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2018


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Motion-based Object Segmentation based on Dense RGB-D Scene Flow

Shao, L., Shah, P., Dwaracherla, V., Bohg, J.

IEEE Robotics and Automation Letters, 3(4):3797-3804, IEEE, IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems, October 2018 (conference)

Abstract
Given two consecutive RGB-D images, we propose a model that estimates a dense 3D motion field, also known as scene flow. We take advantage of the fact that in robot manipulation scenarios, scenes often consist of a set of rigidly moving objects. Our model jointly estimates (i) the segmentation of the scene into an unknown but finite number of objects, (ii) the motion trajectories of these objects and (iii) the object scene flow. We employ an hourglass, deep neural network architecture. In the encoding stage, the RGB and depth images undergo spatial compression and correlation. In the decoding stage, the model outputs three images containing a per-pixel estimate of the corresponding object center as well as object translation and rotation. This forms the basis for inferring the object segmentation and final object scene flow. To evaluate our model, we generated a new and challenging, large-scale, synthetic dataset that is specifically targeted at robotic manipulation: It contains a large number of scenes with a very diverse set of simultaneously moving 3D objects and is recorded with a commonly-used RGB-D camera. In quantitative experiments, we show that we significantly outperform state-of-the-art scene flow and motion-segmentation methods. In qualitative experiments, we show how our learned model transfers to challenging real-world scenes, visually generating significantly better results than existing methods.

Project Page arXiv DOI [BibTex]

2018

Project Page arXiv DOI [BibTex]


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Probabilistic Recurrent State-Space Models

Doerr, A., Daniel, C., Schiegg, M., Nguyen-Tuong, D., Schaal, S., Toussaint, M., Trimpe, S.

In Proceedings of the International Conference on Machine Learning (ICML), International Conference on Machine Learning (ICML), July 2018 (inproceedings)

Abstract
State-space models (SSMs) are a highly expressive model class for learning patterns in time series data and for system identification. Deterministic versions of SSMs (e.g., LSTMs) proved extremely successful in modeling complex time-series data. Fully probabilistic SSMs, however, unfortunately often prove hard to train, even for smaller problems. To overcome this limitation, we propose a scalable initialization and training algorithm based on doubly stochastic variational inference and Gaussian processes. In the variational approximation we propose in contrast to related approaches to fully capture the latent state temporal correlations to allow for robust training.

arXiv pdf Project Page [BibTex]

arXiv pdf Project Page [BibTex]


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Online Learning of a Memory for Learning Rates

(nominated for best paper award)

Meier, F., Kappler, D., Schaal, S.

In Proceedings of the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA) 2018, IEEE, International Conference on Robotics and Automation, May 2018, accepted (inproceedings)

Abstract
The promise of learning to learn for robotics rests on the hope that by extracting some information about the learning process itself we can speed up subsequent similar learning tasks. Here, we introduce a computationally efficient online meta-learning algorithm that builds and optimizes a memory model of the optimal learning rate landscape from previously observed gradient behaviors. While performing task specific optimization, this memory of learning rates predicts how to scale currently observed gradients. After applying the gradient scaling our meta-learner updates its internal memory based on the observed effect its prediction had. Our meta-learner can be combined with any gradient-based optimizer, learns on the fly and can be transferred to new optimization tasks. In our evaluations we show that our meta-learning algorithm speeds up learning of MNIST classification and a variety of learning control tasks, either in batch or online learning settings.

pdf video code [BibTex]

pdf video code [BibTex]


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Learning Sensor Feedback Models from Demonstrations via Phase-Modulated Neural Networks

Sutanto, G., Su, Z., Schaal, S., Meier, F.

In Proceedings of the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA) 2018, IEEE, International Conference on Robotics and Automation, May 2018 (inproceedings)

pdf video [BibTex]

pdf video [BibTex]


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On Time Optimization of Centroidal Momentum Dynamics

Ponton, B., Herzog, A., Del Prete, A., Schaal, S., Righetti, L.

