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2017


Interactive Perception: Leveraging Action in Perception and Perception in Action
Interactive Perception: Leveraging Action in Perception and Perception in Action

Bohg, J., Hausman, K., Sankaran, B., Brock, O., Kragic, D., Schaal, S., Sukhatme, G.

IEEE Transactions on Robotics, 33, pages: 1273-1291, December 2017 (article)

Abstract
Recent approaches in robotics follow the insight that perception is facilitated by interactivity with the environment. These approaches are subsumed under the term of Interactive Perception (IP). We argue that IP provides the following benefits: (i) any type of forceful interaction with the environment creates a new type of informative sensory signal that would otherwise not be present and (ii) any prior knowledge about the nature of the interaction supports the interpretation of the signal. This is facilitated by knowledge of the regularity in the combined space of sensory information and action parameters. The goal of this survey is to postulate this as a principle and collect evidence in support by analyzing and categorizing existing work in this area. We also provide an overview of the most important applications of Interactive Perception. We close this survey by discussing the remaining open questions. Thereby, we hope to define a field and inspire future work.

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arXiv DOI Project Page [BibTex]

2017


arXiv DOI Project Page [BibTex]


Learning a model of facial shape and expression from {4D} scans
Learning a model of facial shape and expression from 4D scans

Li, T., Bolkart, T., Black, M. J., Li, H., Romero, J.

ACM Transactions on Graphics, 36(6):194:1-194:17, November 2017, Two first authors contributed equally (article)

Abstract
The field of 3D face modeling has a large gap between high-end and low-end methods. At the high end, the best facial animation is indistinguishable from real humans, but this comes at the cost of extensive manual labor. At the low end, face capture from consumer depth sensors relies on 3D face models that are not expressive enough to capture the variability in natural facial shape and expression. We seek a middle ground by learning a facial model from thousands of accurately aligned 3D scans. Our FLAME model (Faces Learned with an Articulated Model and Expressions) is designed to work with existing graphics software and be easy to fit to data. FLAME uses a linear shape space trained from 3800 scans of human heads. FLAME combines this linear shape space with an articulated jaw, neck, and eyeballs, pose-dependent corrective blendshapes, and additional global expression from 4D face sequences in the D3DFACS dataset along with additional 4D sequences.We accurately register a template mesh to the scan sequences and make the D3DFACS registrations available for research purposes. In total the model is trained from over 33, 000 scans. FLAME is low-dimensional but more expressive than the FaceWarehouse model and the Basel Face Model. We compare FLAME to these models by fitting them to static 3D scans and 4D sequences using the same optimization method. FLAME is significantly more accurate and is available for research purposes (http://flame.is.tue.mpg.de).

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data/model video code chumpy code tensorflow paper supplemental Project Page [BibTex]

data/model video code chumpy code tensorflow paper supplemental Project Page [BibTex]


Acquiring Target Stacking Skills by Goal-Parameterized Deep Reinforcement Learning
Acquiring Target Stacking Skills by Goal-Parameterized Deep Reinforcement Learning

Li, W., Bohg, J., Fritz, M.

arXiv, November 2017 (article) Submitted

Abstract
Understanding physical phenomena is a key component of human intelligence and enables physical interaction with previously unseen environments. In this paper, we study how an artificial agent can autonomously acquire this intuition through interaction with the environment. We created a synthetic block stacking environment with physics simulation in which the agent can learn a policy end-to-end through trial and error. Thereby, we bypass to explicitly model physical knowledge within the policy. We are specifically interested in tasks that require the agent to reach a given goal state that may be different for every new trial. To this end, we propose a deep reinforcement learning framework that learns policies which are parametrized by a goal. We validated the model on a toy example navigating in a grid world with different target positions and in a block stacking task with different target structures of the final tower. In contrast to prior work, our policies show better generalization across different goals.

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arXiv [BibTex]


Investigating Body Image Disturbance in Anorexia Nervosa Using Novel Biometric Figure Rating Scales: A Pilot Study
Investigating Body Image Disturbance in Anorexia Nervosa Using Novel Biometric Figure Rating Scales: A Pilot Study

Mölbert, S. C., Thaler, A., Streuber, S., Black, M. J., Karnath, H., Zipfel, S., Mohler, B., Giel, K. E.

