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2018


A Value-Driven Eldercare Robot: Virtual and Physical Instantiations of a Case-Supported Principle-Based Behavior Paradigm
A Value-Driven Eldercare Robot: Virtual and Physical Instantiations of a Case-Supported Principle-Based Behavior Paradigm

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

Proceedings of the IEEE, pages: 1,15, October 2018 (article)

Abstract
In this paper, a case-supported principle-based behavior paradigm is proposed to help ensure ethical behavior of autonomous machines. We argue that ethically significant behavior of autonomous systems should be guided by explicit ethical principles determined through a consensus of ethicists. Such a consensus is likely to emerge in many areas in which autonomous systems are apt to be deployed and for the actions they are liable to undertake. We believe that this is the case since we are more likely to agree on how machines ought to treat us than on how human beings ought to treat one another. Given such a consensus, particular cases of ethical dilemmas where ethicists agree on the ethically relevant features and the right course of action can be used to help discover principles that balance these features when they are in conflict. Such principles not only help ensure ethical behavior of complex and dynamic systems but also can serve as a basis for justification of this behavior. The requirements, methods, implementation, and evaluation components of the paradigm are detailed as well as its instantiation in both a simulated and real robot functioning in the domain of eldercare.

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


Playful: Reactive Programming for Orchestrating Robotic Behavior
Playful: Reactive Programming for Orchestrating Robotic Behavior

Berenz, V., Schaal, S.

IEEE Robotics Automation Magazine, 25(3):49-60, September 2018 (article) In press

Abstract
For many service robots, reactivity to changes in their surroundings is a must. However, developing software suitable for dynamic environments is difficult. Existing robotic middleware allows engineers to design behavior graphs by organizing communication between components. But because these graphs are structurally inflexible, they hardly support the development of complex reactive behavior. To address this limitation, we propose Playful, a software platform that applies reactive programming to the specification of robotic behavior.

playful website playful_IEEE_RAM link (url) DOI [BibTex]


ClusterNet: Instance Segmentation in RGB-D Images
ClusterNet: Instance Segmentation in RGB-D Images

Shao, L., Tian, Y., Bohg, J.

arXiv, September 2018, Submitted to ICRA'19 (article) Submitted

Abstract
We propose a method for instance-level segmentation that uses RGB-D data as input and provides detailed information about the location, geometry and number of {\em individual\/} objects in the scene. This level of understanding is fundamental for autonomous robots. It enables safe and robust decision-making under the large uncertainty of the real-world. In our model, we propose to use the first and second order moments of the object occupancy function to represent an object instance. We train an hourglass Deep Neural Network (DNN) where each pixel in the output votes for the 3D position of the corresponding object center and for the object's size and pose. The final instance segmentation is achieved through clustering in the space of moments. The object-centric training loss is defined on the output of the clustering. Our method outperforms the state-of-the-art instance segmentation method on our synthesized dataset. We show that our method generalizes well on real-world data achieving visually better segmentation results.

link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


Real-time Perception meets Reactive Motion Generation
Real-time Perception meets Reactive Motion Generation

(Best Systems Paper Finalists - Amazon Robotics Best Paper Awards in Manipulation)

Kappler, D., Meier, F., Issac, J., Mainprice, J., Garcia Cifuentes, C., Wüthrich, M., Berenz, V., Schaal, S., Ratliff, N., Bohg, J.

IEEE Robotics and Automation Letters, 3(3):1864-1871, July 2018 (article)

Abstract
We address the challenging problem of robotic grasping and manipulation in the presence of uncertainty. This uncertainty is due to noisy sensing, inaccurate models and hard-to-predict environment dynamics. Our approach emphasizes the importance of continuous, real-time perception and its tight integration with reactive motion generation methods. We present a fully integrated system where real-time object and robot tracking as well as ambient world modeling provides the necessary input to feedback controllers and continuous motion optimizers. Specifically, they provide attractive and repulsive potentials based on which the controllers and motion optimizer can online compute movement policies at different time intervals. We extensively evaluate the proposed system on a real robotic platform in four scenarios that exhibit either challenging workspace geometry or a dynamic environment. We compare the proposed integrated system with a more traditional sense-plan-act approach that is still widely used. In 333 experiments, we show the robustness and accuracy of the proposed system.

arxiv video video link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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Distributed Event-Based State Estimation for Networked Systems: An LMI Approach

Muehlebach, M., Trimpe, S.

