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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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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]

2014


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Pole Balancing with Apollo

Holger Kaden

Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen, December 2014 (mastersthesis)

[BibTex]

2014

[BibTex]


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Wenn es was zu sagen gibt

(Klaus Tschira Award 2014 in Computer Science)

Trimpe, S.

Bild der Wissenschaft, pages: 20-23, November 2014, (popular science article in German) (article)

PDF Project Page [BibTex]

PDF Project Page [BibTex]


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Robotics and Neuroscience

Floreano, Dario, Ijspeert, Auke Jan, Schaal, S.

Current Biology, 24(18):R910-R920, sep 2014 (article)

[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Learning Coupling Terms for Obstacle Avoidance

Rai, A.

École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne, August 2014 (mastersthesis)

Project Page [BibTex]

Project Page [BibTex]


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Object Tracking in Depth Images Using Sigma Point Kalman Filters

Issac, J.

Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, July 2014 (mastersthesis)

Project Page [BibTex]

Project Page [BibTex]


Nonmyopic View Planning for Active Object Classification and Pose Estimation
Nonmyopic View Planning for Active Object Classification and Pose Estimation

Atanasov, N., Sankaran, B., Le Ny, J., Pappas, G., Daniilidis, K.

IEEE Transactions on Robotics, May 2014, clmc (article)

Abstract
One of the central problems in computer vision is the detection of semantically important objects and the estimation of their pose. Most of the work in object detection has been based on single image processing and its performance is limited by occlusions and ambiguity in appearance and geometry. This paper proposes an active approach to object detection by controlling the point of view of a mobile depth camera. When an initial static detection phase identifies an object of interest, several hypotheses are made about its class and orientation. The sensor then plans a sequence of viewpoints, which balances the amount of energy used to move with the chance of identifying the correct hypothesis. We formulate an active M-ary hypothesis testing problem, which includes sensor mobility, and solve it using a point-based approximate POMDP algorithm. The validity of our approach is verified through simulation and real-world experiments with the PR2 robot. The results suggest a significant improvement over static object detection

Web pdf link (url) [BibTex]

Web pdf link (url) [BibTex]


Data-Driven Grasp Synthesis - A Survey
Data-Driven Grasp Synthesis - A Survey

Bohg, J., Morales, A., Asfour, T., Kragic, D.

IEEE Transactions on Robotics, 30, pages: 289 - 309, IEEE, April 2014 (article)

Abstract
We review the work on data-driven grasp synthesis and the methodologies for sampling and ranking candidate grasps. We divide the approaches into three groups based on whether they synthesize grasps for known, familiar or unknown objects. This structure allows us to identify common object representations and perceptual processes that facilitate the employed data-driven grasp synthesis technique. In the case of known objects, we concentrate on the approaches that are based on object recognition and pose estimation. In the case of familiar objects, the techniques use some form of a similarity matching to a set of previously encountered objects. Finally for the approaches dealing with unknown objects, the core part is the extraction of specific features that are indicative of good grasps. Our survey provides an overview of the different methodologies and discusses open problems in the area of robot grasping. We also draw a parallel to the classical approaches that rely on analytic formulations.

PDF link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]

PDF link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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Learning objective functions for autonomous motion generation

Kalakrishnan, M.

University of Southern California, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA, 2014 (phdthesis)

Project Page Project Page [BibTex]

Project Page Project Page [BibTex]


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A Limiting Property of the Matrix Exponential

Trimpe, S., D’Andrea, R.

IEEE Transactions on Automatic Control, 59(4):1105-1110, 2014 (article)

PDF DOI [BibTex]

PDF DOI [BibTex]


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Event-Based State Estimation With Variance-Based Triggering

Trimpe, S., D’Andrea, R.

IEEE Transactions on Automatic Control, 59(12):3266-3281, 2014 (article)

PDF Supplementary material DOI Project Page [BibTex]

PDF Supplementary material DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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Perspective: Intelligent Systems: Bits and Bots

Spatz, J. P., Schaal, S.

Nature, (509), 2014, clmc (article)

Abstract
What is intelligence, and can we create it? Animals can perceive, reason, react and learn, but they are just one example of an intelligent system. Intelligent systems could be robots as large as humans, helping with search-and- rescue operations in dangerous places, or smart devices as tiny as a cell, delivering drugs to a target within the body. Even computing systems can be intelligent, by perceiving the world, crawling the web and processing â??big dataâ?? to extract and learn from complex information.Understanding not only how intelligence can be reproduced, but also how to build systems that put these ideas into practice, will be a challenge. Small intelligent systems will require new materials and fabrication methods, as well as com- pact information processors and power sources. And for nano-sized systems, the rules change altogether. The laws of physics operate very differently at tiny scales: for a nanorobot, swimming through water is like struggling through treacle.Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems have begun to solve these problems by developing new computational methods, experiment- ing with unique robotic systems and fabricating tiny, artificial propellers, like bacterial flagella, to propel nanocreations through their environment.

