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2019


Towards Geometric Understanding of Motion
Towards Geometric Understanding of Motion

Ranjan, A.

University of Tübingen, December 2019 (phdthesis)

Abstract

The motion of the world is inherently dependent on the spatial structure of the world and its geometry. Therefore, classical optical flow methods try to model this geometry to solve for the motion. However, recent deep learning methods take a completely different approach. They try to predict optical flow by learning from labelled data. Although deep networks have shown state-of-the-art performance on classification problems in computer vision, they have not been as effective in solving optical flow. The key reason is that deep learning methods do not explicitly model the structure of the world in a neural network, and instead expect the network to learn about the structure from data. We hypothesize that it is difficult for a network to learn about motion without any constraint on the structure of the world. Therefore, we explore several approaches to explicitly model the geometry of the world and its spatial structure in deep neural networks.

The spatial structure in images can be captured by representing it at multiple scales. To represent multiple scales of images in deep neural nets, we introduce a Spatial Pyramid Network (SpyNet). Such a network can leverage global information for estimating large motions and local information for estimating small motions. We show that SpyNet significantly improves over previous optical flow networks while also being the smallest and fastest neural network for motion estimation. SPyNet achieves a 97% reduction in model parameters over previous methods and is more accurate.

The spatial structure of the world extends to people and their motion. Humans have a very well-defined structure, and this information is useful in estimating optical flow for humans. To leverage this information, we create a synthetic dataset for human optical flow using a statistical human body model and motion capture sequences. We use this dataset to train deep networks and see significant improvement in the ability of the networks to estimate human optical flow.

The structure and geometry of the world affects the motion. Therefore, learning about the structure of the scene together with the motion can benefit both problems. To facilitate this, we introduce Competitive Collaboration, where several neural networks are constrained by geometry and can jointly learn about structure and motion in the scene without any labels. To this end, we show that jointly learning single view depth prediction, camera motion, optical flow and motion segmentation using Competitive Collaboration achieves state-of-the-art results among unsupervised approaches.

Our findings provide support for our hypothesis that explicit constraints on structure and geometry of the world lead to better methods for motion estimation.

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PhD Thesis [BibTex]

2019


PhD Thesis [BibTex]


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Hierarchical Task-Parameterized Learning from Demonstration for Collaborative Object Movement

Hu, S., Kuchenbecker, K. J.

Applied Bionics and Biomechanics, (9765383), December 2019 (article)

Abstract
Learning from demonstration (LfD) enables a robot to emulate natural human movement instead of merely executing preprogrammed behaviors. This article presents a hierarchical LfD structure of task-parameterized models for object movement tasks, which are ubiquitous in everyday life and could benefit from robotic support. Our approach uses the task-parameterized Gaussian mixture model (TP-GMM) algorithm to encode sets of demonstrations in separate models that each correspond to a different task situation. The robot then maximizes its expected performance in a new situation by either selecting a good existing model or requesting new demonstrations. Compared to a standard implementation that encodes all demonstrations together for all test situations, the proposed approach offers four advantages. First, a simply defined distance function can be used to estimate test performance by calculating the similarity between a test situation and the existing models. Second, the proposed approach can improve generalization, e.g., better satisfying the demonstrated task constraints and speeding up task execution. Third, because the hierarchical structure encodes each demonstrated situation individually, a wider range of task situations can be modeled in the same framework without deteriorating performance. Last, adding or removing demonstrations incurs low computational load, and thus, the robot’s skill library can be built incrementally. We first instantiate the proposed approach in a simulated task to validate these advantages. We then show that the advantages transfer to real hardware for a task where naive participants collaborated with a Willow Garage PR2 robot to move a handheld object. For most tested scenarios, our hierarchical method achieved significantly better task performance and subjective ratings than both a passive model with only gravity compensation and a single TP-GMM encoding all demonstrations.

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DOI [BibTex]


Decoding subcategories of human bodies from both body- and face-responsive cortical regions
Decoding subcategories of human bodies from both body- and face-responsive cortical regions

Foster, C., Zhao, M., Romero, J., Black, M. J., Mohler, B. J., Bartels, A., Bülthoff, I.

NeuroImage, 202(15):116085, November 2019 (article)

Abstract
Our visual system can easily categorize objects (e.g. faces vs. bodies) and further differentiate them into subcategories (e.g. male vs. female). This ability is particularly important for objects of social significance, such as human faces and bodies. While many studies have demonstrated category selectivity to faces and bodies in the brain, how subcategories of faces and bodies are represented remains unclear. Here, we investigated how the brain encodes two prominent subcategories shared by both faces and bodies, sex and weight, and whether neural responses to these subcategories rely on low-level visual, high-level visual or semantic similarity. We recorded brain activity with fMRI while participants viewed faces and bodies that varied in sex, weight, and image size. The results showed that the sex of bodies can be decoded from both body- and face-responsive brain areas, with the former exhibiting more consistent size-invariant decoding than the latter. Body weight could also be decoded in face-responsive areas and in distributed body-responsive areas, and this decoding was also invariant to image size. The weight of faces could be decoded from the fusiform body area (FBA), and weight could be decoded across face and body stimuli in the extrastriate body area (EBA) and a distributed body-responsive area. The sex of well-controlled faces (e.g. excluding hairstyles) could not be decoded from face- or body-responsive regions. These results demonstrate that both face- and body-responsive brain regions encode information that can distinguish the sex and weight of bodies. Moreover, the neural patterns corresponding to sex and weight were invariant to image size and could sometimes generalize across face and body stimuli, suggesting that such subcategorical information is encoded with a high-level visual or semantic code.

