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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]

2016


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Predictive and Self Triggering for Event-based State Estimation

Trimpe, S.

In Proceedings of the 55th IEEE Conference on Decision and Control (CDC), pages: 3098-3105, Las Vegas, NV, USA, December 2016 (inproceedings)

arXiv PDF DOI Project Page [BibTex]

2016

arXiv PDF DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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Using Probabilistic Movement Primitives for Striking Movements

Gomez-Gonzalez, S., Neumann, G., Schölkopf, B., Peters, J.

16th IEEE-RAS International Conference on Humanoid Robots (Humanoids), pages: 502-508, November 2016 (conference)

link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]

link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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Jointly Learning Trajectory Generation and Hitting Point Prediction in Robot Table Tennis

Huang, Y., Büchler, D., Koc, O., Schölkopf, B., Peters, J.

16th IEEE-RAS International Conference on Humanoid Robots (Humanoids), pages: 650-655, November 2016 (conference)

final link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]

final link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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The Role of Measurement Uncertainty in Optimal Control for Contact Interactions
Workshop on the Algorithmic Foundations of Robotics, pages: 22, November 2016 (conference)

Abstract
Stochastic Optimal Control (SOC) typically considers noise only in the process model, i.e. unknown disturbances. However, in many robotic applications that involve interaction with the environment, such as locomotion and manipulation, uncertainty also comes from lack of pre- cise knowledge of the world, which is not an actual disturbance. We de- velop a computationally efficient SOC algorithm, based on risk-sensitive control, that takes into account uncertainty in the measurements. We include the dynamics of an observer in such a way that the control law explicitly depends on the current measurement uncertainty. We show that high measurement uncertainty leads to low impedance behaviors, a result in contrast with the effects of process noise variance that creates stiff behaviors. Simulation results on a simple 2D manipulator show that our controller can create better interaction with the environment under uncertain contact locations than traditional SOC approaches.

arXiv [BibTex]

arXiv [BibTex]


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Learning Where to Search Using Visual Attention

Kloss, A., Kappler, D., Lensch, H. P. A., Butz, M. V., Schaal, S., Bohg, J.

Proceedings of the IEEE/RSJ Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems, IEEE, IROS, October 2016 (conference)

Abstract
One of the central tasks for a household robot is searching for specific objects. It does not only require localizing the target object but also identifying promising search locations in the scene if the target is not immediately visible. As computation time and hardware resources are usually limited in robotics, it is desirable to avoid expensive visual processing steps that are exhaustively applied over the entire image. The human visual system can quickly select those image locations that have to be processed in detail for a given task. This allows us to cope with huge amounts of information and to efficiently deploy the limited capacities of our visual system. In this paper, we therefore propose to use human fixation data to train a top-down saliency model that predicts relevant image locations when searching for specific objects. We show that the learned model can successfully prune bounding box proposals without rejecting the ground truth object locations. In this aspect, the proposed model outperforms a model that is trained only on the ground truth segmentations of the target object instead of fixation data.

Project Page [BibTex]

PDF Project Page [BibTex]


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Parameter Learning for Improving Binary Descriptor Matching

Sankaran, B., Ramalingam, S., Taguchi, Y.

In International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS) 2016, IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems, October 2016 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Binary descriptors allow fast detection and matching algorithms in computer vision problems. Though binary descriptors can be computed at almost two orders of magnitude faster than traditional gradient based descriptors, they suffer from poor matching accuracy in challenging conditions. In this paper we propose three improvements for binary descriptors in their computation and matching that enhance their performance in comparison to traditional binary and non-binary descriptors without compromising their speed. This is achieved by learning some weights and threshold parameters that allow customized matching under some variations such as lighting and viewpoint. Our suggested improvements can be easily applied to any binary descriptor. We demonstrate our approach on the ORB (Oriented FAST and Rotated BRIEF) descriptor and compare its performance with the traditional ORB and SIFT descriptors on a wide variety of datasets. In all instances, our enhancements outperform standard ORB and is comparable to SIFT.

[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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A New Trajectory Generation Framework in Robotic Table Tennis

Koc, O., Maeda, G., Peters, J.

Proceedings of the IEEE/RSJ Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS), pages: 3750-3756, October 2016 (conference)

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Superpixel Convolutional Networks using Bilateral Inceptions

Gadde, R., Jampani, V., Kiefel, M., Kappler, D., Gehler, P.

