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2011


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Loose-limbed People: Estimating 3D Human Pose and Motion Using Non-parametric Belief Propagation

Sigal, L., Isard, M., Haussecker, H., Black, M. J.

International Journal of Computer Vision, 98(1):15-48, Springer Netherlands, May 2011 (article)

Abstract
We formulate the problem of 3D human pose estimation and tracking as one of inference in a graphical model. Unlike traditional kinematic tree representations, our model of the body is a collection of loosely-connected body-parts. In particular, we model the body using an undirected graphical model in which nodes correspond to parts and edges to kinematic, penetration, and temporal constraints imposed by the joints and the world. These constraints are encoded using pair-wise statistical distributions, that are learned from motion-capture training data. Human pose and motion estimation is formulated as inference in this graphical model and is solved using Particle Message Passing (PaMPas). PaMPas is a form of non-parametric belief propagation that uses a variation of particle filtering that can be applied over a general graphical model with loops. The loose-limbed model and decentralized graph structure allow us to incorporate information from "bottom-up" visual cues, such as limb and head detectors, into the inference process. These detectors enable automatic initialization and aid recovery from transient tracking failures. We illustrate the method by automatically tracking people in multi-view imagery using a set of calibrated cameras and present quantitative evaluation using the HumanEva dataset.

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pdf publisher's site link (url) Project Page Project Page [BibTex]

2011


pdf publisher's site link (url) Project Page Project Page [BibTex]


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Point-and-Click Cursor Control With an Intracortical Neural Interface System by Humans With Tetraplegia

Kim, S., Simeral, J. D., Hochberg, L. R., Donoghue, J. P., Friehs, G. M., Black, M. J.

IEEE Transactions on Neural Systems and Rehabilitation Engineering, 19(2):193-203, April 2011 (article)

Abstract
We present a point-and-click intracortical neural interface system (NIS) that enables humans with tetraplegia to volitionally move a 2D computer cursor in any desired direction on a computer screen, hold it still and click on the area of interest. This direct brain-computer interface extracts both discrete (click) and continuous (cursor velocity) signals from a single small population of neurons in human motor cortex. A key component of this system is a multi-state probabilistic decoding algorithm that simultaneously decodes neural spiking activity and outputs either a click signal or the velocity of the cursor. The algorithm combines a linear classifier, which determines whether the user is intending to click or move the cursor, with a Kalman filter that translates the neural population activity into cursor velocity. We present a paradigm for training the multi-state decoding algorithm using neural activity observed during imagined actions. Two human participants with tetraplegia (paralysis of the four limbs) performed a closed-loop radial target acquisition task using the point-and-click NIS over multiple sessions. We quantified point-and-click performance using various human-computer interaction measurements for pointing devices. We found that participants were able to control the cursor motion accurately and click on specified targets with a small error rate (< 3% in one participant). This study suggests that signals from a small ensemble of motor cortical neurons (~40) can be used for natural point-and-click 2D cursor control of a personal computer.

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pdf publishers's site pub med link (url) Project Page [BibTex]

pdf publishers's site pub med link (url) Project Page [BibTex]


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A Database and Evaluation Methodology for Optical Flow

Baker, S., Scharstein, D., Lewis, J. P., Roth, S., Black, M. J., Szeliski, R.

International Journal of Computer Vision, 92(1):1-31, March 2011 (article)

Abstract
The quantitative evaluation of optical flow algorithms by Barron et al. (1994) led to significant advances in performance. The challenges for optical flow algorithms today go beyond the datasets and evaluation methods proposed in that paper. Instead, they center on problems associated with complex natural scenes, including nonrigid motion, real sensor noise, and motion discontinuities. We propose a new set of benchmarks and evaluation methods for the next generation of optical flow algorithms. To that end, we contribute four types of data to test different aspects of optical flow algorithms: (1) sequences with nonrigid motion where the ground-truth flow is determined by tracking hidden fluorescent texture, (2) realistic synthetic sequences, (3) high frame-rate video used to study interpolation error, and (4) modified stereo sequences of static scenes. In addition to the average angular error used by Barron et al., we compute the absolute flow endpoint error, measures for frame interpolation error, improved statistics, and results at motion discontinuities and in textureless regions. In October 2007, we published the performance of several well-known methods on a preliminary version of our data to establish the current state of the art. We also made the data freely available on the web at http://vision.middlebury.edu/flow/ . Subsequently a number of researchers have uploaded their results to our website and published papers using the data. A significant improvement in performance has already been achieved. In this paper we analyze the results obtained to date and draw a large number of conclusions from them.

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pdf pdf from publisher Middlebury Flow Evaluation Website [BibTex]

pdf pdf from publisher Middlebury Flow Evaluation Website [BibTex]


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

Kalakrishnan, Mrinal, Buchli, Jonas, Pastor, Peter, Mistry, Michael, Schaal, S.

International Journal of Robotics Research, 30(2):236-258, February 2011 (article)

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[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Bayesian robot system identification with input and output noise

Ting, J., D’Souza, A., Schaal, S.