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paper pdf DOI [BibTex]

paper pdf DOI [BibTex]


AirCap -- Aerial Outdoor Motion Capture
AirCap – Aerial Outdoor Motion Capture

Ahmad, A., Price, E., Tallamraju, R., Saini, N., Lawless, G., Ludwig, R., Martinovic, I., Bülthoff, H. H., Black, M. J.

IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS 2019), Workshop on Aerial Swarms, November 2019 (misc)

Abstract
This paper presents an overview of the Grassroots project Aerial Outdoor Motion Capture (AirCap) running at the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems. AirCap's goal is to achieve markerless, unconstrained, human motion capture (mocap) in unknown and unstructured outdoor environments. To that end, we have developed an autonomous flying motion capture system using a team of aerial vehicles (MAVs) with only on-board, monocular RGB cameras. We have conducted several real robot experiments involving up to 3 aerial vehicles autonomously tracking and following a person in several challenging scenarios using our approach of active cooperative perception developed in AirCap. Using the images captured by these robots during the experiments, we have demonstrated a successful offline body pose and shape estimation with sufficiently high accuracy. Overall, we have demonstrated the first fully autonomous flying motion capture system involving multiple robots for outdoor scenarios.

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Talk slides Project Page Project Page [BibTex]

Talk slides Project Page Project Page [BibTex]


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Sampling on Networks: Estimating Eigenvector Centrality on Incomplete Networks

Ruggeri, N., De Bacco, C.

International Conference on Complex Networks and Their Applications, November 2019 (article)

Abstract
We develop a new sampling method to estimate eigenvector centrality on incomplete networks. Our goalis to estimate this global centrality measure having at disposal a limited amount of data. This is the case inmany real-world scenarios where data collection is expensive, the network is too big for data storage capacityor only partial information is available. The sampling algorithm is theoretically grounded by results derivedfrom spectral approximation theory. We studied the problemon both synthetic and real data and tested theperformance comparing with traditional methods, such as random walk and uniform sampling. We show thatapproximations obtained from such methods are not always reliable and that our algorithm, while preservingcomputational scalability, improves performance under different error measures.

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Code Preprint pdf DOI [BibTex]

Code Preprint pdf DOI [BibTex]


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Interactive Augmented Reality for Robot-Assisted Surgery

Forte, M., Kuchenbecker, K. J.

Workshop extended abstract presented as a podium presentation at the IROS Workshop on Legacy Disruptors in Applied Telerobotics, Macau, November 2019 (misc)

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Project Page [BibTex]

Project Page [BibTex]


Active Perception based Formation Control for Multiple Aerial Vehicles
Active Perception based Formation Control for Multiple Aerial Vehicles

Tallamraju, R., Price, E., Ludwig, R., Karlapalem, K., Bülthoff, H. H., Black, M. J., Ahmad, A.

IEEE Robotics and Automation Letters, Robotics and Automation Letters, 4(4):4491-4498, IEEE, October 2019 (article)

Abstract
We present a novel robotic front-end for autonomous aerial motion-capture (mocap) in outdoor environments. In previous work, we presented an approach for cooperative detection and tracking (CDT) of a subject using multiple micro-aerial vehicles (MAVs). However, it did not ensure optimal view-point configurations of the MAVs to minimize the uncertainty in the person's cooperatively tracked 3D position estimate. In this article, we introduce an active approach for CDT. In contrast to cooperatively tracking only the 3D positions of the person, the MAVs can actively compute optimal local motion plans, resulting in optimal view-point configurations, which minimize the uncertainty in the tracked estimate. We achieve this by decoupling the goal of active tracking into a quadratic objective and non-convex constraints corresponding to angular configurations of the MAVs w.r.t. the person. We derive this decoupling using Gaussian observation model assumptions within the CDT algorithm. We preserve convexity in optimization by embedding all the non-convex constraints, including those for dynamic obstacle avoidance, as external control inputs in the MPC dynamics. Multiple real robot experiments and comparisons involving 3 MAVs in several challenging scenarios are presented.

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pdf DOI Project Page [BibTex]

pdf DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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Dynamics of beneficial epidemics

Berdahl, A., Brelsford, C., De Bacco, C., Dumas, M., Ferdinand, V., Grochow, J. A., nt Hébert-Dufresne, L., Kallus, Y., Kempes, C. P., Kolchinsky, A., Larremore, D. B., Libby, E., Power, E. A., A., S. C., Tracey, B. D.

Scientific Reports, 9, pages: 15093, October 2019 (article)

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


Method for providing a three dimensional body model
Method for providing a three dimensional body model

Loper, M., Mahmood, N., Black, M.