In 2018 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA), pages: 5776-5782, IEEE, Brisbane, Australia, 2018 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Recently, the centroidal momentum dynamics has received substantial attention to plan dynamically consistent motions for robots with arms and legs in multi-contact scenarios. However, it is also non convex which renders any optimization approach difficult and timing is usually kept fixed in most trajectory optimization techniques to not introduce additional non convexities to the problem. But this can limit the versatility of the algorithms. In our previous work, we proposed a convex relaxation of the problem that allowed to efficiently compute momentum trajectories and contact forces. However, our approach could not minimize a desired angular momentum objective which seriously limited its applicability. Noticing that the non-convexity introduced by the time variables is of similar nature as the centroidal dynamics one, we propose two convex relaxations to the problem based on trust regions and soft constraints. The resulting approaches can compute time-optimized dynamically consistent trajectories sufficiently fast to make the approach realtime capable. The performance of the algorithm is demonstrated in several multi-contact scenarios for a humanoid robot. In particular, we show that the proposed convex relaxation of the original problem finds solutions that are consistent with the original non-convex problem and illustrate how timing optimization allows to find motion plans that would be difficult to plan with fixed timing † †Implementation details and demos can be found in the source code available at https://git-amd.tuebingen.mpg.de/bponton/timeoptimization.

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Unsupervised Contact Learning for Humanoid Estimation and Control

Rotella, N., Schaal, S., Righetti, L.

In 2018 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA), pages: 411-417, IEEE, Brisbane, Australia, 2018 (inproceedings)

Abstract
This work presents a method for contact state estimation using fuzzy clustering to learn contact probability for full, six-dimensional humanoid contacts. The data required for training is solely from proprioceptive sensors - endeffector contact wrench sensors and inertial measurement units (IMUs) - and the method is completely unsupervised. The resulting cluster means are used to efficiently compute the probability of contact in each of the six endeffector degrees of freedom (DoFs) independently. This clustering-based contact probability estimator is validated in a kinematics-based base state estimator in a simulation environment with realistic added sensor noise for locomotion over rough, low-friction terrain on which the robot is subject to foot slip and rotation. The proposed base state estimator which utilizes these six DoF contact probability estimates is shown to perform considerably better than that which determines kinematic contact constraints purely based on measured normal force.

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Learning Task-Specific Dynamics to Improve Whole-Body Control

Gams, A., Mason, S., Ude, A., Schaal, S., Righetti, L.

In Hua, IEEE, Beijing, China, November 2018 (inproceedings)

Abstract
In task-based inverse dynamics control, reference accelerations used to follow a desired plan can be broken down into feedforward and feedback trajectories. The feedback term accounts for tracking errors that are caused from inaccurate dynamic models or external disturbances. On underactuated, free-floating robots, such as humanoids, high feedback terms can be used to improve tracking accuracy; however, this can lead to very stiff behavior or poor tracking accuracy due to limited control bandwidth. In this paper, we show how to reduce the required contribution of the feedback controller by incorporating learned task-space reference accelerations. Thus, we i) improve the execution of the given specific task, and ii) offer the means to reduce feedback gains, providing for greater compliance of the system. With a systematic approach we also reduce heuristic tuning of the model parameters and feedback gains, often present in real-world experiments. In contrast to learning task-specific joint-torques, which might produce a similar effect but can lead to poor generalization, our approach directly learns the task-space dynamics of the center of mass of a humanoid robot. Simulated and real-world results on the lower part of the Sarcos Hermes humanoid robot demonstrate the applicability of the approach.

link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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An MPC Walking Framework With External Contact Forces

Mason, S., Rotella, N., Schaal, S., Righetti, L.

In 2018 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA), pages: 1785-1790, IEEE, Brisbane, Australia, May 2018 (inproceedings)

Abstract
In this work, we present an extension to a linear Model Predictive Control (MPC) scheme that plans external contact forces for the robot when given multiple contact locations and their corresponding friction cone. To this end, we set up a two-step optimization problem. In the first optimization, we compute the Center of Mass (CoM) trajectory, foot step locations, and introduce slack variables to account for violating the imposed constraints on the Zero Moment Point (ZMP). We then use the slack variables to trigger the second optimization, in which we calculate the optimal external force that compensates for the ZMP tracking error. This optimization considers multiple contacts positions within the environment by formulating the problem as a Mixed Integer Quadratic Program (MIQP) that can be solved at a speed between 100-300 Hz. Once contact is created, the MIQP reduces to a single Quadratic Program (QP) that can be solved in real-time ({\textless}; 1kHz). Simulations show that the presented walking control scheme can withstand disturbances 2-3× larger with the additional force provided by a hand contact.

