high tracking performance and compliance with the environment. More specifically, the control of contact interaction is of crucial importance for robots that will actively interact with their environment. Model-based controllers such as inverse dynamics or operational space control are very appealing as they offer both high tracking performance and compliance. However, while widely used for fully actuated systems such as manipulators, they are not yet standard controllers for legged robots such as humanoids. Indeed such robots are fundamentally different from manipulators as they are underactuated due to their floating-base and subject to switching contact constraints. In this paper we present an inverse dynamics controller for legged robots that use torque redundancy to create an optimal distribution of contact constraints. The resulting controller is able to minimize, given a desired motion, any quadratic cost of the contact constraints at each instant of time. In particular we show how this can be used to minimize tangential forces during locomotion, therefore significantly improving the locomotion of legged robots on difficult terrains. In addition to the theoretical result, we present simulations of a humanoid and a quadruped robot, as well as experiments on a real quadruped robot that demonstrate the advantages of the controller.

am mg

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Learning Motion Primitive Goals for Robust Manipulation

Stulp, F., Theodorou, E., Kalakrishnan, M., Pastor, P., Righetti, L., Schaal, S.

In IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems, pages: 325-331, IEEE, San Francisco, USA, sep 2011 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Applying model-free reinforcement learning to manipulation remains challenging for several reasons. First, manipulation involves physical contact, which causes discontinuous cost functions. Second, in manipulation, the end-point of the movement must be chosen carefully, as it represents a grasp which must be adapted to the pose and shape of the object. Finally, there is uncertainty in the object pose, and even the most carefully planned movement may fail if the object is not at the expected position. To address these challenges we 1) present a simplified, computationally more efficient version of our model-free reinforcement learning algorithm PI2; 2) extend PI2 so that it simultaneously learns shape parameters and goal parameters of motion primitives; 3) use shape and goal learning to acquire motion primitives that are robust to object pose uncertainty. We evaluate these contributions on a manipulation platform consisting of a 7-DOF arm with a 4-DOF hand.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Inverse Dynamics Control of Floating-Base Robots with External Constraints: a Unified View

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

In 2011 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation, pages: 1085-1090, IEEE, Shanghai, China, 2011 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Inverse dynamics controllers and operational space controllers have proved to be very efficient for compliant control of fully actuated robots such as fixed base manipulators. However legged robots such as humanoids are inherently different as they are underactuated and subject to switching external contact constraints. Recently several methods have been proposed to create inverse dynamics controllers and operational space controllers for these robots. In an attempt to compare these different approaches, we develop a general framework for inverse dynamics control and show that these methods lead to very similar controllers. We are then able to greatly simplify recent whole-body controllers based on operational space approaches using kinematic projections, bringing them closer to efficient practical implementations. We also generalize these controllers such that they can be optimal under an arbitrary quadratic cost in the commands.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Operational Space Control of Constrained and Underactuated Systems

Mistry, M., Righetti, L.

In Proceedings of Robotics: Science and Systems, Los Angeles, CA, USA, June 2011 (inproceedings)

Abstract
The operational space formulation (Khatib, 1987), applied to rigid-body manipulators, describes how to decouple task-space and null-space dynamics, and write control equations that correspond only to forces at the end-effector or, alternatively, only to motion within the null-space. We would like to apply this useful theory to modern humanoids and other legged systems, for manipulation or similar tasks, however these systems present additional challenges due to their underactuated floating bases and contact states that can dynamically change. In recent work, Sentis et al. derived controllers for such systems by implementing a task Jacobian projected into a space consistent with the supporting constraints and underactuation (the so called "support consistent reduced Jacobian"). Here, we take a new approach to derive operational space controllers for constrained underactuated systems, by first considering the operational space dynamics within "projected inverse-dynamics" (Aghili, 2005), and subsequently resolving underactuation through the addition of dynamically consistent control torques. Doing so results in a simplified control solution compared with previous results, and importantly yields several new insights into the underlying problem of operational space control in constrained environments: 1) Underactuated systems, such as humanoid robots, cannot in general completely decouple task and null-space dynamics. However, 2) there may exist an infinite number of control solutions to realize desired task-space dynamics, and 3) these solutions involve the addition of dynamically consistent null-space motion or constraint forces (or combinations of both). In light of these findings, we present several possible control solutions, with varying optimization criteria, and highlight some of their practical consequences.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Online movement adaptation based on previous sensor experiences

Pastor, P., Righetti, L., Kalakrishnan, M., Schaal, S.

In 2011 IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems, pages: 365-371, IEEE, San Francisco, USA, sep 2011 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Personal robots can only become widespread if they are capable of safely operating among humans. In uncertain and highly dynamic environments such as human households, robots need to be able to instantly adapt their behavior to unforseen events. In this paper, we propose a general framework to achieve very contact-reactive motions for robotic grasping and manipulation. Associating stereotypical movements to particular tasks enables our system to use previous sensor experiences as a predictive model for subsequent task executions. We use dynamical systems, named Dynamic Movement Primitives (DMPs), to learn goal-directed behaviors from demonstration. We exploit their dynamic properties by coupling them with the measured and predicted sensor traces. This feedback loop allows for online adaptation of the movement plan. Our system can create a rich set of possible motions that account for external perturbations and perception uncertainty to generate truly robust behaviors. As an example, we present an application to grasping with the WAM robot arm.

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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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Movement generation using dynamical systems : a humanoid robot performing a drumming task

Degallier, S., Santos, C. P., Righetti, L., Ijspeert, A.

In 2006 6th IEEE-RAS International Conference on Humanoid Robots, pages: 512-517, IEEE, Genova, Italy, 2006 (inproceedings)

Abstract
The online generation of trajectories in humanoid robots remains a difficult problem. In this contribution, we present a system that allows the superposition, and the switch between, discrete and rhythmic movements. Our approach uses nonlinear dynamical systems for generating trajectories online and in real time. Our goal is to make use of attractor properties of dynamical systems in order to provide robustness against small perturbations and to enable online modulation of the trajectories. The system is demonstrated on a humanoid robot performing a drumming task.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

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]


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Design methodologies for central pattern generators: an application to crawling humanoids

Righetti, L., Ijspeert, A.

In Proceedings of Robotics: Science and Systems, Philadelphia, USA, August 2006 (inproceedings)

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Programmable central pattern generators: an application to biped locomotion control

Righetti, L., Ijspeert, A.

In Proceedings of the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation, 2006. ICRA 2006., pages: 1585-1590, IEEE, 2006 (inproceedings)

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[BibTex]

[BibTex]