IEEE Transactions on Automatic Control, 63(1):269-276, January 2018 (article)

arXiv (extended version) DOI Project Page [BibTex]

arXiv (extended version) DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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Memristor-enhanced humanoid robot control system–Part I: theory behind the novel memcomputing paradigm

Ascoli, A., Baumann, D., Tetzlaff, R., Chua, L. O., Hild, M.

International Journal of Circuit Theory and Applications, 46(1):155-183, 2018 (article)

DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


Combining learned and analytical models for predicting action effects
Combining learned and analytical models for predicting action effects

Kloss, A., Schaal, S., Bohg, J.

arXiv, 2018 (article) Submitted

Abstract
One of the most basic skills a robot should possess is predicting the effect of physical interactions with objects in the environment. This enables optimal action selection to reach a certain goal state. Traditionally, dynamics are approximated by physics-based analytical models. These models rely on specific state representations that may be hard to obtain from raw sensory data, especially if no knowledge of the object shape is assumed. More recently, we have seen learning approaches that can predict the effect of complex physical interactions directly from sensory input. It is however an open question how far these models generalize beyond their training data. In this work, we investigate the advantages and limitations of neural network based learning approaches for predicting the effects of actions based on sensory input and show how analytical and learned models can be combined to leverage the best of both worlds. As physical interaction task, we use planar pushing, for which there exists a well-known analytical model and a large real-world dataset. We propose to use a convolutional neural network to convert raw depth images or organized point clouds into a suitable representation for the analytical model and compare this approach to using neural networks for both, perception and prediction. A systematic evaluation of the proposed approach on a very large real-world dataset shows two main advantages of the hybrid architecture. Compared to a pure neural network, it significantly (i) reduces required training data and (ii) improves generalization to novel physical interaction.

arXiv pdf link (url) [BibTex]


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Memristor-enhanced humanoid robot control system–Part II: circuit theoretic model and performance analysis

Baumann, D., Ascoli, A., Tetzlaff, R., Chua, L. O., Hild, M.

International Journal of Circuit Theory and Applications, 46(1):184-220, 2018 (article)

DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]

2016


A New Perspective and Extension of the Gaussian Filter
A New Perspective and Extension of the Gaussian Filter

Wüthrich, M., Trimpe, S., Garcia Cifuentes, C., Kappler, D., Schaal, S.

The International Journal of Robotics Research, 35(14):1731-1749, December 2016 (article)

Abstract
The Gaussian Filter (GF) is one of the most widely used filtering algorithms; instances are the Extended Kalman Filter, the Unscented Kalman Filter and the Divided Difference Filter. The GF represents the belief of the current state by a Gaussian distribution, whose mean is an affine function of the measurement. We show that this representation can be too restrictive to accurately capture the dependences in systems with nonlinear observation models, and we investigate how the GF can be generalized to alleviate this problem. To this end, we view the GF as the solution to a constrained optimization problem. From this new perspective, the GF is seen as a special case of a much broader class of filters, obtained by relaxing the constraint on the form of the approximate posterior. On this basis, we outline some conditions which potential generalizations have to satisfy in order to maintain the computational efficiency of the GF. We propose one concrete generalization which corresponds to the standard GF using a pseudo measurement instead of the actual measurement. Extending an existing GF implementation in this manner is trivial. Nevertheless, we show that this small change can have a major impact on the estimation accuracy.

PDF DOI Project Page [BibTex]

2016

PDF DOI Project Page [BibTex]


Implications of Action-Oriented Paradigm Shifts in Cognitive Science
Implications of Action-Oriented Paradigm Shifts in Cognitive Science

Dominey, P. F., Prescott, T. J., Bohg, J., Engel, A. K., Gallagher, S., Heed, T., Hoffmann, M., Knoblich, G., Prinz, W., Schwartz, A.

In The Pragmatic Turn - Toward Action-Oriented Views in Cognitive Science, 18, pages: 333-356, 20, Strüngmann Forum Reports, vol. 18, J. Lupp, series editor, (Editors: Andreas K. Engel and Karl J. Friston and Danica Kragic), The MIT Press, 18th Ernst Strüngmann Forum, May 2016 (incollection) In press

Abstract
An action-oriented perspective changes the role of an individual from a passive observer to an actively engaged agent interacting in a closed loop with the world as well as with others. Cognition exists to serve action within a landscape that contains both. This chapter surveys this landscape and addresses the status of the pragmatic turn. Its potential influence on science and the study of cognition are considered (including perception, social cognition, social interaction, sensorimotor entrainment, and language acquisition) and its impact on how neuroscience is studied is also investigated (with the notion that brains do not passively build models, but instead support the guidance of action). A review of its implications in robotics and engineering includes a discussion of the application of enactive control principles to couple action and perception in robotics as well as the conceptualization of system design in a more holistic, less modular manner. Practical applications that can impact the human condition are reviewed (e.g. educational applications, treatment possibilities for developmental and psychopathological disorders, the development of neural prostheses). All of this foreshadows the potential societal implications of the pragmatic turn. The chapter concludes that an action-oriented approach emphasizes a continuum of interaction between technical aspects of cognitive systems and robotics, biology, psychology, the social sciences, and the humanities, where the individual is part of a grounded cultural system.