In European Conference on Computer Vision (ECCV), Lecture Notes in Computer Science, Springer, 14th European Conference on Computer Vision, October 2016 (inproceedings)

Abstract
In this paper we propose a CNN architecture for semantic image segmentation. We introduce a new “bilateral inception” module that can be inserted in existing CNN architectures and performs bilateral filtering, at multiple feature-scales, between superpixels in an image. The feature spaces for bilateral filtering and other parameters of the module are learned end-to-end using standard backpropagation techniques. The bilateral inception module addresses two issues that arise with general CNN segmentation architectures. First, this module propagates information between (super) pixels while respecting image edges, thus using the structured information of the problem for improved results. Second, the layer recovers a full resolution segmentation result from the lower resolution solution of a CNN. In the experiments, we modify several existing CNN architectures by inserting our inception modules between the last CNN (1 × 1 convolution) layers. Empirical results on three different datasets show reliable improvements not only in comparison to the baseline networks, but also in comparison to several dense-pixel prediction techniques such as CRFs, while being competitive in time.

pdf supplementary poster Project Page Project Page [BibTex]

pdf supplementary poster Project Page Project Page [BibTex]


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Barrista - Caffe Well-Served

Lassner, C., Kappler, D., Kiefel, M., Gehler, P.

In ACM Multimedia Open Source Software Competition, ACM OSSC16, October 2016 (inproceedings)

Abstract
The caffe framework is one of the leading deep learning toolboxes in the machine learning and computer vision community. While it offers efficiency and configurability, it falls short of a full interface to Python. With increasingly involved procedures for training deep networks and reaching depths of hundreds of layers, creating configuration files and keeping them consistent becomes an error prone process. We introduce the barrista framework, offering full, pythonic control over caffe. It separates responsibilities and offers code to solve frequently occurring tasks for pre-processing, training and model inspection. It is compatible to all caffe versions since mid 2015 and can import and export .prototxt files. Examples are included, e.g., a deep residual network implemented in only 172 lines (for arbitrary depths), comparing to 2320 lines in the official implementation for the equivalent model.

pdf link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]

pdf link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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Robust Gaussian Filtering using a Pseudo Measurement

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

In Proceedings of the American Control Conference (ACC), Boston, MA, USA, July 2016 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Most widely-used state estimation algorithms, such as the Extended Kalman Filter and the Unscented Kalman Filter, belong to the family of Gaussian Filters (GF). Unfortunately, GFs fail if the measurement process is modelled by a fat-tailed distribution. This is a severe limitation, because thin-tailed measurement models, such as the analytically-convenient and therefore widely-used Gaussian distribution, are sensitive to outliers. In this paper, we show that mapping the measurements into a specific feature space enables any existing GF algorithm to work with fat-tailed measurement models. We find a feature function which is optimal under certain conditions. Simulation results show that the proposed method allows for robust filtering in both linear and nonlinear systems with measurements contaminated by fat-tailed noise.

Web link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]

Web link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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Robot Arm Pose Estimation by Pixel-wise Regression of Joint Angles

Widmaier, F., Kappler, D., Schaal, S., Bohg, J.

In Proceedings of the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA) 2016, IEEE, IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation, May 2016 (inproceedings)

Abstract
To achieve accurate vision-based control with a robotic arm, a good hand-eye coordination is required. However, knowing the current configuration of the arm can be very difficult due to noisy readings from joint encoders or an inaccurate hand-eye calibration. We propose an approach for robot arm pose estimation that uses depth images of the arm as input to directly estimate angular joint positions. This is a frame-by-frame method which does not rely on good initialisation of the solution from the previous frames or knowledge from the joint encoders. For estimation, we employ a random regression forest which is trained on synthetically generated data. We compare different training objectives of the forest and also analyse the influence of prior segmentation of the arms on accuracy. We show that this approach improves previous work both in terms of computational complexity and accuracy. Despite being trained on synthetic data only, we demonstrate that the estimation also works on real depth images.

pdf DOI Project Page [BibTex]

pdf DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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Optimizing for what matters: the Top Grasp Hypothesis

Kappler, D., Schaal, S., Bohg, J.

In Proceedings of the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA) 2016, IEEE, IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation, May 2016 (inproceedings)

Abstract
In this paper, we consider the problem of robotic grasping of objects when only partial and noisy sensor data of the environment is available. We are specifically interested in the problem of reliably selecting the best hypothesis from a whole set. This is commonly the case when trying to grasp an object for which we can only observe a partial point cloud from one viewpoint through noisy sensors. There will be many possible ways to successfully grasp this object, and even more which will fail. We propose a supervised learning method that is trained with a ranking loss. This explicitly encourages that the top-ranked training grasp in a hypothesis set is also positively labeled. We show how we adapt the standard ranking loss to work with data that has binary labels and explain the benefits of this formulation. Additionally, we show how we can efficiently optimize this loss with stochastic gradient descent. In quantitative experiments, we show that we can outperform previous models by a large margin.

pdf DOI Project Page [BibTex]

pdf DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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Exemplar-based Prediction of Object Properties from Local Shape Similarity

Bohg, J., Kappler, D., Schaal, S.

