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2013


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Strong Appearance and Expressive Spatial Models for Human Pose Estimation

Pishchulin, L., Andriluka, M., Gehler, P., Schiele, B.

In International Conference on Computer Vision (ICCV), pages: 3487 - 3494 , IEEE, Computer Vision (ICCV), IEEE International Conference on , December 2013 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Typical approaches to articulated pose estimation combine spatial modelling of the human body with appearance modelling of body parts. This paper aims to push the state-of-the-art in articulated pose estimation in two ways. First we explore various types of appearance representations aiming to substantially improve the body part hypotheses. And second, we draw on and combine several recently proposed powerful ideas such as more flexible spatial models as well as image-conditioned spatial models. In a series of experiments we draw several important conclusions: (1) we show that the proposed appearance representations are complementary; (2) we demonstrate that even a basic tree-structure spatial human body model achieves state-of-the-art performance when augmented with the proper appearance representation; and (3) we show that the combination of the best performing appearance model with a flexible image-conditioned spatial model achieves the best result, significantly improving over the state of the art, on the "Leeds Sports Poses'' and "Parse'' benchmarks.

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pdf DOI Project Page [BibTex]

2013


pdf DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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Understanding High-Level Semantics by Modeling Traffic Patterns

Zhang, H., Geiger, A., Urtasun, R.

In International Conference on Computer Vision, pages: 3056-3063, Sydney, Australia, December 2013 (inproceedings)

Abstract
In this paper, we are interested in understanding the semantics of outdoor scenes in the context of autonomous driving. Towards this goal, we propose a generative model of 3D urban scenes which is able to reason not only about the geometry and objects present in the scene, but also about the high-level semantics in the form of traffic patterns. We found that a small number of patterns is sufficient to model the vast majority of traffic scenes and show how these patterns can be learned. As evidenced by our experiments, this high-level reasoning significantly improves the overall scene estimation as well as the vehicle-to-lane association when compared to state-of-the-art approaches. All data and code will be made available upon publication.

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pdf [BibTex]

pdf [BibTex]


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A Non-parametric Bayesian Network Prior of Human Pose

Lehrmann, A. M., Gehler, P., Nowozin, S.

In Proceedings IEEE Conf. on Computer Vision (ICCV), pages: 1281-1288, IEEE International Conference on Computer Vision, December 2013 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Having a sensible prior of human pose is a vital ingredient for many computer vision applications, including tracking and pose estimation. While the application of global non-parametric approaches and parametric models has led to some success, finding the right balance in terms of flexibility and tractability, as well as estimating model parameters from data has turned out to be challenging. In this work, we introduce a sparse Bayesian network model of human pose that is non-parametric with respect to the estimation of both its graph structure and its local distributions. We describe an efficient sampling scheme for our model and show its tractability for the computation of exact log-likelihoods. We empirically validate our approach on the Human 3.6M dataset and demonstrate superior performance to global models and parametric networks. We further illustrate our model's ability to represent and compose poses not present in the training set (compositionality) and describe a speed-accuracy trade-off that allows realtime scoring of poses.

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Project page pdf DOI Project Page [BibTex]

Project page pdf DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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Towards understanding action recognition

Jhuang, H., Gall, J., Zuffi, S., Schmid, C., Black, M. J.

In IEEE International Conference on Computer Vision (ICCV), pages: 3192-3199, IEEE, Sydney, Australia, December 2013 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Although action recognition in videos is widely studied, current methods often fail on real-world datasets. Many recent approaches improve accuracy and robustness to cope with challenging video sequences, but it is often unclear what affects the results most. This paper attempts to provide insights based on a systematic performance evaluation using thoroughly-annotated data of human actions. We annotate human Joints for the HMDB dataset (J-HMDB). This annotation can be used to derive ground truth optical flow and segmentation. We evaluate current methods using this dataset and systematically replace the output of various algorithms with ground truth. This enables us to discover what is important – for example, should we work on improving flow algorithms, estimating human bounding boxes, or enabling pose estimation? In summary, we find that highlevel pose features greatly outperform low/mid level features; in particular, pose over time is critical, but current pose estimation algorithms are not yet reliable enough to provide this information. We also find that the accuracy of a top-performing action recognition framework can be greatly increased by refining the underlying low/mid level features; this suggests it is important to improve optical flow and human detection algorithms. Our analysis and JHMDB dataset should facilitate a deeper understanding of action recognition algorithms.

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Website Errata Poster Paper Slides DOI Project Page Project Page Project Page [BibTex]

Website Errata Poster Paper Slides DOI Project Page Project Page Project Page [BibTex]


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Probabilistic Object Tracking Using a Range Camera

Wüthrich, M., Pastor, P., Kalakrishnan, M., Bohg, J., Schaal, S.

In IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems, pages: 3195-3202, IEEE, November 2013 (inproceedings)

Abstract
We address the problem of tracking the 6-DoF pose of an object while it is being manipulated by a human or a robot. We use a dynamic Bayesian network to perform inference and compute a posterior distribution over the current object pose. Depending on whether a robot or a human manipulates the object, we employ a process model with or without knowledge of control inputs. Observations are obtained from a range camera. As opposed to previous object tracking methods, we explicitly model self-occlusions and occlusions from the environment, e.g, the human or robotic hand. This leads to a strongly non-linear observation model and additional dependencies in the Bayesian network. We employ a Rao-Blackwellised particle filter to compute an estimate of the object pose at every time step. In a set of experiments, we demonstrate the ability of our method to accurately and robustly track the object pose in real-time while it is being manipulated by a human or a robot.

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arXiv Video Code Video DOI Project Page [BibTex]

arXiv Video Code Video DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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Mixing Decoded Cursor Velocity and Position from an Offline Kalman Filter Improves Cursor Control in People with Tetraplegia

Homer, M., Harrison, M., Black, M. J., Perge, J., Cash, S., Friehs, G., Hochberg, L.

In 6th International IEEE EMBS Conference on Neural Engineering, pages: 715-718, San Diego, November 2013 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Kalman filtering is a common method to decode neural signals from the motor cortex. In clinical research investigating the use of intracortical brain computer interfaces (iBCIs), the technique enabled people with tetraplegia to control assistive devices such as a computer or robotic arm directly from their neural activity. For reaching movements, the Kalman filter typically estimates the instantaneous endpoint velocity of the control device. Here, we analyzed attempted arm/hand movements by people with tetraplegia to control a cursor on a computer screen to reach several circular targets. A standard velocity Kalman filter is enhanced to additionally decode for the cursor’s position. We then mix decoded velocity and position to generate cursor movement commands. We analyzed data, offline, from two participants across six sessions. Root mean squared error between the actual and estimated cursor trajectory improved by 12.2 ±10.5% (pairwise t-test, p<0.05) as compared to a standard velocity Kalman filter. The findings suggest that simultaneously decoding for intended velocity and position and using them both to generate movement commands can improve the performance of iBCIs.

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pdf Project Page [BibTex]

pdf Project Page [BibTex]


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Statistics on Manifolds with Applications to Modeling Shape Deformations

Freifeld, O.

Brown University, August 2013 (phdthesis)

Abstract
Statistical models of non-rigid deformable shape have wide application in many fi elds, including computer vision, computer graphics, and biometry. We show that shape deformations are well represented through nonlinear manifolds that are also matrix Lie groups. These pattern-theoretic representations lead to several advantages over other alternatives, including a principled measure of shape dissimilarity and a natural way to compose deformations. Moreover, they enable building models using statistics on manifolds. Consequently, such models are superior to those based on Euclidean representations. We demonstrate this by modeling 2D and 3D human body shape. Shape deformations are only one example of manifold-valued data. More generally, in many computer-vision and machine-learning problems, nonlinear manifold representations arise naturally and provide a powerful alternative to Euclidean representations. Statistics is traditionally concerned with data in a Euclidean space, relying on the linear structure and the distances associated with such a space; this renders it inappropriate for nonlinear spaces. Statistics can, however, be generalized to nonlinear manifolds. Moreover, by respecting the underlying geometry, the statistical models result in not only more e ffective analysis but also consistent synthesis. We go beyond previous work on statistics on manifolds by showing how, even on these curved spaces, problems related to modeling a class from scarce data can be dealt with by leveraging information from related classes residing in di fferent regions of the space. We show the usefulness of our approach with 3D shape deformations. To summarize our main contributions: 1) We de fine a new 2D articulated model -- more expressive than traditional ones -- of deformable human shape that factors body-shape, pose, and camera variations. Its high realism is obtained from training data generated from a detailed 3D model. 2) We defi ne a new manifold-based representation of 3D shape deformations that yields statistical deformable-template models that are better than the current state-of-the- art. 3) We generalize a transfer learning idea from Euclidean spaces to Riemannian manifolds. This work demonstrates the value of modeling manifold-valued data and their statistics explicitly on the manifold. Specifi cally, the methods here provide new tools for shape analysis.

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pdf Project Page [BibTex]


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Poselet conditioned pictorial structures

Pishchulin, L., Andriluka, M., Gehler, P., Schiele, B.

In IEEE Computer Society Conference on Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition, pages: 588 - 595, IEEE, Portland, OR, Conference on Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition (CVRP), June 2013 (inproceedings)

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pdf DOI Project Page [BibTex]

pdf DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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Occlusion Patterns for Object Class Detection

Pepik, B., Stark, M., Gehler, P., Schiele, B.