European Eating Disorders Review, 25(6):607-612, November 2017 (article)

Abstract
This study uses novel biometric figure rating scales (FRS) spanning body mass index (BMI) 13.8 to 32.2 kg/m2 and BMI 18 to 42 kg/m2. The aims of the study were (i) to compare FRS body weight dissatisfaction and perceptual distortion of women with anorexia nervosa (AN) to a community sample; (ii) how FRS parameters are associated with questionnaire body dissatisfaction, eating disorder symptoms and appearance comparison habits; and (iii) whether the weight spectrum of the FRS matters. Women with AN (n = 24) and a community sample of women (n = 104) selected their current and ideal body on the FRS and completed additional questionnaires. Women with AN accurately picked the body that aligned best with their actual weight in both FRS. Controls underestimated their BMI in the FRS 14–32 and were accurate in the FRS 18–42. In both FRS, women with AN desired a body close to their actual BMI and controls desired a thinner body. Our observations suggest that body image disturbance in AN is unlikely to be characterized by a visual perceptual disturbance, but rather by an idealization of underweight in conjunction with high body dissatisfaction. The weight spectrum of FRS can influence the accuracy of BMI estimation.

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publisher DOI Project Page [BibTex]


Embodied Hands: Modeling and Capturing Hands and Bodies Together
Embodied Hands: Modeling and Capturing Hands and Bodies Together

Romero, J., Tzionas, D., Black, M. J.

ACM Transactions on Graphics, (Proc. SIGGRAPH Asia), 36(6):245:1-245:17, 245:1–245:17, ACM, November 2017 (article)

Abstract
Humans move their hands and bodies together to communicate and solve tasks. Capturing and replicating such coordinated activity is critical for virtual characters that behave realistically. Surprisingly, most methods treat the 3D modeling and tracking of bodies and hands separately. Here we formulate a model of hands and bodies interacting together and fit it to full-body 4D sequences. When scanning or capturing the full body in 3D, hands are small and often partially occluded, making their shape and pose hard to recover. To cope with low-resolution, occlusion, and noise, we develop a new model called MANO (hand Model with Articulated and Non-rigid defOrmations). MANO is learned from around 1000 high-resolution 3D scans of hands of 31 subjects in a wide variety of hand poses. The model is realistic, low-dimensional, captures non-rigid shape changes with pose, is compatible with standard graphics packages, and can fit any human hand. MANO provides a compact mapping from hand poses to pose blend shape corrections and a linear manifold of pose synergies. We attach MANO to a standard parameterized 3D body shape model (SMPL), resulting in a fully articulated body and hand model (SMPL+H). We illustrate SMPL+H by fitting complex, natural, activities of subjects captured with a 4D scanner. The fitting is fully automatic and results in full body models that move naturally with detailed hand motions and a realism not seen before in full body performance capture. The models and data are freely available for research purposes at http://mano.is.tue.mpg.de.

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website youtube paper suppl video link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]

website youtube paper suppl video link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]


An Online Scalable Approach to Unified Multirobot Cooperative Localization and Object Tracking
An Online Scalable Approach to Unified Multirobot Cooperative Localization and Object Tracking

Ahmad, A., Lawless, G., Lima, P.

IEEE Transactions on Robotics (T-RO), 33, pages: 1184 - 1199, October 2017 (article)

Abstract
In this article we present a unified approach for multi-robot cooperative simultaneous localization and object tracking based on particle filters. Our approach is scalable with respect to the number of robots in the team. We introduce a method that reduces, from an exponential to a linear growth, the space and computation time requirements with respect to the number of robots in order to maintain a given level of accuracy in the full state estimation. Our method requires no increase in the number of particles with respect to the number of robots. However, in our method each particle represents a full state hypothesis, leading to the linear dependency on the number of robots of both space and time complexity. The derivation of the algorithm implementing our approach from a standard particle filter algorithm and its complexity analysis are presented. Through an extensive set of simulation experiments on a large number of randomized datasets, we demonstrate the correctness and efficacy of our approach. Through real robot experiments on a standardized open dataset of a team of four soccer playing robots tracking a ball, we evaluate our method's estimation accuracy with respect to the ground truth values. Through comparisons with other methods based on i) nonlinear least squares minimization and ii) joint extended Kalman filter, we further highlight our method's advantages. Finally, we also present a robustness test for our approach by evaluating it under scenarios of communication and vision failure in teammate robots.