In Proceedings of the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA) 2016, IEEE, IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation, May 2016 (inproceedings)

Abstract
We propose a novel method that enables a robot to identify a graspable object part of an unknown object given only noisy and partial information that is obtained from an RGB-D camera. Our method combines the benefits of local with the advantages of global methods. It learns a classifier that takes a local shape representation as input and outputs the probability that a grasp applied at this location will be successful. Given a query data point that is classified in this way, we can retrieve all the locally similar training data points and use them to predict latent global object shape. This information may help to further prune positively labeled grasp hypotheses based on, e.g. relation to the predicted average global shape or suitability for a specific task. This prediction can also guide scene exploration to prune object shape hypotheses. To learn the function that maps local shape to grasp stability we use a Random Forest Classifier. We show that our method reaches the same classification performance as the current state-of-the-art on this dataset which uses a Convolutional Neural Network. Additionally, we exploit the natural ability of the Random Forest to cluster similar data. For a positively predicted query data point, we retrieve all the locally similar training data points that are associated with the same leaf nodes of the Random Forest. The main insight from this work is that local object shape that affords a grasp is also a good predictor of global object shape. We empirically support this claim with quantitative experiments. Additionally, we demonstrate the predictive capability of the method on some real data examples.

pdf DOI Project Page [BibTex]

pdf DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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Automatic LQR Tuning Based on Gaussian Process Global Optimization

Marco, A., Hennig, P., Bohg, J., Schaal, S., Trimpe, S.

In Proceedings of the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA), pages: 270-277, IEEE, IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation, May 2016 (inproceedings)

Abstract
This paper proposes an automatic controller tuning framework based on linear optimal control combined with Bayesian optimization. With this framework, an initial set of controller gains is automatically improved according to a pre-defined performance objective evaluated from experimental data. The underlying Bayesian optimization algorithm is Entropy Search, which represents the latent objective as a Gaussian process and constructs an explicit belief over the location of the objective minimum. This is used to maximize the information gain from each experimental evaluation. Thus, this framework shall yield improved controllers with fewer evaluations compared to alternative approaches. A seven-degree- of-freedom robot arm balancing an inverted pole is used as the experimental demonstrator. Results of a two- and four- dimensional tuning problems highlight the method’s potential for automatic controller tuning on robotic platforms.

Video PDF DOI Project Page [BibTex]

Video PDF DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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Depth-based Object Tracking Using a Robust Gaussian Filter

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

In Proceedings of the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA) 2016, IEEE, IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation, May 2016 (inproceedings)

Abstract
We consider the problem of model-based 3D- tracking of objects given dense depth images as input. Two difficulties preclude the application of a standard Gaussian filter to this problem. First of all, depth sensors are characterized by fat-tailed measurement noise. To address this issue, we show how a recently published robustification method for Gaussian filters can be applied to the problem at hand. Thereby, we avoid using heuristic outlier detection methods that simply reject measurements if they do not match the model. Secondly, the computational cost of the standard Gaussian filter is prohibitive due to the high-dimensional measurement, i.e. the depth image. To address this problem, we propose an approximation to reduce the computational complexity of the filter. In quantitative experiments on real data we show how our method clearly outperforms the standard Gaussian filter. Furthermore, we compare its performance to a particle-filter-based tracking method, and observe comparable computational efficiency and improved accuracy and smoothness of the estimates.

Video Bayesian Object Tracking Library Bayesian Filtering Framework Object Tracking Dataset link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]

Video Bayesian Object Tracking Library Bayesian Filtering Framework Object Tracking Dataset link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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Communication Rate Analysis for Event-based State Estimation

(Best student paper finalist)

Ebner, S., Trimpe, S.

In Proceedings of the 13th International Workshop on Discrete Event Systems, May 2016 (inproceedings)

PDF DOI [BibTex]

PDF DOI [BibTex]


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A Lightweight Robotic Arm with Pneumatic Muscles for Robot Learning

Büchler, D., Ott, H., Peters, J.

Proceedings of the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA), pages: 4086-4092, IEEE, IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation, May 2016 (conference)

ICRA16final DOI Project Page [BibTex]

ICRA16final DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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Drifting Gaussian Processes with Varying Neighborhood Sizes for Online Model Learning

Meier, F., Schaal, S.

