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Institute Talks

Learning to Act with Confidence

Talk
  • 23 October 2018 • 12:00 13:00
  • Andreas Krause
  • MPI-IS Tübingen, N0.002

Actively acquiring decision-relevant information is a key capability of intelligent systems, and plays a central role in the scientific process. In this talk I will present research from my group on this topic at the intersection of statistical learning, optimization and decision making. In particular, I will discuss how statistical confidence bounds can guide data acquisition in a principled way to make effective and reliable decisions in a variety of complex domains. I will also discuss several applications, ranging from autonomously guiding wetlab experiments in protein function optimization to safe exploration in robotics.

Control Systems for a Surgical Robot on the Space Station

IS Colloquium
  • 23 October 2018 • 16:30 17:30
  • Chris Macnab
  • MPI-IS Stuttgart, Heisenbergstr. 3, Room 2P4

As part of a proposed design for a surgical robot on the space station, my research group has been asked to look at controls that can provide literally surgical precision. Due to excessive time delay, we envision a system with a local model being controlled by a surgeon while the remote system on the space station follows along in a safe manner. Two of the major design considerations that come into play for the low-level feedback loops on the remote side are 1) the harmonic drives in a robot will cause excessive vibrations in a micro-gravity environment unless active damping strategies are employed and 2) when interacting with a human tissue environment the robot must apply smooth control signals that result in precise positions and forces. Thus, we envision intelligent strategies that utilize nonlinear, adaptive, neural-network, and/or fuzzy control theory as the most suitable. However, space agencies, or their engineering sub-contractors, typically provide gain and phase margin characteristics as requirements to the engineers involved in a control system design, which are normally associated with PID or other traditional linear control schemes. We are currently endeavouring to create intelligent controls that have guaranteed gain and phase margins using the Cerebellar Model Articulation Controller.

Organizers: Katherine Kuchenbecker

Artificial haptic intelligence for human-machine systems

IS Colloquium
  • 24 October 2018 • 11:00 12:00
  • Veronica J. Santos
  • 5H7 at MPI-IS in Stuttgart

The functionality of artificial manipulators could be enhanced by artificial “haptic intelligence” that enables the identification of object features via touch for semi-autonomous decision-making and/or display to a human operator. This could be especially useful when complementary sensory modalities, such as vision, are unavailable. I will highlight past and present work to enhance the functionality of artificial hands in human-machine systems. I will describe efforts to develop multimodal tactile sensor skins, and to teach robots how to haptically perceive salient geometric features such as edges and fingertip-sized bumps and pits using machine learning techniques. I will describe the use of reinforcement learning to teach robots goal-based policies for a functional contour-following task: the closure of a ziplock bag. Our Contextual Multi-Armed Bandits approach tightly couples robot actions to the tactile and proprioceptive consequences of the actions, and selects future actions based on prior experiences, the current context, and a functional task goal. Finally, I will describe current efforts to develop real-time capabilities for the perception of tactile directionality, and to develop models for haptically locating objects buried in granular media. Real-time haptic perception and decision-making capabilities could be used to advance semi-autonomous robot systems and reduce the cognitive burden on human teleoperators of devices ranging from wheelchair-mounted robots to explosive ordnance disposal robots.

Organizers: Katherine Kuchenbecker

Artificial haptic intelligence for human-machine systems

IS Colloquium
  • 25 October 2018 • 11:00 11:00
  • Veronica J. Santos
  • N2.025 at MPI-IS in Tübingen

The functionality of artificial manipulators could be enhanced by artificial “haptic intelligence” that enables the identification of object features via touch for semi-autonomous decision-making and/or display to a human operator. This could be especially useful when complementary sensory modalities, such as vision, are unavailable. I will highlight past and present work to enhance the functionality of artificial hands in human-machine systems. I will describe efforts to develop multimodal tactile sensor skins, and to teach robots how to haptically perceive salient geometric features such as edges and fingertip-sized bumps and pits using machine learning techniques. I will describe the use of reinforcement learning to teach robots goal-based policies for a functional contour-following task: the closure of a ziplock bag. Our Contextual Multi-Armed Bandits approach tightly couples robot actions to the tactile and proprioceptive consequences of the actions, and selects future actions based on prior experiences, the current context, and a functional task goal. Finally, I will describe current efforts to develop real-time capabilities for the perception of tactile directionality, and to develop models for haptically locating objects buried in granular media. Real-time haptic perception and decision-making capabilities could be used to advance semi-autonomous robot systems and reduce the cognitive burden on human teleoperators of devices ranging from wheelchair-mounted robots to explosive ordnance disposal robots.