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Published Version link (url) DOI [BibTex]

Published Version link (url) DOI [BibTex]


Crowdshaping Realistic {3D} Avatars with Words
Crowdshaping Realistic 3D Avatars with Words

Streuber, S., Ramirez, M. Q., Black, M., Zuffi, S., O’Toole, A., Hill, M. Q., Hahn, C. A.

August 2017, Application PCT/EP2017/051954 (misc)

Abstract
A method for generating a body shape, comprising the steps: - receiving one or more linguistic descriptors related to the body shape; - retrieving an association between the one or more linguistic descriptors and a body shape; and - generating the body shape, based on the association.

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Google Patents [BibTex]

Google Patents [BibTex]


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Event-based State Estimation: An Emulation-based Approach

Trimpe, S.

IET Control Theory & Applications, 11(11):1684-1693, July 2017 (article)

Abstract
An event-based state estimation approach for reducing communication in a networked control system is proposed. Multiple distributed sensor agents observe a dynamic process and sporadically transmit their measurements to estimator agents over a shared bus network. Local event-triggering protocols ensure that data is transmitted only when necessary to meet a desired estimation accuracy. The event-based design is shown to emulate the performance of a centralised state observer design up to guaranteed bounds, but with reduced communication. The stability results for state estimation are extended to the distributed control system that results when the local estimates are used for feedback control. Results from numerical simulations and hardware experiments illustrate the effectiveness of the proposed approach in reducing network communication.

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arXiv Supplementary material PDF DOI Project Page [BibTex]

arXiv Supplementary material PDF DOI Project Page [BibTex]


Human Shape Estimation using Statistical Body Models
Human Shape Estimation using Statistical Body Models

Loper, M. M.

University of Tübingen, May 2017 (thesis)

Abstract
Human body estimation methods transform real-world observations into predictions about human body state. These estimation methods benefit a variety of health, entertainment, clothing, and ergonomics applications. State may include pose, overall body shape, and appearance. Body state estimation is underconstrained by observations; ambiguity presents itself both in the form of missing data within observations, and also in the form of unknown correspondences between observations. We address this challenge with the use of a statistical body model: a data-driven virtual human. This helps resolve ambiguity in two ways. First, it fills in missing data, meaning that incomplete observations still result in complete shape estimates. Second, the model provides a statistically-motivated penalty for unlikely states, which enables more plausible body shape estimates. Body state inference requires more than a body model; we therefore build obser- vation models whose output is compared with real observations. In this thesis, body state is estimated from three types of observations: 3D motion capture markers, depth and color images, and high-resolution 3D scans. In each case, a forward process is proposed which simulates observations. By comparing observations to the results of the forward process, state can be adjusted to minimize the difference between simulated and observed data. We use gradient-based methods because they are critical to the precise estimation of state with a large number of parameters. The contributions of this work include three parts. First, we propose a method for the estimation of body shape, nonrigid deformation, and pose from 3D markers. Second, we present a concise approach to differentiating through the rendering process, with application to body shape estimation. And finally, we present a statistical body model trained from human body scans, with state-of-the-art fidelity, good runtime performance, and compatibility with existing animation packages.

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Official Version [BibTex]


Probabilistic Articulated Real-Time Tracking for Robot Manipulation
Probabilistic Articulated Real-Time Tracking for Robot Manipulation

(Best Paper of RA-L 2017, Finalist of Best Robotic Vision Paper Award of ICRA 2017)

Garcia Cifuentes, C., Issac, J., Wüthrich, M., Schaal, S., Bohg, J.

IEEE Robotics and Automation Letters (RA-L), 2(2):577-584, April 2017 (article)

Abstract
We propose a probabilistic filtering method which fuses joint measurements with depth images to yield a precise, real-time estimate of the end-effector pose in the camera frame. This avoids the need for frame transformations when using it in combination with visual object tracking methods. Precision is achieved by modeling and correcting biases in the joint measurements as well as inaccuracies in the robot model, such as poor extrinsic camera calibration. We make our method computationally efficient through a principled combination of Kalman filtering of the joint measurements and asynchronous depth-image updates based on the Coordinate Particle Filter. We quantitatively evaluate our approach on a dataset recorded from a real robotic platform, annotated with ground truth from a motion capture system. We show that our approach is robust and accurate even under challenging conditions such as fast motion, significant and long-term occlusions, and time-varying biases. We release the dataset along with open-source code of our approach to allow for quantitative comparison with alternative approaches.