In Proceedings of the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA) 2016, IEEE, IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation, May 2016 (inproceedings)

[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Ensuring Ethical Behavior from Autonomous Systems

Anderson, M., Anderson, S. L., Berenz, V.

In Artificial Intelligence Applied to Assistive Technologies and Smart Environments, Papers from the 2016 AAAI Workshop, Phoenix, Arizona, USA, February 12, 2016, 2016 (inproceedings)

link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Towards Robust Online Inverse Dynamics Learning

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

Proceedings of the IEEE/RSJ Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems, IEEE, IROS, 2016 (conference) Accepted

fmeier_iros_2016 [BibTex]

fmeier_iros_2016 [BibTex]


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Self-Supervised Regrasping using Spatio-Temporal Tactile Features and Reinforcement Learning

Chebotar, Y., Hausman, K., Su, Z., Sukhatme, G., Schaal, S.

In International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS) 2016, IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems, 2016 (inproceedings)

pdf video [BibTex]

pdf video [BibTex]


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Modeling Variability of Musculoskeletal Systems with Heteroscedastic Gaussian Processes

Büchler, D., Calandra, R., Peters, J.

Workshop on Neurorobotics, Neural Information Processing Systems (NIPS), 2016 (conference)

NIPS16Neurorobotics [BibTex]

NIPS16Neurorobotics [BibTex]


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Generalizing Regrasping with Supervised Policy Learning

Chebotar, Y., Hausman, K., Kroemer, O., Sukhatme, G., Schaal, S.

In International Symposium on Experimental Robotics (ISER) 2016, International Symposium on Experimental Robotics, 2016 (inproceedings)

pdf video [BibTex]

pdf video [BibTex]


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A Convex Model of Momentum Dynamics for Multi-Contact Motion Generation

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

In 2016 IEEE-RAS 16th International Conference on Humanoid Robots Humanoids, pages: 842-849, IEEE, Cancun, Mexico, 2016 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Linear models for control and motion generation of humanoid robots have received significant attention in the past years, not only due to their well known theoretical guarantees, but also because of practical computational advantages. However, to tackle more challenging tasks and scenarios such as locomotion on uneven terrain, a more expressive model is required. In this paper, we are interested in contact interaction-centered motion optimization based on the momentum dynamics model. This model is non-linear and non-convex; however, we find a relaxation of the problem that allows us to formulate it as a single convex quadratically-constrained quadratic program (QCQP) that can be very efficiently optimized and is useful for multi-contact planning. This convex model is then coupled to the optimization of end-effector contact locations using a mixed integer program, which can also be efficiently solved. This becomes relevant e.g. to recover from external pushes, where a predefined stepping plan is likely to fail and an online adaptation of the contact location is needed. The performance of our algorithm is demonstrated in several multi-contact scenarios for a humanoid robot.

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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On the Effects of Measurement Uncertainty in Optimal Control of Contact Interactions

Ponton, B., Schaal, S., Righetti, L.

In The 12th International Workshop on the Algorithmic Foundations of Robotics WAFR, Berkeley, USA, 2016 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Stochastic Optimal Control (SOC) typically considers noise only in the process model, i.e. unknown disturbances. However, in many robotic applications involving interaction with the environment, such as locomotion and manipulation, uncertainty also comes from lack of precise knowledge of the world, which is not an actual disturbance. We analyze the effects of also considering noise in the measurement model, by devel- oping a SOC algorithm based on risk-sensitive control, that includes the dynamics of an observer in such a way that the control law explicitly de- pends on the current measurement uncertainty. In simulation results on a simple 2D manipulator, we have observed that measurement uncertainty leads to low impedance behaviors, a result in contrast with the effects of process noise that creates stiff behaviors. This suggests that taking into account measurement uncertainty could be a potentially very interesting way to approach problems involving uncertain contact interactions.

link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Inertial Sensor-Based Humanoid Joint State Estimation

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

In 2016 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA), pages: 1825-1831, IEEE, Stockholm, Sweden, 2016 (inproceedings)

Abstract
This work presents methods for the determination of a humanoid robot's joint velocities and accelerations directly from link-mounted Inertial Measurement Units (IMUs) each containing a three-axis gyroscope and a three-axis accelerometer. No information about the global pose of the floating base or its links is required and precise knowledge of the link IMU poses is not necessary due to presented calibration routines. Additionally, a filter is introduced to fuse gyroscope angular velocities with joint position measurements and compensate the computed joint velocities for time-varying gyroscope biases. The resulting joint velocities are subject to less noise and delay than filtered velocities computed from numerical differentiation of joint potentiometer signals, leading to superior performance in joint feedback control as demonstrated in experiments performed on a SARCOS hydraulic humanoid.