The Pragmatic Turn - Toward Action-Oriented Views in Cognitive Science 18th Ernst Strüngmann Forum Bibliography Chapter link (url) [BibTex]

The Pragmatic Turn - Toward Action-Oriented Views in Cognitive Science 18th Ernst Strüngmann Forum Bibliography Chapter link (url) [BibTex]


Learning Action-Perception Cycles in Robotics: A Question of Representations and Embodiment
Learning Action-Perception Cycles in Robotics: A Question of Representations and Embodiment

Bohg, J., Kragic, D.

In The Pragmatic Turn - Toward Action-Oriented Views in Cognitive Science, 18, pages: 309-320, 18, Strüngmann Forum Reports, vol. 18, J. Lupp, series editor, (Editors: Andreas K. Engel and Karl J. Friston and Danica Kragic), The MIT Press, 18th Ernst Strüngmann Forum, May 2016 (incollection) In press

Abstract
Since the 1950s, robotics research has sought to build a general-purpose agent capable of autonomous, open-ended interaction with realistic, unconstrained environments. Cognition is perceived to be at the core of this process, yet understanding has been challenged because cognition is referred to differently within and across research areas, and is not clearly defined. The classic robotics approach is decomposition into functional modules which perform planning, reasoning, and problem-solving or provide input to these mechanisms. Although advancements have been made and numerous success stories reported in specific niches, this systems-engineering approach has not succeeded in building such a cognitive agent. The emergence of an action-oriented paradigm offers a new approach: action and perception are no longer separable into functional modules but must be considered in a complete loop. This chapter reviews work on different mechanisms for action- perception learning and discusses the role of embodiment in the design of the underlying representations and learning. It discusses the evaluation of agents and suggests the development of a new embodied Turing Test. Appropriate scenarios need to be devised in addition to current competitions, so that abilities can be tested over long time periods.

18th Ernst Strüngmann Forum The Pragmatic Turn- Toward Action-Oriented Views in Cognitive Science Bibliography Chapter link (url) [BibTex]

18th Ernst Strüngmann Forum The Pragmatic Turn- Toward Action-Oriented Views in Cognitive Science Bibliography Chapter link (url) [BibTex]


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Probabilistic Inference for Determining Options in Reinforcement Learning

Daniel, C., van Hoof, H., Peters, J., Neumann, G.

Machine Learning, Special Issue, 104(2):337-357, (Editors: Gärtner, T., Nanni, M., Passerini, A. and Robardet, C.), European Conference on Machine Learning im Machine Learning, Journal Track, 2016, Best Student Paper Award of ECML-PKDD 2016 (article)

DOI Project Page [BibTex]

DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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Locally Weighted Regression for Control

Ting, J., Meier, F., Vijayakumar, S., Schaal, S.

In Encyclopedia of Machine Learning and Data Mining, pages: 1-14, Springer US, Boston, MA, 2016 (inbook)

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Event-based Sampling for Reducing Communication Load in Realtime Human Motion Analysis by Wireless Inertial Sensor Networks

Laidig, D., Trimpe, S., Seel, T.

Current Directions in Biomedical Engineering, 2(1):711-714, De Gruyter, 2016 (article)

PDF DOI [BibTex]

PDF DOI [BibTex]


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Momentum Control with Hierarchical Inverse Dynamics on a Torque-Controlled Humanoid

Herzog, A., Rotella, N., Mason, S., Grimminger, F., Schaal, S., Righetti, L.

Autonomous Robots, 40(3):473-491, 2016 (article)

Abstract
Hierarchical inverse dynamics based on cascades of quadratic programs have been proposed for the control of legged robots. They have important benefits but to the best of our knowledge have never been implemented on a torque controlled humanoid where model inaccuracies, sensor noise and real-time computation requirements can be problematic. Using a reformulation of existing algorithms, we propose a simplification of the problem that allows to achieve real-time control. Momentum-based control is integrated in the task hierarchy and a LQR design approach is used to compute the desired associated closed-loop behavior and improve performance. Extensive experiments on various balancing and tracking tasks show very robust performance in the face of unknown disturbances, even when the humanoid is standing on one foot. Our results demonstrate that hierarchical inverse dynamics together with momentum control can be efficiently used for feedback control under real robot conditions.