September 2019, U.S.~Patent 10,417,818 (misc)

Abstract
A method for providing a three-dimensional body model which may be applied for an animation, based on a moving body, wherein the method comprises providing a parametric three-dimensional body model, which allows shape and pose variations; applying a standard set of body markers; optimizing the set of body markers by generating an additional set of body markers and applying the same for providing 3D coordinate marker signals for capturing shape and pose of the body and dynamics of soft tissue; and automatically providing an animation by processing the 3D coordinate marker signals in order to provide a personalized three-dimensional body model, based on estimated shape and an estimated pose of the body by means of predicted marker locations.

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MoSh Project pdf [BibTex]


Decoding the Viewpoint and Identity of Faces and Bodies
Decoding the Viewpoint and Identity of Faces and Bodies

Foster, C., Zhao, M., Bolkart, T., Black, M., Bartels, A., Bülthoff, I.

Journal of Vision, 19(10): 54c, pages: 54-55, Arvo Journals, September 2019 (article)

Abstract
(2019). . , 19(10): 25.13, 54-55. doi: Zitierlink: http://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0003-7493-4

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Low-Hysteresis and Low-Interference Soft Tactile Sensor Using a Conductive Coated Porous Elastomer and a Structure for Interference Reduction

Park, K., Kim, S., Lee, H., Park, I., Kim, J.

Sensors and Actuators A: Physical, 295, pages: 541-550, August 2019 (article)

Abstract
The need for soft whole-body tactile sensors is emerging. Piezoresistive materials are advantageous in terms of making large tactile sensors, but the hysteresis of piezoresistive materials is a major drawback. The hysteresis of a piezoresistive material should be attenuated to make a practical piezoresistive soft tactile sensor. In this paper, we introduce a low-hysteresis and low-interference soft tactile sensor using a conductive coated porous elastomer and a structure to reduce interference (grooves). The developed sensor exhibits low hysteresis because the transduction mechanism of the sensor is dominated by the contact between the conductive coated surface. In a cyclic loading experiment with different loading frequencies, the mechanical and piezoresistive hysteresis values of the sensor are less than 21.7% and 6.8%, respectively. The initial resistance change is found to be within 4% after the first loading cycle. To reduce the interference among the sensing points, we also propose a structure where the grooves are inserted between the adjacent electrodes. This structure is implemented during the molding process, which is adopted to extend the porous tactile sensor to large-scale and facile fabrication. The effects of the structure are investigated with respect to the normalized design parameters ΘD, ΘW, and ΘT in a simulation, and the result is validated for samples with the same design parameters. An indentation experiment also shows that the structure designed for interference reduction effectively attenuates the interference of the sensor array, indicating that the spatial resolution of the sensor array is improved. As a result, the sensor can exhibit low hysteresis and low interference simultaneously. This research can be used for many applications, such as robotic skin, grippers, and wearable devices.

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


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High-Fidelity Multiphysics Finite Element Modeling of Finger-Surface Interactions with Tactile Feedback

Serhat, G., Kuchenbecker, K. J.

Work-in-progress paper (2 pages) presented at the IEEE World Haptics Conference (WHC), Tokyo, Japan, July 2019 (misc)

Abstract
In this study, we develop a high-fidelity finite element (FE) analysis framework that enables multiphysics simulation of the human finger in contact with a surface that is providing tactile feedback. We aim to elucidate a variety of physical interactions that can occur at finger-surface interfaces, including contact, friction, vibration, and electrovibration. We also develop novel FE-based methods that will allow prediction of nonconventional features such as real finger-surface contact area and finger stickiness. We envision using the developed computational tools for efficient design and optimization of haptic devices by replacing expensive and lengthy experimental procedures with high-fidelity simulation.

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Project Page [BibTex]

Project Page [BibTex]


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Fingertip Friction Enhances Perception of Normal Force Changes

Gueorguiev, D., Lambert, J., Thonnard, J., Kuchenbecker, K. J.

Work-in-progress paper (2 pages) presented at the IEEE World Haptics Conference (WHC), Tokyo, Japan, July 2019 (misc)

Abstract
Using a force-controlled robotic platform, we tested the human perception of positive and negative modulations in normal force during passive dynamic touch, which also induced a strong related change in the finger-surface lateral force. In a two-alternative forced-choice task, eleven participants had to detect brief variations in the normal force compared to a constant controlled pre-stimulation force of 1 N and report whether it had increased or decreased. The average 75% just noticeable difference (JND) was found to be around 0.25 N for detecting the peak change and 0.30 N for correctly reporting the increase or the decrease. Interestingly, the friction coefficient of a subject’s fingertip positively correlated with his or her performance at detecting the change and reporting its direction, which suggests that humans may use the lateral force as a sensory cue to perceive variations in the normal force.

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[BibTex]

[BibTex]


Inflatable Haptic Sensor for the Torso of a Hugging Robot
Inflatable Haptic Sensor for the Torso of a Hugging Robot

Block, A. E., Kuchenbecker, K. J.