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Stepping Stabilization Using a Combination of DCM Tracking and Step Adjustment

Khadiv, M., Kleff, S., Herzog, A., Moosavian, S. A. A., Schaal, S., Righetti, L.

In 2016 4th International Conference on Robotics and Mechatronics (ICROM), pages: 130-135, IEEE, Teheran, Iran, 2016 (inproceedings)

Abstract
In this paper, a method for stabilizing biped robots stepping by a combination of Divergent Component of Motion (DCM) tracking and step adjustment is proposed. In this method, the DCM trajectory is generated, consistent with the predefined footprints. Furthermore, a swing foot trajectory modification strategy is proposed to adapt the landing point, using DCM measurement. In order to apply the generated trajectories to the full robot, a Hierarchical Inverse Dynamics (HID) is employed. The HID enables us to use different combinations of the DCM tracking and step adjustment for stabilizing different biped robots. Simulation experiments on two scenarios for two different simulated robots, one with active ankles and the other with passive ankles, are carried out. Simulation results demonstrate the effectiveness of the proposed method for robots with both active and passive ankles.

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Structured contact force optimization for kino-dynamic motion generation

Herzog, A., Schaal, S., Righetti, L.

In 2016 IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS), pages: 2703-2710, IEEE, Daejeon, South Korea, 2016 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Optimal control approaches in combination with trajectory optimization have recently proven to be a promising control strategy for legged robots. Computationally efficient and robust algorithms were derived using simplified models of the contact interaction between robot and environment such as the linear inverted pendulum model (LIPM). However, as humanoid robots enter more complex environments, less restrictive models become increasingly important. As we leave the regime of linear models, we need to build dedicated solvers that can compute interaction forces together with consistent kinematic plans for the whole-body. In this paper, we address the problem of planning robot motion and interaction forces for legged robots given predefined contact surfaces. The motion generation process is decomposed into two alternating parts computing force and motion plans in coherence. We focus on the properties of the momentum computation leading to sparse optimal control formulations to be exploited by a dedicated solver. In our experiments, we demonstrate that our motion generation algorithm computes consistent contact forces and joint trajectories for our humanoid robot. We also demonstrate the favorable time complexity due to our formulation and composition of the momentum equations.

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Balancing and Walking Using Full Dynamics LQR Control With Contact Constraints

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

In 2016 IEEE-RAS 16th International Conference on Humanoid Robots (Humanoids), pages: 63-68, IEEE, Cancun, Mexico, 2016 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Torque control algorithms which consider robot dynamics and contact constraints are important for creating dynamic behaviors for humanoids. As computational power increases, algorithms tend to also increase in complexity. However, it is not clear how much complexity is really required to create controllers which exhibit good performance. In this paper, we study the capabilities of a simple approach based on contact consistent LQR controllers designed around key poses to control various tasks on a humanoid robot. We present extensive experimental results on a hydraulic, torque controlled humanoid performing balancing and stepping tasks. This feedback control approach captures the necessary synergies between the DoFs of the robot to guarantee good control performance. We show that for the considered tasks, it is only necessary to re-linearize the dynamics of the robot at different contact configurations and that increasing the number of LQR controllers along desired trajectories does not improve performance. Our result suggest that very simple controllers can yield good performance competitive with current state of the art, but more complex, optimization-based whole-body controllers. A video of the experiments can be found at https://youtu.be/5T08CNKV1hw.

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

2005


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Natural Actor-Critic

Peters, J., Vijayakumar, S., Schaal, S.

In Proceedings of the 16th European Conference on Machine Learning, 3720, pages: 280-291, (Editors: Gama, J.;Camacho, R.;Brazdil, P.;Jorge, A.;Torgo, L.), Springer, ECML, 2005, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
This paper investigates a novel model-free reinforcement learning architecture, the Natural Actor-Critic. The actor updates are based on stochastic policy gradients employing AmariÕs natural gradient approach, while the critic obtains both the natural policy gradient and additional parameters of a value function simultaneously by linear regres- sion. We show that actor improvements with natural policy gradients are particularly appealing as these are independent of coordinate frame of the chosen policy representation, and can be estimated more efficiently than regular policy gradients. The critic makes use of a special basis function parameterization motivated by the policy-gradient compatible function approximation. We show that several well-known reinforcement learning methods such as the original Actor-Critic and BradtkeÕs Linear Quadratic Q-Learning are in fact Natural Actor-Critic algorithms. Em- pirical evaluations illustrate the effectiveness of our techniques in com- parison to previous methods, and also demonstrate their applicability for learning control on an anthropomorphic robot arm.

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

2005

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Comparative experiments on task space control with redundancy resolution

Nakanishi, J., Cory, R., Mistry, M., Peters, J., Schaal, S.