In IEEE Computer Society Conference on Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition, Portland, OR, June 2013 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Despite the success of recent object class recognition systems, the long-standing problem of partial occlusion re- mains a major challenge, and a principled solution is yet to be found. In this paper we leave the beaten path of meth- ods that treat occlusion as just another source of noise – instead, we include the occluder itself into the modelling, by mining distinctive, reoccurring occlusion patterns from annotated training data. These patterns are then used as training data for dedicated detectors of varying sophistica- tion. In particular, we evaluate and compare models that range from standard object class detectors to hierarchical, part-based representations of occluder/occludee pairs. In an extensive evaluation we derive insights that can aid fur- ther developments in tackling the occlusion challenge.

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pdf Project Page [BibTex]

pdf Project Page [BibTex]


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Lost! Leveraging the Crowd for Probabilistic Visual Self-Localization

(CVPR13 Best Paper Runner-Up)

Brubaker, M. A., Geiger, A., Urtasun, R.

In IEEE Conf. on Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition (CVPR 2013), pages: 3057-3064, IEEE, Portland, OR, June 2013 (inproceedings)

Abstract
In this paper we propose an affordable solution to self- localization, which utilizes visual odometry and road maps as the only inputs. To this end, we present a probabilis- tic model as well as an efficient approximate inference al- gorithm, which is able to utilize distributed computation to meet the real-time requirements of autonomous systems. Because of the probabilistic nature of the model we are able to cope with uncertainty due to noisy visual odometry and inherent ambiguities in the map ( e.g ., in a Manhattan world). By exploiting freely available, community devel- oped maps and visual odometry measurements, we are able to localize a vehicle up to 3m after only a few seconds of driving on maps which contain more than 2,150km of driv- able roads.

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pdf supplementary project page [BibTex]

pdf supplementary project page [BibTex]


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Human Pose Estimation using Body Parts Dependent Joint Regressors

Dantone, M., Gall, J., Leistner, C., van Gool, L.

In IEEE Conf. on Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition (CVPR), pages: 3041-3048, IEEE, Portland, OR, USA, June 2013 (inproceedings)

Abstract
In this work, we address the problem of estimating 2d human pose from still images. Recent methods that rely on discriminatively trained deformable parts organized in a tree model have shown to be very successful in solving this task. Within such a pictorial structure framework, we address the problem of obtaining good part templates by proposing novel, non-linear joint regressors. In particular, we employ two-layered random forests as joint regressors. The first layer acts as a discriminative, independent body part classifier. The second layer takes the estimated class distributions of the first one into account and is thereby able to predict joint locations by modeling the interdependence and co-occurrence of the parts. This results in a pose estimation framework that takes dependencies between body parts already for joint localization into account and is thus able to circumvent typical ambiguities of tree structures, such as for legs and arms. In the experiments, we demonstrate that our body parts dependent joint regressors achieve a higher joint localization accuracy than tree-based state-of-the-art methods.

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pdf DOI Project Page [BibTex]

pdf DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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A fully-connected layered model of foreground and background flow

Sun, D., Wulff, J., Sudderth, E., Pfister, H., Black, M.

In IEEE Conf. on Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition, (CVPR 2013), pages: 2451-2458, Portland, OR, June 2013 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Layered models allow scene segmentation and motion estimation to be formulated together and to inform one another. Traditional layered motion methods, however, employ fairly weak models of scene structure, relying on locally connected Ising/Potts models which have limited ability to capture long-range correlations in natural scenes. To address this, we formulate a fully-connected layered model that enables global reasoning about the complicated segmentations of real objects. Optimization with fully-connected graphical models is challenging, and our inference algorithm leverages recent work on efficient mean field updates for fully-connected conditional random fields. These methods can be implemented efficiently using high-dimensional Gaussian filtering. We combine these ideas with a layered flow model, and find that the long-range connections greatly improve segmentation into figure-ground layers when compared with locally connected MRF models. Experiments on several benchmark datasets show that the method can recover fine structures and large occlusion regions, with good flow accuracy and much lower computational cost than previous locally-connected layered models.

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pdf Supplemental Material Project Page Project Page [BibTex]

pdf Supplemental Material Project Page Project Page [BibTex]


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Hypothesis Testing Framework for Active Object Detection

Sankaran, B., Atanasov, N., Le Ny, J., Koletschka, T., Pappas, G., Daniilidis, K.

In IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA), May 2013, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
One of the central problems in computer vision is the detection of semantically important objects and the estimation of their pose. Most of the work in object detection has been based on single image processing and its performance is limited by occlusions and ambiguity in appearance and geometry. This paper proposes an active approach to object detection by controlling the point of view of a mobile depth camera. When an initial static detection phase identifies an object of interest, several hypotheses are made about its class and orientation. The sensor then plans a sequence of view-points, which balances the amount of energy used to move with the chance of identifying the correct hypothesis. We formulate an active M-ary hypothesis testing problem, which includes sensor mobility, and solve it using a point-based approximate POMDP algorithm. The validity of our approach is verified through simulation and experiments with real scenes captured by a kinect sensor. The results suggest a significant improvement over static object detection.