Organizers: Katherine Kuchenbecker Adam Spiers

A fine-grained perspective onto object interactions

Talk
  • 30 October 2018 • 10:30 11:30
  • Dima Damen
  • N3.022 (Aquarium)

This talk aims to argue for a fine-grained perspective onto human-object interactions, from video sequences. I will present approaches for the understanding of ‘what’ objects one interacts with during daily activities, ‘when’ should we label the temporal boundaries of interactions, ‘which’ semantic labels one can use to describe such interactions and ‘who’ is better when contrasting people perform the same interaction. I will detail my group’s latest works on sub-topics related to: (1) assessing action ‘completion’ – when an interaction is attempted but not completed [BMVC 2018], (2) determining skill or expertise from video sequences [CVPR 2018] and (3) finding unequivocal semantic representations for object interactions [ongoing work]. I will also introduce EPIC-KITCHENS 2018, the recently released largest dataset of object interactions in people’s homes, recorded using wearable cameras. The dataset includes 11.5M frames fully annotated with objects and actions, based on unique annotations from the participants narrating their own videos, thus reflecting true intention. Three open challenges are now available on object detection, action recognition and action anticipation [http://epic-kitchens.github.io]

Organizers: Mohamed Hassan

TBA

IS Colloquium
  • 28 January 2019 • 3pm 4pm
  • Florian Marquardt

Organizers: Matthias Bauer

  • Karl Rohe
  • MPI IS Lecture Hall (N0.002)

This paper uses the relationship between graph conductance and spectral clustering to study (i) the failures of spectral clustering and (ii) the benefits of regularization. The explanation is simple. Sparse and stochastic graphs create a lot of small trees that are connected to the core of the graph by only one edge. Graph conductance is sensitive to these noisy "dangling sets." Spectral clustering inherits this sensitivity. The second part of the paper starts from a previously proposed form of regularized spectral clustering and shows that it is related to the graph conductance on a "regularized graph." We call the conductance on the regularized graph CoreCut. Based upon previous arguments that relate graph conductance to spectral clustering (e.g. Cheeger inequality), minimizing CoreCut relaxes to regularized spectral clustering. Simple inspection of CoreCut reveals why it is less sensitive to small cuts in the graph. Together, these results show that unbalanced partitions from spectral clustering can be understood as overfitting to noise in the periphery of a sparse and stochastic graph. Regularization fixes this overfitting. In addition to this statistical benefit, these results also demonstrate how regularization can improve the computational speed of spectral clustering. We provide simulations and data examples to illustrate these results.

Organizers: Damien Garreau


  • Adrián Javaloy
  • S2 seminar room

The problem of text normalization is simple to understand: transform a given arbitrary text into its spoken form. In the context of text-to-speech systems – that we will focus on – this can be exemplified by turning the text “$200” into “two hundred dollars”. Lately, the interest of solving this problem with deep learning techniques has raised since it is a highly context-dependent problem that is still being solved by ad-hoc solutions. So much so that Google even started a contest in the web Kaggle to solve this problem. In this talk we will see how this problem has been approached as part of a Master thesis. Namely, the problem is tackled as if it were an automatic translation problem from English to normalized English, and so the architecture proposed is a neural machine translation architecture with the addition of traditional attention mechanisms. This network is typically composed of an encoder and a decoder, where both of them are multi-layer LSTM networks. As part of this work, and with the aim of proving the feasibility of convolutional neural networks in natural-language processing problems, we propose and compare different architectures for the encoder based on convolutional networks. In particular, we propose a new architecture called Causal Feature Extractor which proves to be a great encoder as well as an attention-friendly architecture.

Organizers: Philipp Hennig


  • Prof. Andrew Blake
  • Ground Floor Seminar Room N0.002

Organizers: Ahmed Osman


Learning Representations for Hyperparameter Transfer Learning

IS Colloquium
  • 11 June 2018 • 11:15 12:15
  • Cédric Archambeau
  • MPI IS Lecture Hall (N0.002)

Bayesian optimization (BO) is a model-based approach for gradient-free black-box function optimization, such as hyperparameter optimization. Typically, BO relies on conventional Gaussian process regression, whose algorithmic complexity is cubic in the number of evaluations. As a result, Gaussian process-based BO cannot leverage large numbers of past function evaluations, for example, to warm-start related BO runs. After a brief intro to BO and an overview of several use cases at Amazon, I will discuss a multi-task adaptive Bayesian linear regression model, whose computational complexity is attractive (linear) in the number of function evaluations and able to leverage information of related black-box functions through a shared deep neural net. Experimental results show that the neural net learns a representation suitable for warm-starting related BO runs and that they can be accelerated when the target black-box function (e.g., validation loss) is learned together with other related signals (e.g., training loss). The proposed method was found to be at least one order of magnitude faster than competing neural network-based methods recently published in the literature. This is joint work with Valerio Perrone, Rodolphe Jenatton, and Matthias Seeger.