In Proceedings of the 2005 IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems, pages: 3901-3908, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, Aug. 2-6, IROS, 2005, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
Understanding the principles of motor coordination with redundant degrees of freedom still remains a challenging problem, particularly for new research in highly redundant robots like humanoids. Even after more than a decade of research, task space control with redundacy resolution still remains an incompletely understood theoretical topic, and also lacks a larger body of thorough experimental investigation on complex robotic systems. This paper presents our first steps towards the development of a working redundancy resolution algorithm which is robust against modeling errors and unforeseen disturbances arising from contact forces. To gain a better understanding of the pros and cons of different approaches to redundancy resolution, we focus on a comparative empirical evaluation. First, we review several redundancy resolution schemes at the velocity, acceleration and torque levels presented in the literature in a common notational framework and also introduce some new variants of these previous approaches. Second, we present experimental comparisons of these approaches on a seven-degree-of-freedom anthropomorphic robot arm. Surprisingly, one of our simplest algorithms empirically demonstrates the best performance, despite, from a theoretical point, the algorithm does not share the same beauty as some of the other methods. Finally, we discuss practical properties of these control algorithms, particularly in light of inevitable modeling errors of the robot dynamics.

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Predicting EMG Data from M1 Neurons with Variational Bayesian Least Squares

Ting, J., D’Souza, A., Yamamoto, K., Yoshioka, T., Hoffman, D., Kakei, S., Sergio, L., Kalaska, J., Kawato, M., Strick, P., Schaal, S.

In Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 18 (NIPS 2005), (Editors: Weiss, Y.;Schölkopf, B.;Platt, J.), Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, Vancouver, BC, Dec. 6-11, 2005, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
An increasing number of projects in neuroscience requires the statistical analysis of high dimensional data sets, as, for instance, in predicting behavior from neural firing, or in operating artificial devices from brain recordings in brain-machine interfaces. Linear analysis techniques remain prevalent in such cases, but classi-cal linear regression approaches are often numercially too fragile in high dimen-sions. In this paper, we address the question of whether EMG data collected from arm movements of monkeys can be faithfully reconstructed with linear ap-proaches from neural activity in primary motor cortex (M1). To achieve robust data analysis, we develop a full Bayesian approach to linear regression that automatically detects and excludes irrelevant features in the data, and regular-izes against overfitting. In comparison with ordinary least squares, stepwise re-gression, partial least squares, and a brute force combinatorial search for the most predictive input features in the data, we demonstrate that the new Bayesian method offers a superior mixture of characteristics in terms of regularization against overfitting, computational efficiency, and ease of use, demonstrating its potential as a drop-in replacement for other linear regression techniques. As neuroscientific results, our analyses demonstrate that EMG data can be well pre-dicted from M1 neurons, further opening the path for possible real-time inter-faces between brains and machines.

link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Rapbid synchronization and accurate phase-locking of rhythmic motor primitives

Pongas, D., Billard, A., Schaal, S.

In IEEE International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS 2005), pages: 2911-2916, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, Aug. 2-6, 2005, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
Rhythmic movement is ubiquitous in human and animal behavior, e.g., as in locomotion, dancing, swimming, chewing, scratching, music playing, etc. A particular feature of rhythmic movement in biology is the rapid synchronization and phase locking with other rhythmic events in the environment, for instance music or visual stimuli as in ball juggling. In traditional oscillator theories to rhythmic movement generation, synchronization with another signal is relatively slow, and it is not easy to achieve accurate phase locking with a particular feature of the driving stimulus. Using a recently developed framework of dynamic motor primitives, we demonstrate a novel algorithm for very rapid synchronizaton of a rhythmic movement pattern, which can phase lock any feature of the movement to any particulur event in the driving stimulus. As an example application, we demonstrate how an anthropomorphic robot can use imitation learning to acquire a complex rumming pattern and keep it synchronized with an external rhythm generator that changes its frequency over time.

link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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A new methodology for robot control design

Peters, J., Mistry, M., Udwadia, F. E., Schaal, S.

In The 5th ASME International Conference on Multibody Systems, Nonlinear Dynamics, and Control (MSNDC 2005), Long Beach, CA, Sept. 24-28, 2005, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
Gauss principle of least constraint and its generalizations have provided a useful insights for the development of tracking controllers for mechanical systems (Udwadia,2003). Using this concept, we present a novel methodology for the design of a specific class of robot controllers. With our new framework, we demonstrate that well-known and also several novel nonlinear robot control laws can be derived from this generic framework, and show experimental verifications on a Sarcos Master Arm robot for some of these controllers. We believe that the suggested approach unifies and simplifies the design of optimal nonlinear control laws for robots obeying rigid body dynamics equations, both with or without external constraints, holonomic or nonholonomic constraints, with over-actuation or underactuation, as well as open-chain and closed-chain kinematics.

link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Arm movement experiments with joint space force fields using an exoskeleton robot

Mistry, M., Mohajerian, P., Schaal, S.