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Bioinspired Motor Control for Articulated Robots [From the Guest Editors]

Vitiello, Nicola, Ijspeert, Auke J, Schaal, S.

IEEE Robotics {\&} Automation Magazine, 23(1):20-21, 2016 (article)

[BibTex]

[BibTex]

2015


Gaussian Process Optimization for Self-Tuning Control
Gaussian Process Optimization for Self-Tuning Control

Marco, A.

Polytechnic University of Catalonia (BarcelonaTech), October 2015 (mastersthesis)

PDF Project Page [BibTex]

2015

PDF Project Page [BibTex]


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Adaptive and Learning Concepts in Hydraulic Force Control

Doerr, A.

University of Stuttgart, September 2015 (mastersthesis)

[BibTex]

[BibTex]


Object Detection Using Deep Learning - Learning where to search using visual attention
Object Detection Using Deep Learning - Learning where to search using visual attention

Kloss, A.

Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen, May 2015 (mastersthesis)

Abstract
Detecting and identifying the different objects in an image fast and reliably is an important skill for interacting with one’s environment. The main problem is that in theory, all parts of an image have to be searched for objects on many different scales to make sure that no object instance is missed. It however takes considerable time and effort to actually classify the content of a given image region and both time and computational capacities that an agent can spend on classification are limited. Humans use a process called visual attention to quickly decide which locations of an image need to be processed in detail and which can be ignored. This allows us to deal with the huge amount of visual information and to employ the capacities of our visual system efficiently. For computer vision, researchers have to deal with exactly the same problems, so learning from the behaviour of humans provides a promising way to improve existing algorithms. In the presented master’s thesis, a model is trained with eye tracking data recorded from 15 participants that were asked to search images for objects from three different categories. It uses a deep convolutional neural network to extract features from the input image that are then combined to form a saliency map. This map provides information about which image regions are interesting when searching for the given target object and can thus be used to reduce the parts of the image that have to be processed in detail. The method is based on a recent publication of Kümmerer et al., but in contrast to the original method that computes general, task independent saliency, the presented model is supposed to respond differently when searching for different target categories.

PDF Project Page [BibTex]


Robot Arm Tracking with Random Decision Forests
Robot Arm Tracking with Random Decision Forests

Widmaier, F.

Eberhard-Karls-Universität Tübingen, May 2015 (mastersthesis)

Abstract
For grasping and manipulation with robot arms, knowing the current pose of the arm is crucial for successful controlling its motion. Often, pose estimations can be acquired from encoders inside the arm, but they can have significant inaccuracy which makes the use of additional techniques necessary. In this master thesis, a novel approach of robot arm pose estimation is presented, that works on single depth images without the need of prior foreground segmentation or other preprocessing steps. A random regression forest is used, which is trained only on synthetically generated data. The approach improves former work by Bohg et al. by considerably reducing the computational effort both at training and test time. The forest in the new method directly estimates the desired joint angles while in the former approach, the forest casts 3D position votes for the joints, which then have to be clustered and fed into an iterative inverse kinematic process to finally get the joint angles. To improve the estimation accuracy, the standard training objective of the forest training is replaced by a specialized function that makes use of a model-dependent distance metric, called DISP. Experimental results show that the specialized objective indeed improves pose estimation and it is shown that the method, despite of being trained on synthetic data only, is able to provide reasonable estimations for real data at test time.

PDF Project Page [BibTex]

PDF Project Page [BibTex]


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Lernende Roboter

Trimpe, S.

In Jahrbuch der Max-Planck-Gesellschaft, Max Planck Society, May 2015, (popular science article in German) (inbook)

link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Autonomous Robots

Schaal, S.

In Jahrbuch der Max-Planck-Gesellschaft, May 2015 (incollection)

[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Policy Search for Imitation Learning

Doerr, A.

University of Stuttgart, January 2015 (thesis)

link (url) Project Page [BibTex]


Sensory synergy as environmental input integration
Sensory synergy as environmental input integration

Alnajjar, F., Itkonen, M., Berenz, V., Tournier, M., Nagai, C., Shimoda, S.