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pdf [BibTex]

pdf [BibTex]


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Action and Goal Related Decision Variables Modulate the Competition Between Multiple Potential Targets

Enachescu, V, Christopoulos, Vassilios N, Schrater, P. R., Schaal, S.

In Abstracts of Neural Control of Movement Conference (NCM 2013), February 2013 (inproceedings)

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[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Estimating Human Pose with Flowing Puppets

Zuffi, S., Romero, J., Schmid, C., Black, M. J.

In IEEE International Conference on Computer Vision (ICCV), pages: 3312-3319, 2013 (inproceedings)

Abstract
We address the problem of upper-body human pose estimation in uncontrolled monocular video sequences, without manual initialization. Most current methods focus on isolated video frames and often fail to correctly localize arms and hands. Inferring pose over a video sequence is advantageous because poses of people in adjacent frames exhibit properties of smooth variation due to the nature of human and camera motion. To exploit this, previous methods have used prior knowledge about distinctive actions or generic temporal priors combined with static image likelihoods to track people in motion. Here we take a different approach based on a simple observation: Information about how a person moves from frame to frame is present in the optical flow field. We develop an approach for tracking articulated motions that "links" articulated shape models of people in adjacent frames trough the dense optical flow. Key to this approach is a 2D shape model of the body that we use to compute how the body moves over time. The resulting "flowing puppets" provide a way of integrating image evidence across frames to improve pose inference. We apply our method on a challenging dataset of TV video sequences and show state-of-the-art performance.

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pdf code data DOI Project Page Project Page Project Page [BibTex]

pdf code data DOI Project Page Project Page Project Page [BibTex]


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Fusing visual and tactile sensing for 3-D object reconstruction while grasping

Ilonen, J., Bohg, J., Kyrki, V.

In IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA), pages: 3547-3554, 2013 (inproceedings)

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

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DOI Project Page [BibTex]

DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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A Comparison of Directional Distances for Hand Pose Estimation

Tzionas, D., Gall, J.

In German Conference on Pattern Recognition (GCPR), 8142, pages: 131-141, Lecture Notes in Computer Science, (Editors: Weickert, Joachim and Hein, Matthias and Schiele, Bernt), Springer, 2013 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Benchmarking methods for 3d hand tracking is still an open problem due to the difficulty of acquiring ground truth data. We introduce a new dataset and benchmarking protocol that is insensitive to the accumulative error of other protocols. To this end, we create testing frame pairs of increasing difficulty and measure the pose estimation error separately for each of them. This approach gives new insights and allows to accurately study the performance of each feature or method without employing a full tracking pipeline. Following this protocol, we evaluate various directional distances in the context of silhouette-based 3d hand tracking, expressed as special cases of a generalized Chamfer distance form. An appropriate parameter setup is proposed for each of them, and a comparative study reveals the best performing method in this context.

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pdf Supplementary Project Page link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]

pdf Supplementary Project Page link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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Learning Objective Functions for Manipulation

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

In 2013 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation, IEEE, Karlsruhe, Germany, 2013 (inproceedings)

Abstract
We present an approach to learning objective functions for robotic manipulation based on inverse reinforcement learning. Our path integral inverse reinforcement learning algorithm can deal with high-dimensional continuous state-action spaces, and only requires local optimality of demonstrated trajectories. We use L 1 regularization in order to achieve feature selection, and propose an efficient algorithm to minimize the resulting convex objective function. We demonstrate our approach by applying it to two core problems in robotic manipulation. First, we learn a cost function for redundancy resolution in inverse kinematics. Second, we use our method to learn a cost function over trajectories, which is then used in optimization-based motion planning for grasping and manipulation tasks. Experimental results show that our method outperforms previous algorithms in high-dimensional settings.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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A Generic Deformation Model for Dense Non-Rigid Surface Registration: a Higher-Order MRF-based Approach

Zeng, Y., Wang, C., Gu, X., Samaras, D., Paragios, N.

In IEEE International Conference on Computer Vision (ICCV), pages: 3360~3367, 2013 (inproceedings)

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pdf [BibTex]

pdf [BibTex]


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Learning Task Error Models for Manipulation

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

In 2013 IEEE Conference on Robotics and Automation, IEEE, Karlsruhe, Germany, 2013 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Precise kinematic forward models are important for robots to successfully perform dexterous grasping and manipulation tasks, especially when visual servoing is rendered infeasible due to occlusions. A lot of research has been conducted to estimate geometric and non-geometric parameters of kinematic chains to minimize reconstruction errors. However, kinematic chains can include non-linearities, e.g. due to cable stretch and motor-side encoders, that result in significantly different errors for different parts of the state space. Previous work either does not consider such non-linearities or proposes to estimate non-geometric parameters of carefully engineered models that are robot specific. We propose a data-driven approach that learns task error models that account for such unmodeled non-linearities. We argue that in the context of grasping and manipulation, it is sufficient to achieve high accuracy in the task relevant state space. We identify this relevant state space using previously executed joint configurations and learn error corrections for those. Therefore, our system is developed to generate subsequent executions that are similar to previous ones. The experiments show that our method successfully captures the non-linearities in the head kinematic chain (due to a counterbalancing spring) and the arm kinematic chains (due to cable stretch) of the considered experimental platform, see Fig. 1. The feasibility of the presented error learning approach has also been evaluated in independent DARPA ARM-S testing contributing to successfully complete 67 out of 72 grasping and manipulation tasks.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

2007


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Towards Machine Learning of Motor Skills

Peters, J., Schaal, S., Schölkopf, B.