In IEEE Ninth International Conference on Rehabilitation Robotics, pages: 408-413, Chicago, Illinois, June 28-July 1, 2005, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
A new experimental platform permits us to study a novel variety of issues of human motor control, particularly full 3-D movements involving the major seven degrees-of-freedom (DOF) of the human arm. We incorporate a seven DOF robot exoskeleton, and can minimize weight and inertia through gravity, Coriolis, and inertia compensation, such that subjects' arm movements are largely unaffected by the manipulandum. Torque perturbations can be individually applied to any or all seven joints of the human arm, thus creating novel dynamic environments, or force fields, for subjects to respond and adapt to. Our first study investigates a joint space force field where the shoulder velocity drives a disturbing force in the elbow joint. Results demonstrate that subjects learn to compensate for the force field within about 100 trials, and from the strong presence of aftereffects when removing the field in some randomized catch trials, that an inverse dynamics, or internal model, of the force field is formed by the nervous system. Interestingly, while post-learning hand trajectories return to baseline, joint space trajectories remained changed in response to the field, indicating that besides learning a model of the force field, the nervous system also chose to exploit the space to minimize the effects of the force field on the realization of the endpoint trajectory plan. Further applications for our apparatus include studies in motor system redundancy resolution and inverse kinematics, as well as rehabilitation.

link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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A unifying framework for the control of robotics systems

Peters, J., Mistry, M., Udwadia, F. E., Cory, R., Nakanishi, J., Schaal, S.

In IEEE International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS 2005), pages: 1824-1831, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, Aug. 2-6, 2005, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
Recently, [1] suggested to derive tracking controllers for mechanical systems using a generalization of GaussÕ principle of least constraint. This method al-lows us to reformulate control problems as a special class of optimal control. We take this line of reasoning one step further and demonstrate that well-known and also several novel nonlinear robot control laws can be derived from this generic methodology. We show experimental verifications on a Sar-cos Master Arm robot for some of the the derived controllers.We believe that the suggested approach offers a promising unification and simplification of nonlinear control law design for robots obeying rigid body dynamics equa-tions, both with or without external constraints, with over-actuation or under-actuation, as well as open-chain and closed-chain kinematics.

link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]

2003


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Dynamic movement primitives - A framework for motor control in humans and humanoid robots

Schaal, S.

In The International Symposium on Adaptive Motion of Animals and Machines, Kyoto, Japan, March 4-8, 2003, March 2003, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
Sensory-motor integration is one of the key issues in robotics. In this paper, we propose an approach to rhythmic arm movement control that is synchronized with an external signal based on exploiting a simple neural oscillator network. Trajectory generation by the neural oscillator is a biologically inspired method that can allow us to generate a smooth and continuous trajectory. The parameter tuning of the oscillators is used to generate a synchronized movement with wide intervals. We adopted the method for the drumming task as an example task. By using this method, the robot can realize synchronized drumming with wide drumming intervals in real time. The paper also shows the experimental results of drumming by a humanoid robot.

link (url) [BibTex]

2003

link (url) [BibTex]


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Bayesian backfitting

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

In Proceedings of the 10th Joint Symposium on Neural Computation (JSNC 2003), Irvine, CA, May 2003, 2003, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
We present an algorithm aimed at addressing both computational and analytical intractability of Bayesian regression models which operate in very high-dimensional, usually underconstrained spaces. Several domains of research frequently provide such datasets, including chemometrics [2], and human movement analysis [1]. The literature in nonparametric statistics provides interesting solutions such as Backfitting [3] and Partial Least Squares [4], which are extremely robust and efficient, yet lack a probabilistic interpretation that could place them in the context of current research in statistical learning algorithms that emphasize the estimation of confidence, posterior distributions, and model complexity. In order to achieve numerical robustness and low computational cost, we first derive a novel Bayesian interpretation of Backfitting (BB) as a computationally efficient regression algorithm. BBÕs learning complexity scales linearly with the input dimensionality by decoupling inference among individual input dimensions. We embed BB in an efficient, locally variational model selection mechanism that automatically grows the number of backfitting experts in a mixture-of-experts regression model. We demonstrate the effectiveness of the algorithm in performing principled regularization of model complexity when fitting nonlinear manifolds while avoiding the numerical hazards associated with highly underconstrained problems. We also note that this algorithm appears applicable in various areas of neural computation, e.g., in abstract models of computational neuroscience, or implementations of statistical learning on artificial systems.

link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Reinforcement learning for humanoid robotics

Peters, J., Vijayakumar, S., Schaal, S.