Frontiers in Neuroscience, 8, pages: 436, 2015 (article)

Abstract
The development of a method to feed proper environmental inputs back to the central nervous system (CNS) remains one of the challenges in achieving natural movement when part of the body is replaced with an artificial device. Muscle synergies are widely accepted as a biologically plausible interpretation of the neural dynamics between the CNS and the muscular system. Yet the sensorineural dynamics of environmental feedback to the CNS has not been investigated in detail. In this study, we address this issue by exploring the concept of sensory synergy. In contrast to muscle synergy, we hypothesize that sensory synergy plays an essential role in integrating the overall environmental inputs to provide low-dimensional information to the CNS. We assume that sensor synergy and muscle synergy communicate using these low-dimensional signals. To examine our hypothesis, we conducted posture control experiments involving lateral disturbance with 9 healthy participants. Proprioceptive information represented by the changes on muscle lengths were estimated by using the musculoskeletal model analysis software SIMM. Changes on muscles lengths were then used to compute sensory synergies. The experimental results indicate that the environmental inputs were translated into the two dimensional signals and used to move the upper limb to the desired position immediately after the lateral disturbance. Participants who showed high skill in posture control were found to be likely to have a strong correlation between sensory and muscle signaling as well as high coordination between the utilized sensory synergies. These results suggest the importance of integrating environmental inputs into suitable low-dimensional signals before providing them to the CNS. This mechanism should be essential when designing the prosthesis’ sensory system to make the controller simpler

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Active Reward Learning with a Novel Acquisition Function

Daniel, C., Kroemer, O., Viering, M., Metz, J., Peters, J.

Autonomous Robots, 39(3):389-405, 2015 (article)

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Learning Movement Primitive Attractor Goals and Sequential Skills from Kinesthetic Demonstrations

Manschitz, S., Kober, J., Gienger, M., Peters, J.

Robotics and Autonomous Systems, 74, Part A, pages: 97-107, 2015 (article)

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Bayesian Optimization for Learning Gaits under Uncertainty

Calandra, R., Seyfarth, A., Peters, J., Deisenroth, M.

Annals of Mathematics and Artificial Intelligence, pages: 1-19, 2015 (article)

DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


Tacit Learning for Emergence of Task-Related Behaviour through Signal Accumulation
Tacit Learning for Emergence of Task-Related Behaviour through Signal Accumulation

Berenz, V., Alnajjar, F., Hayashibe, M., Shimoda, S.

In Emergent Trends in Robotics and Intelligent Systems: Where is the Role of Intelligent Technologies in the Next Generation of Robots?, pages: 31-38, Springer International Publishing, Cham, 2015 (inbook)

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Robot Learning

Peters, J., Lee, D., Kober, J., Nguyen-Tuong, D., Bagnell, J. A., Schaal, S.

In Springer Handbook of Robotics 2nd Edition, pages: 1371-1394, Springer Berlin Heidelberg, Berlin, Heidelberg, 2015 (incollection)

[BibTex]

[BibTex]

2012


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The Balancing Cube: A Dynamic Sculpture as Test Bed for Distributed Estimation and Control

Trimpe, S., D’Andrea, R.

IEEE Control Systems Magazine, 32(6):48-75, December 2012 (article)

DOI [BibTex]

2012

DOI [BibTex]


Visual Servoing on Unknown Objects
Visual Servoing on Unknown Objects

Gratal, X., Romero, J., Bohg, J., Kragic, D.

Mechatronics, 22(4):423-435, Elsevier, June 2012, Visual Servoing \{SI\} (article)

Abstract
We study visual servoing in a framework of detection and grasping of unknown objects. Classically, visual servoing has been used for applications where the object to be servoed on is known to the robot prior to the task execution. In addition, most of the methods concentrate on aligning the robot hand with the object without grasping it. In our work, visual servoing techniques are used as building blocks in a system capable of detecting and grasping unknown objects in natural scenes. We show how different visual servoing techniques facilitate a complete grasping cycle.

Grasping sequence video Offline calibration video Pdf DOI [BibTex]

Grasping sequence video Offline calibration video Pdf DOI [BibTex]


Emotionally Assisted Human-Robot Interaction Using a Wearable Device for Reading Facial Expressions
Emotionally Assisted Human-Robot Interaction Using a Wearable Device for Reading Facial Expressions

Gruebler, A., Berenz, V., Suzuki, K.

Advanced Robotics, 26(10):1143-1159, 2012 (article)

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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From Dynamic Movement Primitives to Associative Skill Memories

Pastor, P., Kalakrishnan, M., Meier, F., Stulp, F., Buchli, J., Theodorou, E., Schaal, S.

Robotics and Autonomous Systems, 2012 (article)

Project Page [BibTex]

Project Page [BibTex]


Autonomous battery management for mobile robots based on risk and gain assessment
Autonomous battery management for mobile robots based on risk and gain assessment

Berenz, V., Tanaka, F., Suzuki, K.