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arXiv video code and dataset video PDF DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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Anticipatory Action Selection for Human-Robot Table Tennis

Wang, Z., Boularias, A., Mülling, K., Schölkopf, B., Peters, J.

Artificial Intelligence, 247, pages: 399-414, 2017, Special Issue on AI and Robotics (article)

Abstract
Abstract Anticipation can enhance the capability of a robot in its interaction with humans, where the robot predicts the humans' intention for selecting its own action. We present a novel framework of anticipatory action selection for human-robot interaction, which is capable to handle nonlinear and stochastic human behaviors such as table tennis strokes and allows the robot to choose the optimal action based on prediction of the human partner's intention with uncertainty. The presented framework is generic and can be used in many human-robot interaction scenarios, for example, in navigation and human-robot co-manipulation. In this article, we conduct a case study on human-robot table tennis. Due to the limited amount of time for executing hitting movements, a robot usually needs to initiate its hitting movement before the opponent hits the ball, which requires the robot to be anticipatory based on visual observation of the opponent's movement. Previous work on Intention-Driven Dynamics Models (IDDM) allowed the robot to predict the intended target of the opponent. In this article, we address the problem of action selection and optimal timing for initiating a chosen action by formulating the anticipatory action selection as a Partially Observable Markov Decision Process (POMDP), where the transition and observation are modeled by the \{IDDM\} framework. We present two approaches to anticipatory action selection based on the \{POMDP\} formulation, i.e., a model-free policy learning method based on Least-Squares Policy Iteration (LSPI) that employs the \{IDDM\} for belief updates, and a model-based Monte-Carlo Planning (MCP) method, which benefits from the transition and observation model by the IDDM. Experimental results using real data in a simulated environment show the importance of anticipatory action selection, and that \{POMDPs\} are suitable to formulate the anticipatory action selection problem by taking into account the uncertainties in prediction. We also show that existing algorithms for POMDPs, such as \{LSPI\} and MCP, can be applied to substantially improve the robot's performance in its interaction with humans.

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DOI Project Page [BibTex]

DOI Project Page [BibTex]


Early Stopping Without a Validation Set
Early Stopping Without a Validation Set

Mahsereci, M., Balles, L., Lassner, C., Hennig, P.

arXiv preprint arXiv:1703.09580, 2017 (article)

Abstract
Early stopping is a widely used technique to prevent poor generalization performance when training an over-expressive model by means of gradient-based optimization. To find a good point to halt the optimizer, a common practice is to split the dataset into a training and a smaller validation set to obtain an ongoing estimate of the generalization performance. In this paper we propose a novel early stopping criterion which is based on fast-to-compute, local statistics of the computed gradients and entirely removes the need for a held-out validation set. Our experiments show that this is a viable approach in the setting of least-squares and logistic regression as well as neural networks.

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link (url) Project Page Project Page [BibTex]


Data-Driven Physics for Human Soft Tissue Animation
Data-Driven Physics for Human Soft Tissue Animation

Kim, M., Pons-Moll, G., Pujades, S., Bang, S., Kim, J., Black, M. J., Lee, S.

ACM Transactions on Graphics, (Proc. SIGGRAPH), 36(4):54:1-54:12, 2017 (article)

Abstract
Data driven models of human poses and soft-tissue deformations can produce very realistic results, but they only model the visible surface of the human body and cannot create skin deformation due to interactions with the environment. Physical simulations can generalize to external forces, but their parameters are difficult to control. In this paper, we present a layered volumetric human body model learned from data. Our model is composed of a data-driven inner layer and a physics-based external layer. The inner layer is driven with a volumetric statistical body model (VSMPL). The soft tissue layer consists of a tetrahedral mesh that is driven using the finite element method (FEM). Model parameters, namely the segmentation of the body into layers and the soft tissue elasticity, are learned directly from 4D registrations of humans exhibiting soft tissue deformations. The learned two layer model is a realistic full-body avatar that generalizes to novel motions and external forces. Experiments show that the resulting avatars produce realistic results on held out sequences and react to external forces. Moreover, the model supports the retargeting of physical properties from one avatar when they share the same topology.