In Proceedings of Autonome Mobile Systeme (AMS), pages: 138-144, (Editors: K Berns and T Luksch), 2007, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
Autonomous robots that can adapt to novel situations has been a long standing vision of robotics, artificial intelligence, and cognitive sciences. Early approaches to this goal during the heydays of artificial intelligence research in the late 1980s, however, made it clear that an approach purely based on reasoning or human insights would not be able to model all the perceptuomotor tasks that a robot should fulfill. Instead, new hope was put in the growing wake of machine learning that promised fully adaptive control algorithms which learn both by observation and trial-and-error. However, to date, learning techniques have yet to fulfill this promise as only few methods manage to scale into the high-dimensional domains of manipulator robotics, or even the new upcoming trend of humanoid robotics, and usually scaling was only achieved in precisely pre-structured domains. In this paper, we investigate the ingredients for a general approach to motor skill learning in order to get one step closer towards human-like performance. For doing so, we study two ma jor components for such an approach, i.e., firstly, a theoretically well-founded general approach to representing the required control structures for task representation and execution and, secondly, appropriate learning algorithms which can be applied in this setting.

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PDF DOI [BibTex]

2007


PDF DOI [BibTex]


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Reinforcement Learning for Optimal Control of Arm Movements

Theodorou, E., Peters, J., Schaal, S.

In Abstracts of the 37st Meeting of the Society of Neuroscience., Neuroscience, 2007, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
Every day motor behavior consists of a plethora of challenging motor skills from discrete movements such as reaching and throwing to rhythmic movements such as walking, drumming and running. How this plethora of motor skills can be learned remains an open question. In particular, is there any unifying computa-tional framework that could model the learning process of this variety of motor behaviors and at the same time be biologically plausible? In this work we aim to give an answer to these questions by providing a computational framework that unifies the learning mechanism of both rhythmic and discrete movements under optimization criteria, i.e., in a non-supervised trial-and-error fashion. Our suggested framework is based on Reinforcement Learning, which is mostly considered as too costly to be a plausible mechanism for learning com-plex limb movement. However, recent work on reinforcement learning with pol-icy gradients combined with parameterized movement primitives allows novel and more efficient algorithms. By using the representational power of such mo-tor primitives we show how rhythmic motor behaviors such as walking, squash-ing and drumming as well as discrete behaviors like reaching and grasping can be learned with biologically plausible algorithms. Using extensive simulations and by using different reward functions we provide results that support the hy-pothesis that Reinforcement Learning could be a viable candidate for motor learning of human motor behavior when other learning methods like supervised learning are not feasible.

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[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Reinforcement learning by reward-weighted regression for operational space control

Peters, J., Schaal, S.

In Proceedings of the 24th Annual International Conference on Machine Learning, pages: 745-750, ICML, 2007, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
Many robot control problems of practical importance, including operational space control, can be reformulated as immediate reward reinforcement learning problems. However, few of the known optimization or reinforcement learning algorithms can be used in online learning control for robots, as they are either prohibitively slow, do not scale to interesting domains of complex robots, or require trying out policies generated by random search, which are infeasible for a physical system. Using a generalization of the EM-base reinforcement learning framework suggested by Dayan & Hinton, we reduce the problem of learning with immediate rewards to a reward-weighted regression problem with an adaptive, integrated reward transformation for faster convergence. The resulting algorithm is efficient, learns smoothly without dangerous jumps in solution space, and works well in applications of complex high degree-of-freedom robots.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Policy gradient methods for machine learning

Peters, J., Theodorou, E., Schaal, S.

In Proceedings of the 14th INFORMS Conference of the Applied Probability Society, pages: 97-98, Eindhoven, Netherlands, July 9-11, 2007, 2007, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
We present an in-depth survey of policy gradient methods as they are used in the machine learning community for optimizing parameterized, stochastic control policies in Markovian systems with respect to the expected reward. Despite having been developed separately in the reinforcement learning literature, policy gradient methods employ likelihood ratio gradient estimators as also suggested in the stochastic simulation optimization community. It is well-known that this approach to policy gradient estimation traditionally suffers from three drawbacks, i.e., large variance, a strong dependence on baseline functions and a inefficient gradient descent. In this talk, we will present a series of recent results which tackles each of these problems. The variance of the gradient estimation can be reduced significantly through recently introduced techniques such as optimal baselines, compatible function approximations and all-action gradients. However, as even the analytically obtainable policy gradients perform unnaturally slow, it required the step from ÔvanillaÕ policy gradient methods towards natural policy gradients in order to overcome the inefficiency of the gradient descent. This development resulted into the Natural Actor-Critic architecture which can be shown to be very efficient in application to motor primitive learning for robotics.