PDF link (url) [BibTex]

PDF link (url) [BibTex]


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Data-driven autonomous manipulation

Pastor, P.

University of Southern California, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA, 2014 (phdthesis)

Project Page Project Page [BibTex]

Project Page Project Page [BibTex]


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An autonomous manipulation system based on force control and optimization

Righetti, L., Kalakrishnan, M., Pastor, P., Binney, J., Kelly, J., Voorhies, R. C., Sukhatme, G. S., Schaal, S.

Autonomous Robots, 36(1-2):11-30, January 2014 (article)

Abstract
In this paper we present an architecture for autonomous manipulation. Our approach is based on the belief that contact interactions during manipulation should be exploited to improve dexterity and that optimizing motion plans is useful to create more robust and repeatable manipulation behaviors. We therefore propose an architecture where state of the art force/torque control and optimization-based motion planning are the core components of the system. We give a detailed description of the modules that constitute the complete system and discuss the challenges inherent to creating such a system. We present experimental results for several grasping and manipulation tasks to demonstrate the performance and robustness of our approach.

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Learning of grasp selection based on shape-templates

Herzog, A., Pastor, P., Kalakrishnan, M., Righetti, L., Bohg, J., Asfour, T., Schaal, S.

Autonomous Robots, 36(1-2):51-65, January 2014 (article)

Abstract
The ability to grasp unknown objects still remains an unsolved problem in the robotics community. One of the challenges is to choose an appropriate grasp configuration, i.e., the 6D pose of the hand relative to the object and its finger configuration. In this paper, we introduce an algorithm that is based on the assumption that similarly shaped objects can be grasped in a similar way. It is able to synthesize good grasp poses for unknown objects by finding the best matching object shape templates associated with previously demonstrated grasps. The grasp selection algorithm is able to improve over time by using the information of previous grasp attempts to adapt the ranking of the templates to new situations. We tested our approach on two different platforms, the Willow Garage PR2 and the Barrett WAM robot, which have very different hand kinematics. Furthermore, we compared our algorithm with other grasp planners and demonstrated its superior performance. The results presented in this paper show that the algorithm is able to find good grasp configurations for a large set of unknown objects from a relatively small set of demonstrations, and does improve its performance over time.

link (url) DOI [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]

2011


Multi-Modal Scene Understanding for Robotic Grasping
Multi-Modal Scene Understanding for Robotic Grasping

Bohg, J.

(2011:17):vi, 194, Trita-CSC-A, KTH Royal Institute of Technology, KTH, Computer Vision and Active Perception, CVAP, Centre for Autonomous Systems, CAS, KTH, Centre for Autonomous Systems, CAS, December 2011 (phdthesis)

Abstract
Current robotics research is largely driven by the vision of creating an intelligent being that can perform dangerous, difficult or unpopular tasks. These can for example be exploring the surface of planet mars or the bottom of the ocean, maintaining a furnace or assembling a car. They can also be more mundane such as cleaning an apartment or fetching groceries. This vision has been pursued since the 1960s when the first robots were built. Some of the tasks mentioned above, especially those in industrial manufacturing, are already frequently performed by robots. Others are still completely out of reach. Especially, household robots are far away from being deployable as general purpose devices. Although advancements have been made in this research area, robots are not yet able to perform household chores robustly in unstructured and open-ended environments given unexpected events and uncertainty in perception and execution.In this thesis, we are analyzing which perceptual and motor capabilities are necessary for the robot to perform common tasks in a household scenario. In that context, an essential capability is to understand the scene that the robot has to interact with. This involves separating objects from the background but also from each other.Once this is achieved, many other tasks become much easier. Configuration of object scan be determined; they can be identified or categorized; their pose can be estimated; free and occupied space in the environment can be outlined.This kind of scene model can then inform grasp planning algorithms to finally pick up objects.However, scene understanding is not a trivial problem and even state-of-the-art methods may fail. Given an incomplete, noisy and potentially erroneously segmented scene model, the questions remain how suitable grasps can be planned and how they can be executed robustly.In this thesis, we propose to equip the robot with a set of prediction mechanisms that allow it to hypothesize about parts of the scene it has not yet observed. Additionally, the robot can also quantify how uncertain it is about this prediction allowing it to plan actions for exploring the scene at specifically uncertain places. We consider multiple modalities including monocular and stereo vision, haptic sensing and information obtained through a human-robot dialog system. We also study several scene representations of different complexity and their applicability to a grasping scenario. Given an improved scene model from this multi-modal exploration, grasps can be inferred for each object hypothesis. Dependent on whether the objects are known, familiar or unknown, different methodologies for grasp inference apply. In this thesis, we propose novel methods for each of these cases. Furthermore,we demonstrate the execution of these grasp both in a closed and open-loop manner showing the effectiveness of the proposed methods in real-world scenarios.

pdf [BibTex]

2011

pdf [BibTex]


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Learning, planning, and control for quadruped locomotion over challenging terrain

Kalakrishnan, Mrinal, Buchli, Jonas, Pastor, Peter, Mistry, Michael, Schaal, S.