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video paper link (url) Project Page [BibTex]

video paper link (url) Project Page [BibTex]


Learning Inference Models for Computer Vision
Learning Inference Models for Computer Vision

Jampani, V.

MPI for Intelligent Systems and University of Tübingen, 2017 (phdthesis)

Abstract
Computer vision can be understood as the ability to perform 'inference' on image data. Breakthroughs in computer vision technology are often marked by advances in inference techniques, as even the model design is often dictated by the complexity of inference in them. This thesis proposes learning based inference schemes and demonstrates applications in computer vision. We propose techniques for inference in both generative and discriminative computer vision models. Despite their intuitive appeal, the use of generative models in vision is hampered by the difficulty of posterior inference, which is often too complex or too slow to be practical. We propose techniques for improving inference in two widely used techniques: Markov Chain Monte Carlo (MCMC) sampling and message-passing inference. Our inference strategy is to learn separate discriminative models that assist Bayesian inference in a generative model. Experiments on a range of generative vision models show that the proposed techniques accelerate the inference process and/or converge to better solutions. A main complication in the design of discriminative models is the inclusion of prior knowledge in a principled way. For better inference in discriminative models, we propose techniques that modify the original model itself, as inference is simple evaluation of the model. We concentrate on convolutional neural network (CNN) models and propose a generalization of standard spatial convolutions, which are the basic building blocks of CNN architectures, to bilateral convolutions. First, we generalize the existing use of bilateral filters and then propose new neural network architectures with learnable bilateral filters, which we call `Bilateral Neural Networks'. We show how the bilateral filtering modules can be used for modifying existing CNN architectures for better image segmentation and propose a neural network approach for temporal information propagation in videos. Experiments demonstrate the potential of the proposed bilateral networks on a wide range of vision tasks and datasets. In summary, we propose learning based techniques for better inference in several computer vision models ranging from inverse graphics to freely parameterized neural networks. In generative vision models, our inference techniques alleviate some of the crucial hurdles in Bayesian posterior inference, paving new ways for the use of model based machine learning in vision. In discriminative CNN models, the proposed filter generalizations aid in the design of new neural network architectures that can handle sparse high-dimensional data as well as provide a way for incorporating prior knowledge into CNNs.

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pdf [BibTex]

pdf [BibTex]


Sparse Inertial Poser: Automatic 3D Human Pose Estimation from Sparse IMUs
Sparse Inertial Poser: Automatic 3D Human Pose Estimation from Sparse IMUs

(Best Paper, Eurographics 2017)

Marcard, T. V., Rosenhahn, B., Black, M., Pons-Moll, G.

Computer Graphics Forum 36(2), Proceedings of the 38th Annual Conference of the European Association for Computer Graphics (Eurographics), pages: 349-360 , 2017 (article)

Abstract
We address the problem of making human motion capture in the wild more practical by using a small set of inertial sensors attached to the body. Since the problem is heavily under-constrained, previous methods either use a large number of sensors, which is intrusive, or they require additional video input. We take a different approach and constrain the problem by: (i) making use of a realistic statistical body model that includes anthropometric constraints and (ii) using a joint optimization framework to fit the model to orientation and acceleration measurements over multiple frames. The resulting tracker Sparse Inertial Poser (SIP) enables motion capture using only 6 sensors (attached to the wrists, lower legs, back and head) and works for arbitrary human motions. Experiments on the recently released TNT15 dataset show that, using the same number of sensors, SIP achieves higher accuracy than the dataset baseline without using any video data. We further demonstrate the effectiveness of SIP on newly recorded challenging motions in outdoor scenarios such as climbing or jumping over a wall

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video pdf Project Page [BibTex]

video pdf Project Page [BibTex]


Efficient 2D and 3D Facade Segmentation using Auto-Context
Efficient 2D and 3D Facade Segmentation using Auto-Context

Gadde, R., Jampani, V., Marlet, R., Gehler, P.