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[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Policy Learning for Motor Skills

Peters, J., Schaal, S.

In Proceedings of 14th International Conference on Neural Information Processing (ICONIP), pages: 233-242, (Editors: Ishikawa, M. , K. Doya, H. Miyamoto, T. Yamakawa), 2007, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
Policy learning which allows autonomous robots to adapt to novel situations has been a long standing vision of robotics, artificial intelligence, and cognitive sciences. However, to date, learning techniques have yet to fulfill this promise as only few methods manage to scale into the high-dimensional domains of manipulator robotics, or even the new upcoming trend of humanoid robotics, and usually scaling was only achieved in precisely pre-structured domains. In this paper, we investigate the ingredients for a general approach policy learning with the goal of an application to motor skill refinement in order to get one step closer towards human-like performance. For doing so, we study two major components for such an approach, i.e., firstly, we study policy learning algorithms which can be applied in the general setting of motor skill learning, and, secondly, we study a theoretically well-founded general approach to representing the required control structures for task representation and execution.

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PDF DOI [BibTex]

PDF DOI [BibTex]


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Reinforcement learning for operational space control

Peters, J., Schaal, S.

In Proceedings of the 2007 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation, pages: 2111-2116, IEEE Computer Society, ICRA, 2007, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
While operational space control is of essential importance for robotics and well-understood from an analytical point of view, it can be prohibitively hard to achieve accurate control in face of modeling errors, which are inevitable in complex robots, e.g., humanoid robots. In such cases, learning control methods can offer an interesting alternative to analytical control algorithms. However, the resulting supervised learning problem is ill-defined as it requires to learn an inverse mapping of a usually redundant system, which is well known to suffer from the property of non-convexity of the solution space, i.e., the learning system could generate motor commands that try to steer the robot into physically impossible configurations. The important insight that many operational space control algorithms can be reformulated as optimal control problems, however, allows addressing this inverse learning problem in the framework of reinforcement learning. However, few of the known optimization or reinforcement learning algorithms can be used in online learning control for robots, as they are either prohibitively slow, do not scale to interesting domains of complex robots, or require trying out policies generated by random search, which are infeasible for a physical system. Using a generalization of the EM-based reinforcement learning framework suggested by Dayan & Hinton, we reduce the problem of learning with immediate rewards to a reward-weighted regression problem with an adaptive, integrated reward transformation for faster convergence. The resulting algorithm is efficient, learns smoothly without dangerous jumps in solution space, and works well in applications of complex high degree-of-freedom robots.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Using reward-weighted regression for reinforcement learning of task space control

Peters, J., Schaal, S.

In Proceedings of the 2007 IEEE International Symposium on Approximate Dynamic Programming and Reinforcement Learning, pages: 262-267, Honolulu, Hawaii, April 1-5, 2007, 2007, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
In this paper, we evaluate different versions from the three main kinds of model-free policy gradient methods, i.e., finite difference gradients, `vanilla' policy gradients and natural policy gradients. Each of these methods is first presented in its simple form and subsequently refined and optimized. By carrying out numerous experiments on the cart pole regulator benchmark we aim to provide a useful baseline for future research on parameterized policy search algorithms. Portable C++ code is provided for both plant and algorithms; thus, the results in this paper can be reevaluated, reused and new algorithms can be inserted with ease.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Evaluation of Policy Gradient Methods and Variants on the Cart-Pole Benchmark

Riedmiller, M., Peters, J., Schaal, S.

In Proceedings of the 2007 IEEE International Symposium on Approximate Dynamic Programming and Reinforcement Learning, pages: 254-261, ADPRL, 2007, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
In this paper, we evaluate different versions from the three main kinds of model-free policy gradient methods, i.e., finite difference gradients, `vanilla' policy gradients and natural policy gradients. Each of these methods is first presented in its simple form and subsequently refined and optimized. By carrying out numerous experiments on the cart pole regulator benchmark we aim to provide a useful baseline for future research on parameterized policy search algorithms. Portable C++ code is provided for both plant and algorithms; thus, the results in this paper can be reevaluated, reused and new algorithms can be inserted with ease.

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PDF [BibTex]

PDF [BibTex]


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Uncertain 3D Force Fields in Reaching Movements: Do Humans Favor Robust or Average Performance?

Mistry, M., Theodorou, E., Hoffmann, H., Schaal, S.

In Abstracts of the 37th Meeting of the Society of Neuroscience, 2007, clmc (inproceedings)

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PDF [BibTex]

PDF [BibTex]


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Applying the episodic natural actor-critic architecture to motor primitive learning

Peters, J., Schaal, S.

