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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]

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]

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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Scalable techniques from nonparameteric statistics for real-time robot learning

Schaal, S., Atkeson, C. G., Vijayakumar, S.

Applied Intelligence, 17(1):49-60, 2002, clmc (article)

Abstract
Locally weighted learning (LWL) is a class of techniques from nonparametric statistics that provides useful representations and training algorithms for learning about complex phenomena during autonomous adaptive control of robotic systems. This paper introduces several LWL algorithms that have been tested successfully in real-time learning of complex robot tasks. We discuss two major classes of LWL, memory-based LWL and purely incremental LWL that does not need to remember any data explicitly. In contrast to the traditional belief that LWL methods cannot work well in high-dimensional spaces, we provide new algorithms that have been tested on up to 90 dimensional learning problems. The applicability of our LWL algorithms is demonstrated in various robot learning examples, including the learning of devil-sticking, pole-balancing by a humanoid robot arm, and inverse-dynamics learning for a seven and a 30 degree-of-freedom robot. In all these examples, the application of our statistical neural networks techniques allowed either faster or more accurate acquisition of motor control than classical control engineering.

link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]

1993


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Design concurrent calculation: A CAD- and data-integrated approach

Schaal, S., Ehrlenspiel, K.

Journal of Engineering Design, 4, pages: 71-85, 1993, clmc (article)

Abstract
Besides functional regards, product design demands increasingly more for further reaching considerations. Quality alone cannot suffice anymore to compete in the market; design for manufacturability, for assembly, for recycling, etc., are well-known keywords. Those can largely be reduced to the necessity of design for costs. This paper focuses on a CAD-based approach to design concurrent calculation. It will discuss how, in the meantime well-established, tools like feature technology, knowledge-based systems, and relational databases can be blended into one coherent concept to achieve an entirely CAD- and data-integrated cost information tool. This system is able to extract data from the CAD-system, combine it with data about the company specific manufacturing environment, and subsequently autonomously evaluate manufacturability aspects and costs of the given CAD-model. Within minutes the designer gets quantitative in-formation about the major cost sources of his/her design. Additionally, some alternative methods for approximating manu-facturing times from empirical data, namely neural networks and local weighted regression, are introduced.

[BibTex]

1993

[BibTex]