In IEEE-RAS International Conference on Humanoid Robots (Humanoids2003), Karlsruhe, Germany, Sept.29-30, 2003, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
Reinforcement learning offers one of the most general framework to take traditional robotics towards true autonomy and versatility. However, applying reinforcement learning to high dimensional movement systems like humanoid robots remains an unsolved problem. In this paper, we discuss different approaches of reinforcement learning in terms of their applicability in humanoid robotics. Methods can be coarsely classified into three different categories, i.e., greedy methods, `vanilla' policy gradient methods, and natural gradient methods. We discuss that greedy methods are not likely to scale into the domain humanoid robotics as they are problematic when used with function approximation. `Vanilla' policy gradient methods on the other hand have been successfully applied on real-world robots including at least one humanoid robot. We demonstrate that these methods can be significantly improved using the natural policy gradient instead of the regular policy gradient. A derivation of the natural policy gradient is provided, proving that the average policy gradient of Kakade (2002) is indeed the true natural gradient. A general algorithm for estimating the natural gradient, the Natural Actor-Critic algorithm, is introduced. This algorithm converges to the nearest local minimum of the cost function with respect to the Fisher information metric under suitable conditions. The algorithm outperforms non-natural policy gradients by far in a cart-pole balancing evaluation, and for learning nonlinear dynamic motor primitives for humanoid robot control. It offers a promising route for the development of reinforcement learning for truly high dimensionally continuous state-action systems.

link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Discovering imitation strategies through categorization of multi-cimensional data

Billard, A., Epars, Y., Schaal, S., Cheng, G.

In IEEE International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS 2003), Las Vegas, NV, Oct. 27-31, 2003, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
An essential problem of imitation is that of determining Ówhat to imitateÓ, i.e. to determine which of the many features of the demonstration are relevant to the task and which should be reproduced. The strategy followed by the imitator can be modeled as a hierarchical optimization system, which minimizes the discrepancy between two multidimensional datasets. We consider imitation of a manipulation task. To classify across manipulation strategies, we apply a probabilistic analysis to data in Cartesian and joint spaces. We determine a general metric that optimizes the policy of task reproduction, following strategy determination. The model successfully discovers strategies in six different manipulation tasks and controls task reproduction by a full body humanoid robot. or the complete path followed by the demonstrator. We follow a similar taxonomy and apply it to the learning and reproduction of a manipulation task by a humanoid robot. We take the perspective that the features of the movements to imitate are those that appear most frequently, i.e. the invariants in time. The model builds upon previous work [3], [4] and is composed of a hierarchical time delay neural network that extracts invariant features from a manipulation task performed by a human demonstrator. The system analyzes the Carthesian trajectories of the objects and the joint

link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Scaling reinforcement learning paradigms for motor learning

Peters, J., Vijayakumar, S., Schaal, S.

In Proceedings of the 10th Joint Symposium on Neural Computation (JSNC 2003), Irvine, CA, May 2003, 2003, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
Reinforcement learning offers a general framework to explain reward related learning in artificial and biological motor control. However, current reinforcement learning methods rarely scale to high dimensional movement systems and mainly operate in discrete, low dimensional domains like game-playing, artificial toy problems, etc. This drawback makes them unsuitable for application to human or bio-mimetic motor control. In this poster, we look at promising approaches that can potentially scale and suggest a novel formulation of the actor-critic algorithm which takes steps towards alleviating the current shortcomings. We argue that methods based on greedy policies are not likely to scale into high-dimensional domains as they are problematic when used with function approximation Ð a must when dealing with continuous domains. We adopt the path of direct policy gradient based policy improvements since they avoid the problems of unstabilizing dynamics encountered in traditional value iteration based updates. While regular policy gradient methods have demonstrated promising results in the domain of humanoid notor control, we demonstrate that these methods can be significantly improved using the natural policy gradient instead of the regular policy gradient. Based on this, it is proved that KakadeÕs Ôaverage natural policy gradientÕ is indeed the true natural gradient. A general algorithm for estimating the natural gradient, the Natural Actor-Critic algorithm, is introduced. This algorithm converges with probability one to the nearest local minimum in Riemannian space of the cost function. The algorithm outperforms nonnatural policy gradients by far in a cart-pole balancing evaluation, and offers a promising route for the development of reinforcement learning for truly high-dimensionally continuous state-action systems.

link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]