In Proceedings of the 2007 European Symposium on Artificial Neural Networks (ESANN), Bruges, Belgium, April 25-27, 2007, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
In this paper, we investigate motor primitive learning with the Natural Actor-Critic approach. The Natural Actor-Critic consists out of actor updates which are achieved using natural stochastic policy gradients while the critic obtains the natural policy gradient by linear regression. We show that this architecture can be used to learn the Òbuilding blocks of movement generationÓ, called motor primitives. Motor primitives are parameterized control policies such as splines or nonlinear differential equations with desired attractor properties. We show that our most modern algorithm, the Episodic Natural Actor-Critic outperforms previous algorithms by at least an order of magnitude. We demonstrate the efficiency of this reinforcement learning method in the application of learning to hit a baseball with an anthropomorphic robot arm.

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link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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A computational model of human trajectory planning based on convergent flow fields

Hoffman, H., Schaal, S.

In Abstracts of the 37st Meeting of the Society of Neuroscience, San Diego, CA, Nov. 3-7, 2007, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
A popular computational model suggests that smooth reaching movements are generated in humans by minimizing a difference vector between hand and target in visual coordinates (Shadmehr and Wise, 2005). To achieve such a task, the optimal joint accelerations may be pre-computed. However, this pre-planning is inflexible towards perturbations of the limb, and there is strong evidence that reaching movements can be modified on-line at any moment during the movement. Thus, next-state planning models (Bullock and Grossberg, 1988) have been suggested that compute the current control command from a function of the goal state such that the overall movement smoothly converges to the goal (see Shadmehr and Wise (2005) for an overview). So far, these models have been restricted to simple point-to-point reaching movements with (approximately) straight trajectories. Here, we present a computational model for learning and executing arbitrary trajectories that combines ideas from pattern generation with dynamic systems and the observation of convergent force fields, which control a frog leg after spinal stimulation (Giszter et al., 1993). In our model, we incorporate the following two observations: first, the orientation of vectors in a force field is invariant over time, but their amplitude is modulated by a time-varying function, and second, two force fields add up when stimulated simultaneously (Giszter et al., 1993). This addition of convergent force fields varying over time results in a virtual trajectory (a moving equilibrium point) that correlates with the actual leg movement (Giszter et al., 1993). Our next-state planner is a set of differential equations that provide the desired end-effector or joint accelerations using feedback of the current state of the limb. These accelerations can be interpreted as resulting from a damped spring that links the current limb position with a virtual trajectory. This virtual trajectory can be learned to realize any desired limb trajectory and velocity profile, and learning is efficient since the time-modulated sum of convergent force fields equals a sum of weighted basis functions (Gaussian time pulses). Thus, linear algebra is sufficient to compute these weights, which correspond to points on the virtual trajectory. During movement execution, the differential equation corrects automatically for perturbations and brings back smoothly the limb towards the goal. Virtual trajectories can be rescaled and added allowing to build a set of movement primitives to describe movements more complex than previously learned. We demonstrate the potential of the suggested model by learning and generating a wide variety of movements.

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[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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A Computational Model of Arm Trajectory Modification Using Dynamic Movement Primitives

Mohajerian, P., Hoffmann, H., Mistry, M., Schaal, S.

In Abstracts of the 37st Meeting of the Society of Neuroscience, San Diego, CA, Nov 3-7, 2007, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
Several scientists used a double-step target-displacement protocol to investigate how an unexpected upcoming new target modifies ongoing discrete movements. Interesting observations are the initial direction of the movement, the spatial path of the movement to the second target, and the amplification of the speed in the second movement. Experimental data show that the above properties are influenced by the movement reaction time and the interstimulus interval between the onset of the first and second target. Hypotheses in the literature concerning the interpretation of the observed data include a) the second movement is superimposed on the first movement (Henis and Flash, 1995), b) the first movement is aborted and the second movement is planned to smoothly connect the current state of the arm with the new target (Hoff and Arbib, 1992), c) the second movement is initiated by a new control signal that replaces the first movement's control signal, but does not take the state of the system into account (Flanagan et al., 1993), and (d) the second movement is initiated by a new goal command, but the control structure stays unchanged, and feed-back from the current state is taken into account (Hoff and Arbib, 1993). We investigate target switching from the viewpoint of Dynamic Movement Primitives (DMPs). DMPs are trajectory planning units that are formalized as stable nonlinear attractor systems (Ijspeert et al., 2002). They are a useful framework for biological motor control as they are highly flexible in creating complex rhythmic and discrete behaviors that can quickly adapt to the inevitable perturbations of dynamically changing, stochastic environments. In this model, target switching is accomplished simply by updating the target input to the discrete movement primitive for reaching. The reaching trajectory in this model can be straight or take any other route; in contrast, the Hoff and Arbib (1993) model is restricted to straight reaching movement plans. In the present study, we use DMPs to reproduce in simulation a large number of target-switching experimental data from the literature and to show that online correction and the observed target switching phenomena can be accomplished by changing the goal state of an on-going DMP, without the need to switch to different movement primitives or to re-plan the movement. :

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PDF [BibTex]

PDF [BibTex]


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Inverse dynamics control with floating base and constraints

Nakanishi, J., Mistry, M., Schaal, S.