Work-in-progress paper (2 pages) presented at the IEEE World Haptics Conference (WHC), Tokyo, Japan, July 2019 (misc)

Abstract
During hugs, humans naturally provide and intuit subtle non-verbal cues that signify the strength and duration of an exchanged hug. Personal preferences for this close interaction may vary greatly between people; robots do not currently have the abilities to perceive or understand these preferences. This work-in-progress paper discusses designing, building, and testing a novel inflatable torso that can simultaneously soften a robot and act as a tactile sensor to enable more natural and responsive hugging. Using PVC vinyl, a microphone, and a barometric pressure sensor, we created a small test chamber to demonstrate a proof of concept for the full torso. While contacting the chamber in several ways common in hugs (pat, squeeze, scratch, and rub), we recorded data from the two sensors. The preliminary results suggest that the complementary haptic sensing channels allow us to detect coarse and fine contacts typically experienced during hugs, regardless of user hand placement.

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Project Page [BibTex]

Project Page [BibTex]


Understanding the Pull-off Force of the Human Fingerpad
Understanding the Pull-off Force of the Human Fingerpad

Nam, S., Kuchenbecker, K. J.

Work-in-progress paper (2 pages) presented at the IEEE World Haptics Conference (WHC), Tokyo, Japan, July 2019 (misc)

Abstract
To understand the adhesive force that occurs when a finger pulls off of a smooth surface, we built an apparatus to measure the fingerpad’s moisture, normal force, and real contact area over time during interactions with a glass plate. We recorded a total of 450 trials (45 interactions by each of ten human subjects), capturing a wide range of values across the aforementioned variables. The experimental results showed that the pull-off force increases with larger finger contact area and faster detachment rate. Additionally, moisture generally increases the contact area of the finger, but too much moisture can restrict the increase in the pull-off force.

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Project Page [BibTex]

Project Page [BibTex]


The Haptician and the Alphamonsters
The Haptician and the Alphamonsters

Forte, M., L’Orsa, R., Mohan, M., Nam, S., Kuchenbecker, K. J.

Student Innovation Challenge on Implementing Haptics in Virtual Reality Environment presented at the IEEE World Haptics Conference, Tokyo, Japan, July 2019, Maria Paola Forte, Rachael L'Orsa, Mayumi Mohan, and Saekwang Nam contributed equally to this publication (misc)

Abstract
Dysgraphia is a neurological disorder characterized by writing disabilities that affects between 7% and 15% of children. It presents itself in the form of unfinished letters, letter distortion, inconsistent letter size, letter collision, etc. Traditional therapeutic exercises require continuous assistance from teachers or occupational therapists. Autonomous partial or full haptic guidance can produce positive results, but children often become bored with the repetitive nature of such activities. Conversely, virtual rehabilitation with video games represents a new frontier for occupational therapy due to its highly motivational nature. Virtual reality (VR) adds an element of novelty and entertainment to therapy, thus motivating players to perform exercises more regularly. We propose leveraging the HTC VIVE Pro and the EXOS Wrist DK2 to create an immersive spellcasting “exergame” (exercise game) that helps motivate children with dysgraphia to improve writing fluency.

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Student Innovation Challenge – Virtual Reality [BibTex]

Student Innovation Challenge – Virtual Reality [BibTex]


Implementation of a 6-{DOF} Parallel Continuum Manipulator for Delivering Fingertip Tactile Cues
Implementation of a 6-DOF Parallel Continuum Manipulator for Delivering Fingertip Tactile Cues

Young, E. M., Kuchenbecker, K. J.

IEEE Transactions on Haptics, 12(3):295-306, June 2019 (article)

Abstract
Existing fingertip haptic devices can deliver different subsets of tactile cues in a compact package, but we have not yet seen a wearable six-degree-of-freedom (6-DOF) display. This paper presents the Fuppeteer (short for Fingertip Puppeteer), a device that is capable of controlling the position and orientation of a flat platform, such that any combination of normal and shear force can be delivered at any location on any human fingertip. We build on our previous work of designing a parallel continuum manipulator for fingertip haptics by presenting a motorized version in which six flexible Nitinol wires are actuated via independent roller mechanisms and proportional-derivative controllers. We evaluate the settling time and end-effector vibrations observed during system responses to step inputs. After creating a six-dimensional lookup table and adjusting simulated inputs using measured Jacobians, we show that the device can make contact with all parts of the fingertip with a mean error of 1.42 mm. Finally, we present results from a human-subject study. A total of 24 users discerned 9 evenly distributed contact locations with an average accuracy of 80.5%. Translational and rotational shear cues were identified reasonably well near the center of the fingertip and more poorly around the edges.

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DOI Project Page [BibTex]


Explorations of Shape-Changing Haptic Interfaces for Blind and Sighted Pedestrian Navigation
Explorations of Shape-Changing Haptic Interfaces for Blind and Sighted Pedestrian Navigation

Spiers, A., Kuchenbecker, K. J.

pages: 6, Workshop paper (6 pages) presented at the CHI 2019 Workshop on Hacking Blind Navigation, May 2019 (misc) Accepted

Abstract
Since the 1960s, technologists have worked to develop systems that facilitate independent navigation by vision-impaired (VI) pedestrians. These devices vary in terms of conveyed information and feedback modality. Unfortunately, many such prototypes never progress beyond laboratory testing. Conversely, smartphone-based navigation systems for sighted pedestrians have grown in robustness and capabilities, to the point of now being ubiquitous. How can we leverage the success of sighted navigation technology, which is driven by a larger global market, as a way to progress VI navigation systems? We believe one possibility is to make common devices that benefit both VI and sighted individuals, by providing information in a way that does not distract either user from their tasks or environment. To this end we have developed physical interfaces that eschew visual, audio or vibratory feedback, instead relying on the natural human ability to perceive the shape of a handheld object.