Artif. Intell. Rev., 37(3):217-237, 2012 (article)

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Model-free reinforcement learning of impedance control in stochastic environments

Stulp, Freek, Buchli, Jonas, Ellmer, Alice, Mistry, Michael, Theodorou, Evangelos A., Schaal, S.

Autonomous Mental Development, IEEE Transactions on, 4(4):330-341, 2012 (article)

[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Reinforcement Learning with Sequences of Motion Primitives for Robust Manipulation

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

IEEE Transactions on Robotics, 2012 (article)

[BibTex]

[BibTex]

2007


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Machine Learning of Motor Skills for Robotics

Peters, J.

University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA, USA, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA, USA, 2007, clmc (phdthesis)

Abstract
Autonomous robots that can assist humans in situations of daily life have been a long standing vision of robotics, artificial intelligence, and cognitive sciences. A first step towards this goal is to create robots that can accomplish a multitude of different tasks, triggered by environmental context or higher level instruction. Early approaches to this goal during the heydays of artificial intelligence research in the late 1980s, however, made it clear that an approach purely based on reasoning and human insights would not be able to model all the perceptuomotor tasks that a robot should fulfill. Instead, new hope was put in the growing wake of machine learning that promised fully adaptive control algorithms which learn both by observation and trial-and-error. However, to date, learning techniques have yet to fulfill this promise as only few methods manage to scale into the high-dimensional domains of manipulator robotics, or even the new upcoming trend of humanoid robotics, and usually scaling was only achieved in precisely pre-structured domains. In this thesis, we investigate the ingredients for a general approach to motor skill learning in order to get one step closer towards human-like performance. For doing so, we study two major components for such an approach, i.e., firstly, a theoretically well-founded general approach to representing the required control structures for task representation and execution and, secondly, appropriate learning algorithms which can be applied in this setting. As a theoretical foundation, we first study a general framework to generate control laws for real robots with a particular focus on skills represented as dynamical systems in differential constraint form. We present a point-wise optimal control framework resulting from a generalization of Gauss' principle and show how various well-known robot control laws can be derived by modifying the metric of the employed cost function. The framework has been successfully applied to task space tracking control for holonomic systems for several different metrics on the anthropomorphic SARCOS Master Arm. In order to overcome the limiting requirement of accurate robot models, we first employ learning methods to find learning controllers for task space control. However, when learning to execute a redundant control problem, we face the general problem of the non-convexity of the solution space which can force the robot to steer into physically impossible configurations if supervised learning methods are employed without further consideration. This problem can be resolved using two major insights, i.e., the learning problem can be treated as locally convex and the cost function of the analytical framework can be used to ensure global consistency. Thus, we derive an immediate reinforcement learning algorithm from the expectation-maximization point of view which leads to a reward-weighted regression technique. This method can be used both for operational space control as well as general immediate reward reinforcement learning problems. We demonstrate the feasibility of the resulting framework on the problem of redundant end-effector tracking for both a simulated 3 degrees of freedom robot arm as well as for a simulated anthropomorphic SARCOS Master Arm. While learning to execute tasks in task space is an essential component to a general framework to motor skill learning, learning the actual task is of even higher importance, particularly as this issue is more frequently beyond the abilities of analytical approaches than execution. We focus on the learning of elemental tasks which can serve as the "building blocks of movement generation", called motor primitives. Motor primitives are parameterized task representations based on splines or nonlinear differential equations with desired attractor properties. While imitation learning of parameterized motor primitives is a relatively well-understood problem, the self-improvement by interaction of the system with the environment remains a challenging problem, tackled in the fourth chapter of this thesis. For pursuing this goal, we highlight the difficulties with current reinforcement learning methods, and outline both established and novel algorithms for the gradient-based improvement of parameterized policies. We compare these algorithms in the context of motor primitive learning, and show that our most modern algorithm, the Episodic Natural Actor-Critic outperforms previous algorithms by at least an order of magnitude. We demonstrate the efficiency of this reinforcement learning method in the application of learning to hit a baseball with an anthropomorphic robot arm. In conclusion, in this thesis, we have contributed a general framework for analytically computing robot control laws which can be used for deriving various previous control approaches and serves as foundation as well as inspiration for our learning algorithms. We have introduced two classes of novel reinforcement learning methods, i.e., the Natural Actor-Critic and the Reward-Weighted Regression algorithm. These algorithms have been used in order to replace the analytical components of the theoretical framework by learned representations. Evaluations have been performed on both simulated and real robot arms.