Neural Networks, 24(1):99-108, 2011, 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]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Learning variable impedance control

Buchli, J., Stulp, F., Theodorou, E., Schaal, S.

International Journal of Robotics Research, 2011, clmc (article)

Abstract
One of the hallmarks of the performance, versatility, and robustness of biological motor control is the ability to adapt the impedance of the overall biomechanical system to different task requirements and stochastic disturbances. A transfer of this principle to robotics is desirable, for instance to enable robots to work robustly and safely in everyday human environments. It is, however, not trivial to derive variable impedance controllers for practical high degree-of-freedom (DOF) robotic tasks. In this contribution, we accomplish such variable impedance control with the reinforcement learning (RL) algorithm PISq ({f P}olicy {f I}mprovement with {f P}ath {f I}ntegrals). PISq is a model-free, sampling based learning method derived from first principles of stochastic optimal control. The PISq algorithm requires no tuning of algorithmic parameters besides the exploration noise. The designer can thus fully focus on cost function design to specify the task. From the viewpoint of robotics, a particular useful property of PISq is that it can scale to problems of many DOFs, so that reinforcement learning on real robotic systems becomes feasible. We sketch the PISq algorithm and its theoretical properties, and how it is applied to gain scheduling for variable impedance control. We evaluate our approach by presenting results on several simulated and real robots. We consider tasks involving accurate tracking through via-points, and manipulation tasks requiring physical contact with the environment. In these tasks, the optimal strategy requires both tuning of a reference trajectory emph{and} the impedance of the end-effector. The results show that we can use path integral based reinforcement learning not only for planning but also to derive variable gain feedback controllers in realistic scenarios. Thus, the power of variable impedance control is made available to a wide variety of robotic systems and practical applications.

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link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Neural control of cursor trajectory and click by a human with tetraplegia 1000 days after implant of an intracortical microelectrode array

(J. Neural Engineering Highlights of 2011 Collection. JNE top 10 cited papers of 2010-2011.)

Simeral, J. D., Kim, S., Black, M. J., Donoghue, J. P., Hochberg, L. R.

J. of Neural Engineering, 8(2):025027, 2011 (article)

Abstract
The ongoing pilot clinical trial of the BrainGate neural interface system aims in part to assess the feasibility of using neural activity obtained from a small-scale, chronically implanted, intracortical microelectrode array to provide control signals for a neural prosthesis system. Critical questions include how long implanted microelectrodes will record useful neural signals, how reliably those signals can be acquired and decoded, and how effectively they can be used to control various assistive technologies such as computers and robotic assistive devices, or to enable functional electrical stimulation of paralyzed muscles. Here we examined these questions by assessing neural cursor control and BrainGate system characteristics on five consecutive days 1000 days after implant of a 4 × 4 mm array of 100 microelectrodes in the motor cortex of a human with longstanding tetraplegia subsequent to a brainstem stroke. On each of five prospectively-selected days we performed time-amplitude sorting of neuronal spiking activity, trained a population-based Kalman velocity decoding filter combined with a linear discriminant click state classifier, and then assessed closed-loop point-and-click cursor control. The participant performed both an eight-target center-out task and a random target Fitts metric task which was adapted from a human-computer interaction ISO standard used to quantify performance of computer input devices. The neural interface system was further characterized by daily measurement of electrode impedances, unit waveforms and local field potentials. Across the five days, spiking signals were obtained from 41 of 96 electrodes and were successfully decoded to provide neural cursor point-and-click control with a mean task performance of 91.3% ± 0.1% (mean ± s.d.) correct target acquisition. Results across five consecutive days demonstrate that a neural interface system based on an intracortical microelectrode array can provide repeatable, accurate point-and-click control of a computer interface to an individual with tetraplegia 1000 days after implantation of this sensor.

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pdf pdf from publisher link (url) Project Page [BibTex]


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Understanding haptics by evolving mechatronic systems

Loeb, G. E., Tsianos, G.A., Fishel, J.A., Wettels, N., Schaal, S.

Progress in Brain Research, 192, pages: 129, 2011 (article)

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[BibTex]

[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.

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link (url) [BibTex]

2009


link (url) [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.

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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.

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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]


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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]

2007


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The new robotics - towards human-centered machines

Schaal, S.

HFSP Journal Frontiers of Interdisciplinary Research in the Life Sciences, 1(2):115-126, 2007, clmc (article)

Abstract
Research in robotics has moved away from its primary focus on industrial applications. The New Robotics is a vision that has been developed in past years by our own university and many other national and international research instiutions and addresses how increasingly more human-like robots can live among us and take over tasks where our current society has shortcomings. Elder care, physical therapy, child education, search and rescue, and general assistance in daily life situations are some of the examples that will benefit from the New Robotics in the near future. With these goals in mind, research for the New Robotics has to embrace a broad interdisciplinary approach, ranging from traditional mathematical issues of robotics to novel issues in psychology, neuroscience, and ethics. This paper outlines some of the important research problems that will need to be resolved to make the New Robotics a reality.

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link (url) [BibTex]

2007


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]