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[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Bimanual Wrist-Squeezing Haptic Feedback Changes Speed-Force Tradeoff in Robotic Surgery Training

Cao, E., Machaca, S., Bernard, T., Wolfinger, B., Patterson, Z., Chi, A., Adrales, G. L., Kuchenbecker, K. J., Brown, J. D.

Extended abstract presented as an ePoster at the Annual Meeting of the Society of American Gastrointestinal and Endoscopic Surgeons (SAGES), Baltimore, USA, April 2019 (misc) Accepted

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[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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How Does It Feel to Clap Hands with a Robot?

Fitter, N. T., Kuchenbecker, K. J.

International Journal of Social Robotics, 12(1):113-127, April 2019 (article)

Abstract
Future robots may need lighthearted physical interaction capabilities to connect with people in meaningful ways. To begin exploring how users perceive playful human–robot hand-to-hand interaction, we conducted a study with 20 participants. Each user played simple hand-clapping games with the Rethink Robotics Baxter Research Robot during a 1-h-long session involving 24 randomly ordered conditions that varied in facial reactivity, physical reactivity, arm stiffness, and clapping tempo. Survey data and experiment recordings demonstrate that this interaction is viable: all users successfully completed the experiment and mentioned enjoying at least one game without prompting. Hand-clapping tempo was highly salient to users, and human-like robot errors were more widely accepted than mechanical errors. Furthermore, perceptions of Baxter varied in the following statistically significant ways: facial reactivity increased the robot’s perceived pleasantness and energeticness; physical reactivity decreased pleasantness, energeticness, and dominance; higher arm stiffness increased safety and decreased dominance; and faster tempo increased energeticness and increased dominance. These findings can motivate and guide roboticists who want to design social–physical human–robot interactions.

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


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Interactive Augmented Reality for Robot-Assisted Surgery

Forte, M., Kuchenbecker, K. J.

Extended abstract presented as an Emerging Technology ePoster at the Annual Meeting of the Society of American Gastrointestinal and Endoscopic Surgeons (SAGES), Baltimore, Maryland, USA, April 2019 (misc) Accepted

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Project Page [BibTex]

Project Page [BibTex]


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A Design Tool for Therapeutic Social-Physical Human-Robot Interactions

Mohan, M., Kuchenbecker, K. J.

Workshop paper (3 pages) presented at the HRI Pioneers Workshop, Daegu, South Korea, March 2019 (misc)

Abstract
We live in an aging society; social-physical human-robot interaction has the potential to keep our elderly adults healthy by motivating them to exercise. After summarizing prior work, this paper proposes a tool that can be used to design exercise and therapy interactions to be performed by an upper-body humanoid robot. The interaction design tool comprises a teleoperation system that transmits the operator’s arm motions, head motions and facial expression along with an interface to monitor and assess the motion of the user interacting with the robot. We plan to use this platform to create dynamic and intuitive exercise interactions.

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DOI Project Page [BibTex]

DOI Project Page [BibTex]


 Perceptual Effects of Inconsistency in Human Animations
Perceptual Effects of Inconsistency in Human Animations

Kenny, S., Mahmood, N., Honda, C., Black, M. J., Troje, N. F.

ACM Trans. Appl. Percept., 16(1):2:1-2:18, Febuary 2019 (article)

Abstract
The individual shape of the human body, including the geometry of its articulated structure and the distribution of weight over that structure, influences the kinematics of a person’s movements. How sensitive is the visual system to inconsistencies between shape and motion introduced by retargeting motion from one person onto the shape of another? We used optical motion capture to record five pairs of male performers with large differences in body weight, while they pushed, lifted, and threw objects. From these data, we estimated both the kinematics of the actions as well as the performer’s individual body shape. To obtain consistent and inconsistent stimuli, we created animated avatars by combining the shape and motion estimates from either a single performer or from different performers. Using these stimuli we conducted three experiments in an immersive virtual reality environment. First, a group of participants detected which of two stimuli was inconsistent. Performance was very low, and results were only marginally significant. Next, a second group of participants rated perceived attractiveness, eeriness, and humanness of consistent and inconsistent stimuli, but these judgements of animation characteristics were not affected by consistency of the stimuli. Finally, a third group of participants rated properties of the objects rather than of the performers. Here, we found strong influences of shape-motion inconsistency on perceived weight and thrown distance of objects. This suggests that the visual system relies on its knowledge of shape and motion and that these components are assimilated into an altered perception of the action outcome. We propose that the visual system attempts to resist inconsistent interpretations of human animations. Actions involving object manipulations present an opportunity for the visual system to reinterpret the introduced inconsistencies as a change in the dynamics of an object rather than as an unexpected combination of body shape and body motion.