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

1997


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Learning from demonstration

Schaal, S.

In Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 9, pages: 1040-1046, (Editors: Mozer, M. C.;Jordan, M.;Petsche, T.), MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, 1997, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
By now it is widely accepted that learning a task from scratch, i.e., without any prior knowledge, is a daunting undertaking. Humans, however, rarely attempt to learn from scratch. They extract initial biases as well as strategies how to approach a learning problem from instructions and/or demonstrations of other humans. For learning control, this paper investigates how learning from demonstration can be applied in the context of reinforcement learning. We consider priming the Q-function, the value function, the policy, and the model of the task dynamics as possible areas where demonstrations can speed up learning. In general nonlinear learning problems, only model-based reinforcement learning shows significant speed-up after a demonstration, while in the special case of linear quadratic regulator (LQR) problems, all methods profit from the demonstration. In an implementation of pole balancing on a complex anthropomorphic robot arm, we demonstrate that, when facing the complexities of real signal processing, model-based reinforcement learning offers the most robustness for LQR problems. Using the suggested methods, the robot learns pole balancing in just a single trial after a 30 second long demonstration of the human instructor. 

link (url) [BibTex]

1997

link (url) [BibTex]


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Robot learning from demonstration

Atkeson, C. G., Schaal, S.

In Machine Learning: Proceedings of the Fourteenth International Conference (ICML ’97), pages: 12-20, (Editors: Fisher Jr., D. H.), Morgan Kaufmann, Nashville, TN, July 8-12, 1997, 1997, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
The goal of robot learning from demonstration is to have a robot learn from watching a demonstration of the task to be performed. In our approach to learning from demonstration the robot learns a reward function from the demonstration and a task model from repeated attempts to perform the task. A policy is computed based on the learned reward function and task model. Lessons learned from an implementation on an anthropomorphic robot arm using a pendulum swing up task include 1) simply mimicking demonstrated motions is not adequate to perform this task, 2) a task planner can use a learned model and reward function to compute an appropriate policy, 3) this model-based planning process supports rapid learning, 4) both parametric and nonparametric models can be learned and used, and 5) incorporating a task level direct learning component, which is non-model-based, in addition to the model-based planner, is useful in compensating for structural modeling errors and slow model learning. 

link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Local dimensionality reduction for locally weighted learning

Vijayakumar, S., Schaal, S.

In International Conference on Computational Intelligence in Robotics and Automation, pages: 220-225, Monteray, CA, July10-11, 1997, 1997, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
Incremental learning of sensorimotor transformations in high dimensional spaces is one of the basic prerequisites for the success of autonomous robot devices as well as biological movement systems. So far, due to sparsity of data in high dimensional spaces, learning in such settings requires a significant amount of prior knowledge about the learning task, usually provided by a human expert. In this paper we suggest a partial revision of the view. Based on empirical studies, it can been observed that, despite being globally high dimensional and sparse, data distributions from physical movement systems are locally low dimensional and dense. Under this assumption, we derive a learning algorithm, Locally Adaptive Subspace Regression, that exploits this property by combining a local dimensionality reduction as a preprocessing step with a nonparametric learning technique, locally weighted regression. The usefulness of the algorithm and the validity of its assumptions are illustrated for a synthetic data set and data of the inverse dynamics of an actual 7 degree-of-freedom anthropomorphic robot arm.

link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Learning tasks from a single demonstration

Atkeson, C. G., Schaal, S.

In IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA97), 2, pages: 1706-1712, Piscataway, NJ: IEEE, Albuquerque, NM, 20-25 April, 1997, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
Learning a complex dynamic robot manoeuvre from a single human demonstration is difficult. This paper explores an approach to learning from demonstration based on learning an optimization criterion from the demonstration and a task model from repeated attempts to perform the task, and using the learned criterion and model to compute an appropriate robot movement. A preliminary version of the approach has been implemented on an anthropomorphic robot arm using a pendulum swing up task as an example

link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]

1994


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Robot learning by nonparametric regression

Schaal, S., Atkeson, C. G.

In Proceedings of the International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS’94), pages: 478-485, Munich Germany, 1994, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
We present an approach to robot learning grounded on a nonparametric regression technique, locally weighted regression. The model of the task to be performed is represented by infinitely many local linear models, i.e., the (hyper-) tangent planes at every query point. Such a model, however, is only generated when a query is performed and is not retained. This is in contrast to other methods using a finite set of linear models to accomplish a piecewise linear model. Architectural parameters of our approach, such as distance metrics, are also a function of the current query point instead of being global. Statistical tests are presented for when a local model is good enough such that it can be reliably used to build a local controller. These statistical measures also direct the exploration of the robot. We explicitly deal with the case where prediction accuracy requirements exist during exploration: By gradually shifting a center of exploration and controlling the speed of the shift with local prediction accuracy, a goal-directed exploration of state space takes place along the fringes of the current data support until the task goal is achieved. We illustrate this approach by describing how it has been used to enable a robot to learn a challenging juggling task: Within 40 to 100 trials the robot accomplished the task goal starting out with no initial experiences.

[BibTex]

1994

[BibTex]


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Assessing the quality of learned local models

Schaal, S., Atkeson, C. G.

In Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 6, pages: 160-167, (Editors: Cowan, J.;Tesauro, G.;Alspector, J.), Morgan Kaufmann, San Mateo, CA, 1994, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
An approach is presented to learning high dimensional functions in the case where the learning algorithm can affect the generation of new data. A local modeling algorithm, locally weighted regression, is used to represent the learned function. Architectural parameters of the approach, such as distance metrics, are also localized and become a function of the query point instead of being global. Statistical tests are given for when a local model is good enough and sampling should be moved to a new area. Our methods explicitly deal with the case where prediction accuracy requirements exist during exploration: By gradually shifting a "center of exploration" and controlling the speed of the shift with local prediction accuracy, a goal-directed exploration of state space takes place along the fringes of the current data support until the task goal is achieved. We illustrate this approach with simulation results and results from a real robot learning a complex juggling task.

link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Memory-based robot learning

Schaal, S., Atkeson, C. G.

In IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation, 3, pages: 2928-2933, San Diego, CA, 1994, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
We present a memory-based local modeling approach to robot learning using a nonparametric regression technique, locally weighted regression. The model of the task to be performed is represented by infinitely many local linear models, the (hyper-) tangent planes at every query point. This is in contrast to other methods using a finite set of linear models to accomplish a piece-wise linear model. Architectural parameters of our approach, such as distance metrics, are a function of the current query point instead of being global. Statistical tests are presented for when a local model is good enough such that it can be reliably used to build a local controller. These statistical measures also direct the exploration of the robot. We explicitly deal with the case where prediction accuracy requirements exist during exploration: By gradually shifting a center of exploration and controlling the speed of the shift with local prediction accuracy, a goal-directed exploration of state space takes place along the fringes of the current data support until the task goal is achieved. We illustrate this approach by describing how it has been used to enable a robot to learn a challenging juggling task: within 40 to 100 trials the robot accomplished the task goal starting out with no initial experiences.

[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Nonparametric regression for learning

Schaal, S.

In Conference on Adaptive Behavior and Learning, Center of Interdisciplinary Research (ZIF) Bielefeld Germany, also technical report TR-H-098 of the ATR Human Information Processing Research Laboratories, 1994, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
In recent years, learning theory has been increasingly influenced by the fact that many learning algorithms have at least in part a comprehensive interpretation in terms of well established statistical theories. Furthermore, with little modification, several statistical methods can be directly cast into learning algorithms. One family of such methods stems from nonparametric regression. This paper compares nonparametric learning with the more widely used parametric counterparts and investigates how these two families differ in their properties and their applicability. 

link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]