In International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA2007), pages: 1942-1947, Rome, Italy, April 10-14, 2007, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
In this paper, we address the issues of compliant control of a robot under contact constraints with a goal of using joint space based pattern generators as movement primitives, as often considered in the studies of legged locomotion and biological motor control. For this purpose, we explore inverse dynamics control of constrained dynamical systems. When the system is overconstrained, it is not straightforward to formulate an inverse dynamics control law since the problem becomes an ill-posed one, where infinitely many combinations of joint torques are possible to achieve the desired joint accelerations. The goal of this paper is to develop a general and computationally efficient inverse dynamics algorithm for a robot with a free floating base and constraints. We suggest an approximate way of computing inverse dynamics algorithm by treating constraint forces computed with a Lagrange multiplier method as simply external forces based on FeatherstoneÕs floating base formulation of inverse dynamics. We present how all the necessary quantities to compute our controller can be efficiently extracted from FeatherstoneÕs spatial notation of robot dynamics. We evaluate the effectiveness of the suggested approach on a simulated biped robot model.

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link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Kernel carpentry for onlne regression using randomly varying coefficient model

Edakunni, N. U., Schaal, S., Vijayakumar, S.

In Proceedings of the 20th International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence, Hyderabad, India: Jan. 6-12, 2007, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
We present a Bayesian formulation of locally weighted learning (LWL) using the novel concept of a randomly varying coefficient model. Based on this, we propose a mechanism for multivariate non-linear regression using spatially localised linear models that learns completely independent of each other, uses only local information and adapts the local model complexity in a data driven fashion. We derive online updates for the model parameters based on variational Bayesian EM. The evaluation of the proposed algorithm against other state-of-the-art methods reveal the excellent, robust generalization performance beside surprisingly efficient time and space complexity properties. This paper, for the first time, brings together the computational efficiency and the adaptability of Õnon-competitiveÕ locally weighted learning schemes and the modeling guarantees of the Bayesian formulation.

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link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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A robust quadruped walking gait for traversing rough terrain

Pongas, D., Mistry, M., Schaal, S.

In International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA2007), pages: 1474-1479, Rome, April 10-14, 2007, 2007, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
Legged locomotion excels when terrains become too rough for wheeled systems or open-loop walking pattern generators to succeed, i.e., when accurate foot placement is of primary importance in successfully reaching the task goal. In this paper we address the scenario where the rough terrain is traversed with a static walking gait, and where for every foot placement of a leg, the location of the foot placement was selected irregularly by a planning algorithm. Our goal is to adjust a smooth walking pattern generator with the selection of every foot placement such that the COG of the robot follows a stable trajectory characterized by a stability margin relative to the current support triangle. We propose a novel parameterization of the COG trajectory based on the current position, velocity, and acceleration of the four legs of the robot. This COG trajectory has guaranteed continuous velocity and acceleration profiles, which leads to continuous velocity and acceleration profiles of the leg movement, which is ideally suited for advanced model-based controllers. Pitch, yaw, and ground clearance of the robot are easily adjusted automatically under any terrain situation. We evaluate our gait generation technique on the Little-Dog quadruped robot when traversing complex rocky and sloped terrains.

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link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Bayesian Nonparametric Regression with Local Models

Ting, J., Schaal, S.

In Workshop on Robotic Challenges for Machine Learning, NIPS 2007, 2007, clmc (inproceedings)

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[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Task space control with prioritization for balance and locomotion

Mistry, M., Nakanishi, J., Schaal, S.

In IEEE International Conference on Intelligent Robotics Systems (IROS 2007), San Diego, CA: Oct. 29 Ð Nov. 2, 2007, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
This paper addresses locomotion with active balancing, via task space control with prioritization. The center of gravity (COG) and foot of the swing leg are treated as task space control points. Floating base inverse kinematics with constraints is employed, thereby allowing for a mobile platform suitable for locomotion. Different techniques of task prioritization are discussed and we clarify differences and similarities of previous suggested work. Varying levels of prioritization for control are examined with emphasis on singularity robustness and the negative effects of constraint switching. A novel controller for task space control of balance and locomotion is developed which attempts to address singularity robustness, while minimizing discontinuities created by constraint switching. Controllers are evaluated using a quadruped robot simulator engaging in a locomotion task.

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link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]

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What should be learned?

Schaal, S., Atkeson, C. G., Botros, S.

In Proceedings of Seventh Yale Workshop on Adaptive and Learning Systems, pages: 199-204, New Haven, CT, May 20-22, 1992, clmc (inproceedings)

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[BibTex]

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[BibTex]