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publisher pdf DOI [BibTex]

publisher pdf DOI [BibTex]


Perceiving Systems (2016-2018)
Perceiving Systems (2016-2018)
Scientific Advisory Board Report, 2019 (misc)

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pdf [BibTex]

pdf [BibTex]


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Statistical Coverage Control of Mobile Sensor Networks

Arslan, Ö.

IEEE Transactions on Robotics, 35(4):889-908, 2019 (article)

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


Toward Expert-Sourcing of a Haptic Device Repository
Toward Expert-Sourcing of a Haptic Device Repository

Seifi, H., Ip, J., Agrawal, A., Kuchenbecker, K. J., MacLean, K. E.

Glasgow, UK, 2019 (misc)

Abstract
Haptipedia is an online taxonomy, database, and visualization that aims to accelerate ideation of new haptic devices and interactions in human-computer interaction, virtual reality, haptics, and robotics. The current version of Haptipedia (105 devices) was created through iterative design, data entry, and evaluation by our team of experts. Next, we aim to greatly increase the number of devices and keep Haptipedia updated by soliciting data entry and verification from haptics experts worldwide.

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link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Self and Body Part Localization in Virtual Reality: Comparing a Headset and a Large-Screen Immersive Display

van der Veer, A. H., Longo, M. R., Alsmith, A. J. T., Wong, H. Y., Mohler, B. J.

Frontiers in Robotics and AI, 6(33), 2019 (article)

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


The Virtual Caliper: Rapid Creation of Metrically Accurate Avatars from {3D} Measurements
The Virtual Caliper: Rapid Creation of Metrically Accurate Avatars from 3D Measurements

Pujades, S., Mohler, B., Thaler, A., Tesch, J., Mahmood, N., Hesse, N., Bülthoff, H. H., Black, M. J.

IEEE Transactions on Visualization and Computer Graphics, 25(5):1887-1897, IEEE, 2019 (article)

Abstract
Creating metrically accurate avatars is important for many applications such as virtual clothing try-on, ergonomics, medicine, immersive social media, telepresence, and gaming. Creating avatars that precisely represent a particular individual is challenging however, due to the need for expensive 3D scanners, privacy issues with photographs or videos, and difficulty in making accurate tailoring measurements. We overcome these challenges by creating “The Virtual Caliper”, which uses VR game controllers to make simple measurements. First, we establish what body measurements users can reliably make on their own body. We find several distance measurements to be good candidates and then verify that these are linearly related to 3D body shape as represented by the SMPL body model. The Virtual Caliper enables novice users to accurately measure themselves and create an avatar with their own body shape. We evaluate the metric accuracy relative to ground truth 3D body scan data, compare the method quantitatively to other avatar creation tools, and perform extensive perceptual studies. We also provide a software application to the community that enables novices to rapidly create avatars in fewer than five minutes. Not only is our approach more rapid than existing methods, it exports a metrically accurate 3D avatar model that is rigged and skinned.

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Project Page IEEE Open Access IEEE Open Access PDF DOI [BibTex]

Project Page IEEE Open Access IEEE Open Access PDF DOI [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-

am

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.

am

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.

am

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.

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link (url) Project Page [BibTex]

link (url) Project Page [BibTex]

2009


Valero-Cuevas, F., Hoffmann, H., Kurse, M. U., Kutch, J. J., Theodorou, E. A.

IEEE Reviews in Biomedical Engineering – (All authors have equally contributed), (2):110?135, 2009, clmc (article)

Abstract
Computational models of the neuromuscular system hold the potential to allow us to reach a deeper understanding of neuromuscular function and clinical rehabilitation by complementing experimentation. By serving as a means to distill and explore specific hypotheses, computational models emerge from prior experimental data and motivate future experimental work. Here we review computational tools used to understand neuromuscular function including musculoskeletal modeling, machine learning, control theory, and statistical model analysis. We conclude that these tools, when used in combination, have the potential to further our understanding of neuromuscular function by serving as a rigorous means to test scientific hypotheses in ways that complement and leverage experimental data.

am

link (url) [BibTex]

2009


link (url) [BibTex]


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Adaptive compliance control of a multi-legged stair-climbing robot based on proprioceptive data

Waldron, K. J., Eich, M., Grimminger, F., Kirchner, F.

Industrial Robot: An International Journal, 36, pages: 331-339, Emerald Group Publishing Limited, June 2009 (article)

am

DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


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Bayesian Methods for Autonomous Learning Systems (Phd Thesis)

Ting, J.

Department of Computer Science, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA, 2009, clmc (phdthesis)

am

PDF [BibTex]

PDF [BibTex]


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On-line learning and modulation of periodic movements with nonlinear dynamical systems

Gams, A., Ijspeert, A., Schaal, S., Lenarčič, J.