[BibTex]

2007

[BibTex]


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The new robotics - towards human-centered machines

Schaal, S.

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

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

link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Dynamics systems vs. optimal control ? a unifying view

Schaal, S, Mohajerian, P., Ijspeert, A.

In Progress in Brain Research, (165):425-445, 2007, clmc (inbook)

Abstract
In the past, computational motor control has been approached from at least two major frameworks: the dynamic systems approach and the viewpoint of optimal control. The dynamic system approach emphasizes motor control as a process of self-organization between an animal and its environment. Nonlinear differential equations that can model entrainment and synchronization behavior are among the most favorable tools of dynamic systems modelers. In contrast, optimal control approaches view motor control as the evolutionary or development result of a nervous system that tries to optimize rather general organizational principles, e.g., energy consumption or accurate task achievement. Optimal control theory is usually employed to develop appropriate theories. Interestingly, there is rather little interaction between dynamic systems and optimal control modelers as the two approaches follow rather different philosophies and are often viewed as diametrically opposing. In this paper, we develop a computational approach to motor control that offers a unifying modeling framework for both dynamic systems and optimal control approaches. In discussions of several behavioral experiments and some theoretical and robotics studies, we demonstrate how our computational ideas allow both the representation of self-organizing processes and the optimization of movement based on reward criteria. Our modeling framework is rather simple and general, and opens opportunities to revisit many previous modeling results from this novel unifying view.

link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]

2006


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Approximate nearest neighbor regression in very high dimensions

Vijayakumar, S., DSouza, A., Schaal, S.

In Nearest-Neighbor Methods in Learning and Vision, pages: 103-142, (Editors: Shakhnarovich, G.;Darrell, T.;Indyk, P.), Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2006, clmc (inbook)

link (url) [BibTex]

2006

link (url) [BibTex]

2004


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Discovering optimal imitation strategies

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

Robotics and Autonomous Systems, 47(2-3):68-77, 2004, clmc (article)

Abstract
This paper develops a general policy for learning relevant features of an imitation task. We restrict our study to imitation of manipulative tasks or of gestures. The imitation process is modeled as a hierarchical optimization system, which minimizes the discrepancy between two multi-dimensional datasets. 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 imitative tasks and controls task reproduction by a full body humanoid robot.

[BibTex]

2004

[BibTex]


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Rhythmic movement is not discrete

Schaal, S., Sternad, D., Osu, R., Kawato, M.

Nature Neuroscience, 7(10):1137-1144, 2004, clmc (article)

Abstract
Rhythmic movements, like walking, chewing, or scratching, are phylogenetically old mo-tor behaviors found in many organisms, ranging from insects to primates. In contrast, discrete movements, like reaching, grasping, or kicking, are behaviors that have reached sophistication primarily in younger species, particularly in primates. Neurophysiological and computational research on arm motor control has focused almost exclusively on dis-crete movements, essentially assuming similar neural circuitry for rhythmic tasks. In con-trast, many behavioral studies focused on rhythmic models, subsuming discrete move-ment as a special case. Here, using a human functional neuroimaging experiment, we show that in addition to areas activated in rhythmic movement, discrete movement in-volves several higher cortical planning areas, despite both movement conditions were confined to the same single wrist joint. These results provide the first neuroscientific evi-dence that rhythmic arm movement cannot be part of a more general discrete movement system, and may require separate neurophysiological and theoretical treatment.

link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Learning from demonstration and adaptation of biped locomotion

Nakanishi, J., Morimoto, J., Endo, G., Cheng, G., Schaal, S., Kawato, M.

Robotics and Autonomous Systems, 47(2-3):79-91, 2004, clmc (article)

Abstract
In this paper, we introduce a framework for learning biped locomotion using dynamical movement primitives based on non-linear oscillators. Our ultimate goal is to establish a design principle of a controller in order to achieve natural human-like locomotion. We suggest dynamical movement primitives as a central pattern generator (CPG) of a biped robot, an approach we have previously proposed for learning and encoding complex human movements. Demonstrated trajectories are learned through movement primitives by locally weighted regression, and the frequency of the learned trajectories is adjusted automatically by a novel frequency adaptation algorithmbased on phase resetting and entrainment of coupled oscillators. Numerical simulations and experimental implementation on a physical robot demonstrate the effectiveness of the proposed locomotioncontroller.

link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Towards Tractable Parameter-Free Statistical Learning (Phd Thesis)

D’Souza, A

Department of Computer Science, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, 2004, clmc (phdthesis)

link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Feedback error learning and nonlinear adaptive control

Nakanishi, J., Schaal, S.