IEEE Transactions on Pattern Analysis and Machine Intelligence, 2017 (article)

Abstract
This paper introduces a fast and efficient segmentation technique for 2D images and 3D point clouds of building facades. Facades of buildings are highly structured and consequently most methods that have been proposed for this problem aim to make use of this strong prior information. Contrary to most prior work, we are describing a system that is almost domain independent and consists of standard segmentation methods. We train a sequence of boosted decision trees using auto-context features. This is learned using stacked generalization. We find that this technique performs better, or comparable with all previous published methods and present empirical results on all available 2D and 3D facade benchmark datasets. The proposed method is simple to implement, easy to extend, and very efficient at test-time inference.

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arXiv Project Page [BibTex]

arXiv Project Page [BibTex]


{ClothCap}: Seamless {4D} Clothing Capture and Retargeting
ClothCap: Seamless 4D Clothing Capture and Retargeting

Pons-Moll, G., Pujades, S., Hu, S., Black, M.

ACM Transactions on Graphics, (Proc. SIGGRAPH), 36(4):73:1-73:15, ACM, New York, NY, USA, 2017, Two first authors contributed equally (article)

Abstract
Designing and simulating realistic clothing is challenging and, while several methods have addressed the capture of clothing from 3D scans, previous methods have been limited to single garments and simple motions, lack detail, or require specialized texture patterns. Here we address the problem of capturing regular clothing on fully dressed people in motion. People typically wear multiple pieces of clothing at a time. To estimate the shape of such clothing, track it over time, and render it believably, each garment must be segmented from the others and the body. Our ClothCap approach uses a new multi-part 3D model of clothed bodies, automatically segments each piece of clothing, estimates the naked body shape and pose under the clothing, and tracks the 3D deformations of the clothing over time. We estimate the garments and their motion from 4D scans; that is, high-resolution 3D scans of the subject in motion at 60 fps. The model allows us to capture a clothed person in motion, extract their clothing, and retarget the clothing to new body shapes. ClothCap provides a step towards virtual try-on with a technology for capturing, modeling, and analyzing clothing in motion.

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video project_page paper link (url) DOI Project Page Project Page [BibTex]

video project_page paper link (url) DOI Project Page Project Page [BibTex]


Capturing Hand-Object Interaction and Reconstruction of Manipulated Objects
Capturing Hand-Object Interaction and Reconstruction of Manipulated Objects

Tzionas, D.

University of Bonn, 2017 (phdthesis)

Abstract
Hand motion capture with an RGB-D sensor gained recently a lot of research attention, however, even most recent approaches focus on the case of a single isolated hand. We focus instead on hands that interact with other hands or with a rigid or articulated object. Our framework successfully captures motion in such scenarios by combining a generative model with discriminatively trained salient points, collision detection and physics simulation to achieve a low tracking error with physically plausible poses. All components are unified in a single objective function that can be optimized with standard optimization techniques. We initially assume a-priori knowledge of the object's shape and skeleton. In case of unknown object shape there are existing 3d reconstruction methods that capitalize on distinctive geometric or texture features. These methods though fail for textureless and highly symmetric objects like household articles, mechanical parts or toys. We show that extracting 3d hand motion for in-hand scanning effectively facilitates the reconstruction of such objects and we fuse the rich additional information of hands into a 3d reconstruction pipeline. Finally, although shape reconstruction is enough for rigid objects, there is a lack of tools that build rigged models of articulated objects that deform realistically using RGB-D data. We propose a method that creates a fully rigged model consisting of a watertight mesh, embedded skeleton and skinning weights by employing a combination of deformable mesh tracking, motion segmentation based on spectral clustering and skeletonization based on mean curvature flow.

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Thesis link (url) Project Page [BibTex]

2010


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Policy learning algorithmis for motor learning (Algorithmen zum automatischen Erlernen von Motorfähigkigkeiten)

Peters, J., Kober, J., Schaal, S.

Automatisierungstechnik, 58(12):688-694, 2010, clmc (article)

Abstract
Robot learning methods which allow au- tonomous robots to adapt to novel situations have been a long standing vision of robotics, artificial intelligence, and cognitive sciences. However, to date, learning techniques have yet to ful- fill 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. If possible, scaling was usually only achieved in precisely pre-structured domains. In this paper, we investigate the ingredients for a general ap- proach 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 algo- rithms 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 structu- res for task representation and execution.