Autonomous Robots, 27(1):3-23, 2009, clmc (article)

Abstract
Abstract  The paper presents a two-layered system for (1) learning and encoding a periodic signal without any knowledge on its frequency and waveform, and (2) modulating the learned periodic trajectory in response to external events. The system is used to learn periodic tasks on a humanoid HOAP-2 robot. The first layer of the system is a dynamical system responsible for extracting the fundamental frequency of the input signal, based on adaptive frequency oscillators. The second layer is a dynamical system responsible for learning of the waveform based on a built-in learning algorithm. By combining the two dynamical systems into one system we can rapidly teach new trajectories to robots without any knowledge of the frequency of the demonstration signal. The system extracts and learns only one period of the demonstration signal. Furthermore, the trajectories are robust to perturbations and can be modulated to cope with a dynamic environment. The system is computationally inexpensive, works on-line for any periodic signal, requires no additional signal processing to determine the frequency of the input signal and can be applied in parallel to multiple dimensions. Additionally, it can adapt to changes in frequency and shape, e.g. to non-stationary signals, such as hand-generated signals and human demonstrations.

am

link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Local dimensionality reduction for non-parametric regression

Hoffman, H., Schaal, S., Vijayakumar, S.

Neural Processing Letters, 2009, clmc (article)

Abstract
Locally-weighted regression is a computationally-efficient technique for non-linear regression. However, for high-dimensional data, this technique becomes numerically brittle and computationally too expensive if many local models need to be maintained simultaneously. Thus, local linear dimensionality reduction combined with locally-weighted regression seems to be a promising solution. In this context, we review linear dimensionality-reduction methods, compare their performance on nonparametric locally-linear regression, and discuss their ability to extend to incremental learning. The considered methods belong to the following three groups: (1) reducing dimensionality only on the input data, (2) modeling the joint input-output data distribution, and (3) optimizing the correlation between projection directions and output data. Group 1 contains principal component regression (PCR); group 2 contains principal component analysis (PCA) in joint input and output space, factor analysis, and probabilistic PCA; and group 3 contains reduced rank regression (RRR) and partial least squares (PLS) regression. Among the tested methods, only group 3 managed to achieve robust performance even for a non-optimal number of components (factors or projection directions). In contrast, group 1 and 2 failed for fewer components since these methods rely on the correct estimate of the true intrinsic dimensionality. In group 3, PLS is the only method for which a computationally-efficient incremental implementation exists. Thus, PLS appears to be ideally suited as a building block for a locally-weighted regressor in which projection directions are incrementally added on the fly.

am

link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Incorporating Muscle Activation-Contraction dynamics to an optimal control framework for finger movements

Theodorou, Evangelos A., Valero-Cuevas, Francisco J.

Abstracts of Neural Control of Movement Conference (NCM 2009), 2009, clmc (article)

Abstract
Recent experimental and theoretical work [1] investigated the neural control of contact transition between motion and force during tapping with the index finger as a nonlinear optimization problem. Such transitions from motion to well-directed contact force are a fundamental part of dexterous manipulation. There are 3 alternative hypotheses of how this transition could be accomplished by the nervous system as a function of changes in direction and magnitude of the torque vector controlling the finger. These hypotheses are 1) an initial change in direction with a subsequent change in magnitude of the torque vector; 2) an initial change in magnitude with a subsequent directional change of the torque vector; and 3) a simultaneous and proportionally equal change of both direction and magnitude of the torque vector. Experimental work in [2] shows that the nervous system selects the first strategy, and in [1] we suggest that this may in fact be the optimal strategy. In [4] the framework of Iterative Linear Quadratic Optimal Regulator (ILQR) was extended to incorporate motion and force control. However, our prior simulation work assumed direct and instantaneous control of joint torques, which ignores the known delays and filtering properties of skeletal muscle. In this study, we implement an ILQR controller for a more biologically plausible biomechanical model of the index finger than [4], and add activation-contraction dynamics to the system to simulate muscle function. The planar biomechanical model includes the kinematics of the 3 joints while the applied torques are driven by activation?contraction dynamics with biologically plausible time constants [3]. In agreement with our experimental work [2], the task is to, within 500 ms, move the finger from a given resting configuration to target configuration with a desired terminal velocity. ILQR does not only stabilize the finger dynamics according to the objective function, but it also generates smooth joint space trajectories with minimal tuning and without an a-priori initial control policy (which is difficult to find for highly dimensional biomechanical systems). Furthemore, the use of this optimal control framework and the addition of activation-contraction dynamics considers the full nonlinear dynamics of the index finger and produces a sequence of postures which are compatible with experimental motion data [2]. These simulations combined with prior experimental results suggest that optimal control is a strong candidate for the generation of finger movements prior to abrupt motion-to-force transitions. This work is funded in part by grants NIH R01 0505520 and NSF EFRI-0836042 to Dr. Francisco J. Valero- Cuevas 1 Venkadesan M, Valero-Cuevas FJ. 
Effects of neuromuscular lags on controlling contact transitions. 
Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A: 2008. 2 Venkadesan M, Valero-Cuevas FJ. 
Neural Control of Motion-to-Force Transitions with the Fingertip. 
J. Neurosci., Feb 2008; 28: 1366 - 1373; 3 Zajac. Muscle and tendon: properties, models, scaling, and application to biomechanics and motor control. Crit Rev Biomed Eng, 17 4. Weiwei Li., Francisco Valero Cuevas: ?Linear Quadratic Optimal Control of Contact Transition with Fingertip ? ACC 2009

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PDF [BibTex]

PDF [BibTex]


no image
On-line learning and modulation of periodic movements with nonlinear dynamical systems

Gams, A., Ijspeert, A., Schaal, S., Lenarčič, J.