Neural Networks, 17(10):1453-1465, 2004, clmc (article)

Abstract
In this paper, we present our theoretical investigations of the technique of feedback error learning (FEL) from the viewpoint of adaptive control. We first discuss the relationship between FEL and nonlinear adaptive control with adaptive feedback linearization, and show that FEL can be interpreted as a form of nonlinear adaptive control. Second, we present a Lyapunov analysis suggesting that the condition of strictly positive realness (SPR) associated with the tracking error dynamics is a sufficient condition for asymptotic stability of the closed-loop dynamics. Specifically, for a class of second order SISO systems, we show that this condition reduces to KD^2 > KP; where KP and KD are positive position and velocity feedback gains, respectively. Moreover, we provide a ÔpassivityÕ-based stability analysis which suggests that SPR of the tracking error dynamics is a necessary and sufficient condition for asymptotic hyperstability. Thus, the condition KD^2>KP mentioned above is not only a sufficient but also necessary condition to guarantee asymptotic hyperstability of FEL, i.e. the tracking error is bounded and asymptotically converges to zero. As a further point, we explore the adaptive control and FEL framework for feedforward control formulations, and derive an additional sufficient condition for asymptotic stability in the sense of Lyapunov. Finally, we present numerical simulations to illustrate the stability properties of FEL obtained from our mathematical analysis.

link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Computational approaches to motor learning by imitation

Schaal, S., Ijspeert, A., Billard, A.

In The Neuroscience of Social Interaction, (1431):199-218, (Editors: Frith, C. D.;Wolpert, D.), Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2004, clmc (inbook)

Abstract
Movement imitation requires a complex set of mechanisms that map an observed movement of a teacher onto one's own movement apparatus. Relevant problems include movement recognition, pose estimation, pose tracking, body correspondence, coordinate transformation from external to egocentric space, matching of observed against previously learned movement, resolution of redundant degrees-of-freedom that are unconstrained by the observation, suitable movement representations for imitation, modularization of motor control, etc. All of these topics by themselves are active research problems in computational and neurobiological sciences, such that their combination into a complete imitation system remains a daunting undertaking - indeed, one could argue that we need to understand the complete perception-action loop. As a strategy to untangle the complexity of imitation, this paper will examine imitation purely from a computational point of view, i.e. we will review statistical and mathematical approaches that have been suggested for tackling parts of the imitation problem, and discuss their merits, disadvantages and underlying principles. Given the focus on action recognition of other contributions in this special issue, this paper will primarily emphasize the motor side of imitation, assuming that a perceptual system has already identified important features of a demonstrated movement and created their corresponding spatial information. Based on the formalization of motor control in terms of control policies and their associated performance criteria, useful taxonomies of imitation learning can be generated that clarify different approaches and future research directions.

link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]

2002


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Forward models in visuomotor control

Mehta, B., Schaal, S.

J Neurophysiol, 88(2):942-53, August 2002, clmc (article)

Abstract
In recent years, an increasing number of research projects investigated whether the central nervous system employs internal models in motor control. While inverse models in the control loop can be identified more readily in both motor behavior and the firing of single neurons, providing direct evidence for the existence of forward models is more complicated. In this paper, we will discuss such an identification of forward models in the context of the visuomotor control of an unstable dynamic system, the balancing of a pole on a finger. Pole balancing imposes stringent constraints on the biological controller, as it needs to cope with the large delays of visual information processing while keeping the pole at an unstable equilibrium. We hypothesize various model-based and non-model-based control schemes of how visuomotor control can be accomplished in this task, including Smith Predictors, predictors with Kalman filters, tapped-delay line control, and delay-uncompensated control. Behavioral experiments with human participants allow exclusion of most of the hypothesized control schemes. In the end, our data support the existence of a forward model in the sensory preprocessing loop of control. As an important part of our research, we will provide a discussion of when and how forward models can be identified and also the possible pitfalls in the search for forward models in control.

link (url) [BibTex]

2002

link (url) [BibTex]


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Learning robot control

Schaal, S.

In The handbook of brain theory and neural networks, 2nd Edition, pages: 983-987, 2, (Editors: Arbib, M. A.), MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, 2002, clmc (inbook)

Abstract
This is a review article on learning control in robots.

link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Arm and hand movement control

Schaal, S.

In The handbook of brain theory and neural networks, 2nd Edition, pages: 110-113, 2, (Editors: Arbib, M. A.), MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, 2002, clmc (inbook)

Abstract
This is a review article on computational and biological research on arm and hand control.

link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]