Organizers: Isabel Valera


  • Prof. Martin Spindler
  • MPI IS Lecture Hall (N0.002)

In this talk first an introduction to the double machine learning framework is given. This allows inference on parameters in high-dimensional settings. Then, two applications are given, namely transformation models and Gaussian graphical models in high-dimensional settings. Both kind of models are widely used by practitioners. As high-dimensional data sets become more and more available, it is important to allow situations where the number of parameters is large compared to the sample size.


  • Prof. Martin Spindler
  • MPI IS Lecture Hall (N0.002)

In this talk first an introduction to the double machine learning framework is given. This allows inference on parameters in high-dimensional settings. Then, two applications are given, namely transformation models and Gaussian graphical models in high-dimensional settings. Both kind of models are widely used by practitioners. As high-dimensional data sets become more and more available, it is important to allow situations where the number of parameters is large compared to the sample size.

Organizers: Philipp Geiger


  • Dr. Greg Byrnes
  • Room 3P02 - Stuttgart

Gliding evolved at least nine times in mammals. Despite the abundance and diversity of gliding mammals, little is known about their convergent morphology and mechanisms of aerodynamic control. Many gliding animals are capable of impressive and agile aerial behaviors and their flight performance depends on the aerodynamic forces resulting from airflow interacting with a flexible, membranous wing (patagium). Although the mechanisms that gliders use to control dynamic flight are poorly understood, the shape of the gliding membrane (e.g., angle of attack, camber) is likely a primary factor governing the control of the interaction between aerodynamic forces and the animal’s body. Data from field studies of gliding behavior, lab experiments examining membrane shape changes during glides and morphological and materials testing data of gliding membranes will be presented that can aid our understanding of the mechanisms gliding mammals use to control their membranous wings and potentially provide insights into the design of man-made flexible wings.

Organizers: Metin Sitti Ardian Jusufi


Lessons from the visual system to understand (and help) the brain

IS Colloquium
  • 08 June 2018 • 11:00 12:00
  • Prof. Javier Cudeiro
  • MPI-IS lecture hall (N0.002)

Visual perception involves a complex interaction between feedforward and feedback processes. A mechanistic understanding of these processing, and its limitations, is a necessary first step towards elucidating key aspects of perceptual functions and dysfunctions. In this talk, I will review our ongoing effort towards the understanding of how feedback visual processing operates at the level of the thalamus, a dynamic relay station halfway between the retina and the cortex. I will present experimental evidence from several recent electrophysiology studies performed on subjects engaged in visual detection tasks. The results show that modulatory driving provided by top-down processes (the feedback from primary visual cortex) critically influences the ongoing thalamic activity and shapes the message to be delivered to the cortex. When neuromodulatory techniques (Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation or static magnetic fields) are used to transiently disrupt cortical activity two very interesting effects show up: (1) alterations in stimulus detection and (2) the spatial properties of thalamic receptive fields are dramatically modified. Finally, I will show how sensory information can be a powerful tool to interact with the motor system and re-organize altered patterns of movement in neurological disorders such as Parkinson's disease.

Organizers: Daniel Cudeiro


  • Dr. Hadi Eghlidi
  • MPI-IS Stuttgart, Room 5H7

Investigations and control of biological and synthetic nanoscopic species in liquids at the ultimate resolution of single entity, are important in diverse fields such as biology, medicine, physics, chemistry and emerging field of nanorobotics. Progress made to date on trapping and/or manipulating nanoscopic objects includes methods that use permanently imposed force fields of various kinds, such as optical, electrical and magnetic forces, to counteract their inherent Brownian motion.

Organizers: Peer Fischer Ardian Jusufi


  • Wenzhen Yuan
  • MPI-IS Stuttgart, Heisenbergstr. 3, Room 2P4

Why cannot the current robots act intelligently in the real-world environment? A major challenge lies in the lack of adequate tactile sensing technologies. Robots need tactile sensing to understand the physical environment, and detect the contact states during manipulation. Progress requires advances in the sensing hardware, but also advances in the software that can exploit the tactile signals. We developed a high-resolution tactile sensor, GelSight, which measures the geometry and traction field of the contact surface. For interpreting the high-resolution tactile signal, we utilize both traditional statistical models and deep neural networks. I will describe my research on both exploration and manipulation. For exploration, I use active touch to estimate the physical properties of the objects. The work has included learning the hardness of artificial objects, as well as estimating the general properties of natural objects via autonomous tactile exploration. For manipulation, I study the robot’s ability to detect slip or incipient slip with tactile sensing during grasping. The research helps robots to better understand and flexibly interact with the physical world.

Organizers: Katherine Kuchenbecker