Autonomous Robots, 27(1):3-23, 2009, clmc (article)

Abstract
Abstract  The paper presents a two-layered system for (1) learning and encoding a periodic signal without any knowledge on its frequency and waveform, and (2) modulating the learned periodic trajectory in response to external events. The system is used to learn periodic tasks on a humanoid HOAP-2 robot. The first layer of the system is a dynamical system responsible for extracting the fundamental frequency of the input signal, based on adaptive frequency oscillators. The second layer is a dynamical system responsible for learning of the waveform based on a built-in learning algorithm. By combining the two dynamical systems into one system we can rapidly teach new trajectories to robots without any knowledge of the frequency of the demonstration signal. The system extracts and learns only one period of the demonstration signal. Furthermore, the trajectories are robust to perturbations and can be modulated to cope with a dynamic environment. The system is computationally inexpensive, works on-line for any periodic signal, requires no additional signal processing to determine the frequency of the input signal and can be applied in parallel to multiple dimensions. Additionally, it can adapt to changes in frequency and shape, e.g. to non-stationary signals, such as hand-generated signals and human demonstrations.

am

link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]

1999


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Is imitation learning the route to humanoid robots?

Schaal, S.

Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 3(6):233-242, 1999, clmc (article)

Abstract
This review will focus on two recent developments in artificial intelligence and neural computation: learning from imitation and the development of humanoid robots. It will be postulated that the study of imitation learning offers a promising route to gain new insights into mechanisms of perceptual motor control that could ultimately lead to the creation of autonomous humanoid robots. This hope is justified because imitation learning channels research efforts towards three important issues: efficient motor learning, the connection between action and perception, and modular motor control in form of movement primitives. In order to make these points, first, a brief review of imitation learning will be given from the view of psychology and neuroscience. In these fields, representations and functional connections between action and perception have been explored that contribute to the understanding of motor acts of other beings. The recent discovery that some areas in the primate brain are active during both movement perception and execution provided a first idea of the possible neural basis of imitation. Secondly, computational approaches to imitation learning will be described, initially from the perspective of traditional AI and robotics, and then with a focus on neural network models and statistical learning research. Parallels and differences between biological and computational approaches to imitation will be highlighted. The review will end with an overview of current projects that actually employ imitation learning for humanoid robots.

am

link (url) [BibTex]

1999


link (url) [BibTex]


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Segmentation of endpoint trajectories does not imply segmented control

Sternad, D., Schaal, D.

Experimental Brain Research, 124(1):118-136, 1999, clmc (article)

Abstract
While it is generally assumed that complex movements consist of a sequence of simpler units, the quest to define these units of action, or movement primitives, still remains an open question. In this context, two hypotheses of movement segmentation of endpoint trajectories in 3D human drawing movements are re-examined: (1) the stroke-based segmentation hypothesis based on the results that the proportionality coefficient of the 2/3 power law changes discontinuously with each new â??strokeâ?, and (2) the segmentation hypothesis inferred from the observation of piecewise planar endpoint trajectories of 3D drawing movements. In two experiments human subjects performed a set of elliptical and figure-8 patterns of different sizes and orientations using their whole arm in 3D. The kinematic characteristics of the endpoint trajectories and the seven joint angles of the arm were analyzed. While the endpoint trajectories produced similar segmentation features as reported in the literature, analyses of the joint angles show no obvious segmentation but rather continuous oscillatory patterns. By approximating the joint angle data of human subjects with sinusoidal trajectories, and by implementing this model on a 7-degree-of-freedom anthropomorphic robot arm, it is shown that such a continuous movement strategy can produce exactly the same features as observed by the above segmentation hypotheses. The origin of this apparent segmentation of endpoint trajectories is traced back to the nonlinear transformations of the forward kinematics of human arms. The presented results demonstrate that principles of discrete movement generation may not be reconciled with those of rhythmic movement as easily as has been previously suggested, while the generalization of nonlinear pattern generators to arm movements can offer an interesting alternative to approach the question of units of action.

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link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]

1994


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Robot juggling: An implementation of memory-based learning

Schaal, S., Atkeson, C. G.

Control Systems Magazine, 14(1):57-71, 1994, clmc (article)

Abstract
This paper explores issues involved in implementing robot learning for a challenging dynamic task, using a case study from robot juggling. We use a memory-based local modeling approach (locally weighted regression) to represent a learned model of the task to be performed. Statistical tests are given to examine the uncertainty of a model, to optimize its prediction quality, and to deal with noisy and corrupted data. We develop an exploration algorithm that explicitly deals with prediction accuracy requirements during exploration. Using all these ingredients in combination with methods from optimal control, our robot achieves fast real-time learning of the task within 40 to 100 trials.

am

link (url) [BibTex]

1994


link (url) [BibTex]