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link (url) [BibTex]


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A Bayesian approach to nonlinear parameter identification for rigid-body dynamics

Ting, J., DSouza, A., Schaal, S.

Neural Networks, 2010, clmc (article)

Abstract
For complex robots such as humanoids, model-based control is highly beneficial for accurate tracking while keeping negative feedback gains low for compliance. However, in such multi degree-of-freedom lightweight systems, conventional identification of rigid body dynamics models using CAD data and actuator models is inaccurate due to unknown nonlinear robot dynamic effects. An alternative method is data-driven parameter estimation, but significant noise in measured and inferred variables affects it adversely. Moreover, standard estimation procedures may give physically inconsistent results due to unmodeled nonlinearities or insufficiently rich data. This paper addresses these problems, proposing a Bayesian system identification technique for linear or piecewise linear systems. Inspired by Factor Analysis regression, we develop a computationally efficient variational Bayesian regression algorithm that is robust to ill-conditioned data, automatically detects relevant features, and identifies input and output noise. We evaluate our approach on rigid body parameter estimation for various robotic systems, achieving an error of up to three times lower than other state-of-the-art machine learning methods.

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link (url) [BibTex]


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A first optimal control solution for a complex, nonlinear, tendon driven neuromuscular finger model

Theodorou, E. A., Todorov, E., Valero-Cuevas, F.

Proceedings of the ASME 2010 Summer Bioengineering Conference August 30-September 2, 2010, Naples, Florida, USA, 2010, clmc (article)

Abstract
In this work we present the first constrained stochastic op- timal feedback controller applied to a fully nonlinear, tendon driven index finger model. Our model also takes into account an extensor mechanism, and muscle force-length and force-velocity properties. We show this feedback controller is robust to noise and perturbations to the dynamics, while successfully handling the nonlinearities and high dimensionality of the system. By ex- tending prior methods, we are able to approximate physiological realism by ensuring positivity of neural commands and tendon tensions at all timesthus can, for the first time, use the optimal control framework to predict biologically plausible tendon tensions for a nonlinear neuromuscular finger model. METHODS 1 Muscle Model The rigid-body triple pendulum finger model with slightly viscous joints is actuated by Hill-type muscle models. Joint torques are generated by the seven muscles of the index fin-

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PDF [BibTex]

PDF [BibTex]


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Efficient learning and feature detection in high dimensional regression

Ting, J., D’Souza, A., Vijayakumar, S., Schaal, S.

Neural Computation, 22, pages: 831-886, 2010, clmc (article)

Abstract
We present a novel algorithm for efficient learning and feature selection in high- dimensional regression problems. We arrive at this model through a modification of the standard regression model, enabling us to derive a probabilistic version of the well-known statistical regression technique of backfitting. Using the Expectation- Maximization algorithm, along with variational approximation methods to overcome intractability, we extend our algorithm to include automatic relevance detection of the input features. This Variational Bayesian Least Squares (VBLS) approach retains its simplicity as a linear model, but offers a novel statistically robust â??black- boxâ? approach to generalized linear regression with high-dimensional inputs. It can be easily extended to nonlinear regression and classification problems. In particular, we derive the framework of sparse Bayesian learning, e.g., the Relevance Vector Machine, with VBLS at its core, offering significant computational and robustness advantages for this class of methods. We evaluate our algorithm on synthetic and neurophysiological data sets, as well as on standard regression and classification benchmark data sets, comparing it with other competitive statistical approaches and demonstrating its suitability as a drop-in replacement for other generalized linear regression techniques.

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link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Stochastic Differential Dynamic Programming

Theodorou, E., Tassa, Y., Todorov, E.

In the proceedings of American Control Conference (ACC 2010) , 2010, clmc (article)

Abstract
We present a generalization of the classic Differential Dynamic Programming algorithm. We assume the existence of state- and control-dependent process noise, and proceed to derive the second-order expansion of the cost-to-go. Despite having quartic and cubic terms in the initial expression, we show that these vanish, leaving us with the same quadratic structure as standard DDP.

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PDF [BibTex]

PDF [BibTex]


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Learning control in robotics – trajectory-based opitimal control techniques

Schaal, S., Atkeson, C. G.

Robotics and Automation Magazine, 17(2):20-29, 2010, clmc (article)

Abstract
In a not too distant future, robots will be a natural part of daily life in human society, providing assistance in many areas ranging from clinical applications, education and care giving, to normal household environments [1]. It is hard to imagine that all possible tasks can be preprogrammed in such robots. Robots need to be able to learn, either by themselves or with the help of human supervision. Additionally, wear and tear on robots in daily use needs to be automatically compensated for, which requires a form of continuous self-calibration, another form of learning. Finally, robots need to react to stochastic and dynamic environments, i.e., they need to learn how to optimally adapt to uncertainty and unforeseen changes. Robot learning is going to be a key ingredient for the future of autonomous robots. While robot learning covers a rather large field, from learning to perceive, to plan, to make decisions, etc., we will focus this review on topics of learning control, in particular, as it is concerned with learning control in simulated or actual physical robots. In general, learning control refers to the process of acquiring a control strategy for a particular control system and a particular task by trial and error. Learning control is usually distinguished from adaptive control [2] in that the learning system can have rather general optimization objectivesâ??not just, e.g., minimal tracking errorâ??and is permitted to fail during the process of learning, while adaptive control emphasizes fast convergence without failure. Thus, learning control resembles the way that humans and animals acquire new movement strategies, while adaptive control is a special case of learning control that fulfills stringent performance constraints, e.g., as needed in life-critical systems like airplanes. Learning control has been an active topic of research for at least three decades. However, given the lack of working robots that actually use learning components, more work needs to be done before robot learning will make it beyond the laboratory environment. This article will survey some ongoing and past activities in robot learning to assess where the field stands and where it is going. We will largely focus on nonwheeled robots and less on topics of state estimation, as typically explored in wheeled robots [3]â??6], and we emphasize learning in continuous state-action spaces rather than discrete state-action spaces [7], [8]. We will illustrate the different topics of robot learning with examples from our own research with anthropomorphic and humanoid robots.

am

link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Learning, planning, and control for quadruped locomotion over challenging terrain

Kalakrishnan, M., Buchli, J., Pastor, P., Mistry, M., Schaal, S.

International Journal of Robotics Research, 30(2):236-258, 2010, clmc (article)

Abstract
We present a control architecture for fast quadruped locomotion over rough terrain. We approach the problem by decomposing it into many sub-systems, in which we apply state-of-the-art learning, planning, optimization, and control techniques to achieve robust, fast locomotion. Unique features of our control strategy include: (1) a system that learns optimal foothold choices from expert demonstration using terrain templates, (2) a body trajectory optimizer based on the Zero- Moment Point (ZMP) stability criterion, and (3) a floating-base inverse dynamics controller that, in conjunction with force control, allows for robust, compliant locomotion over unperceived obstacles. We evaluate the performance of our controller by testing it on the LittleDog quadruped robot, over a wide variety of rough terrains of varying difficulty levels. The terrain that the robot was tested on includes rocks, logs, steps, barriers, and gaps, with obstacle sizes up to the leg length of the robot. We demonstrate the generalization ability of this controller by presenting results from testing performed by an independent external test team on terrain that has never been shown to us.

am

link (url) Project Page [BibTex]

link (url) Project Page [BibTex]

1993


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Design concurrent calculation: A CAD- and data-integrated approach

Schaal, S., Ehrlenspiel, K.

Journal of Engineering Design, 4, pages: 71-85, 1993, clmc (article)

Abstract
Besides functional regards, product design demands increasingly more for further reaching considerations. Quality alone cannot suffice anymore to compete in the market; design for manufacturability, for assembly, for recycling, etc., are well-known keywords. Those can largely be reduced to the necessity of design for costs. This paper focuses on a CAD-based approach to design concurrent calculation. It will discuss how, in the meantime well-established, tools like feature technology, knowledge-based systems, and relational databases can be blended into one coherent concept to achieve an entirely CAD- and data-integrated cost information tool. This system is able to extract data from the CAD-system, combine it with data about the company specific manufacturing environment, and subsequently autonomously evaluate manufacturability aspects and costs of the given CAD-model. Within minutes the designer gets quantitative in-formation about the major cost sources of his/her design. Additionally, some alternative methods for approximating manu-facturing times from empirical data, namely neural networks and local weighted regression, are introduced.

am

[BibTex]

1993


[BibTex]