International Journal of Robotics Research, 30(2):236-258, February 2011 (article)

[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Bayesian robot system identification with input and output noise

Ting, J., D’Souza, A., Schaal, S.

Neural Networks, 24(1):99-108, 2011, clmc (article)

Abstract
For complex robots such as humanoids, model-based control is highly beneficial for accurate tracking while keeping negative feedback gains low for compliance. However, in such multi degree-of-freedom lightweight systems, conventional identification of rigid body dynamics models using CAD data and actuator models is inaccurate due to unknown nonlinear robot dynamic effects. An alternative method is data-driven parameter estimation, but significant noise in measured and inferred variables affects it adversely. Moreover, standard estimation procedures may give physically inconsistent results due to unmodeled nonlinearities or insufficiently rich data. This paper addresses these problems, proposing a Bayesian system identification technique for linear or piecewise linear systems. Inspired by Factor Analysis regression, we develop a computationally efficient variational Bayesian regression algorithm that is robust to ill-conditioned data, automatically detects relevant features, and identifies input and output noise. We evaluate our approach on rigid body parameter estimation for various robotic systems, achieving an error of up to three times lower than other state-of-the-art machine learning methods

link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Learning variable impedance control

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

International Journal of Robotics Research, 2011, clmc (article)

Abstract
One of the hallmarks of the performance, versatility, and robustness of biological motor control is the ability to adapt the impedance of the overall biomechanical system to different task requirements and stochastic disturbances. A transfer of this principle to robotics is desirable, for instance to enable robots to work robustly and safely in everyday human environments. It is, however, not trivial to derive variable impedance controllers for practical high degree-of-freedom (DOF) robotic tasks. In this contribution, we accomplish such variable impedance control with the reinforcement learning (RL) algorithm PISq ({f P}olicy {f I}mprovement with {f P}ath {f I}ntegrals). PISq is a model-free, sampling based learning method derived from first principles of stochastic optimal control. The PISq algorithm requires no tuning of algorithmic parameters besides the exploration noise. The designer can thus fully focus on cost function design to specify the task. From the viewpoint of robotics, a particular useful property of PISq is that it can scale to problems of many DOFs, so that reinforcement learning on real robotic systems becomes feasible. We sketch the PISq algorithm and its theoretical properties, and how it is applied to gain scheduling for variable impedance control. We evaluate our approach by presenting results on several simulated and real robots. We consider tasks involving accurate tracking through via-points, and manipulation tasks requiring physical contact with the environment. In these tasks, the optimal strategy requires both tuning of a reference trajectory emph{and} the impedance of the end-effector. The results show that we can use path integral based reinforcement learning not only for planning but also to derive variable gain feedback controllers in realistic scenarios. Thus, the power of variable impedance control is made available to a wide variety of robotic systems and practical applications.

link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Iterative path integral stochastic optimal control: Theory and applications to motor control

Theodorou, E. A.

University of Southern California, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA, 2011 (phdthesis)

PDF [BibTex]

PDF [BibTex]


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Learning of grasp selection based on shape-templates

Herzog, A.

Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, 2011 (mastersthesis)

[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Understanding haptics by evolving mechatronic systems

Loeb, G. E., Tsianos, G.A., Fishel, J.A., Wettels, N., Schaal, S.

Progress in Brain Research, 192, pages: 129, 2011 (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]

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]

2000


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A brachiating robot controller

Nakanishi, J., Fukuda, T., Koditschek, D. E.

IEEE Transactions on Robotics and Automation, 16(2):109-123, 2000, clmc (article)

Abstract
We report on our empirical studies of a new controller for a two-link brachiating robot. Motivated by the pendulum-like motion of an apeâ??s brachiation, we encode this task as the output of a â??target dynamical system.â? Numerical simulations indicate that the resulting controller solves a number of brachiation problems that we term the â??ladder,â? â??swing-up,â? and â??ropeâ? problems. Preliminary analysis provides some explanation for this success. The proposed controller is implemented on a physical system in our laboratory. The robot achieves behaviors including â??swing locomotionâ? and â??swing upâ? and is capable of continuous locomotion over several rungs of a ladder. We discuss a number of formal questions whose answers will be required to gain a full understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of this approach.

link (url) [BibTex]

2000

link (url) [BibTex]


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Interaction of rhythmic and discrete pattern generators in single joint movements

Sternad, D., Dean, W. J., Schaal, S.

Human Movement Science, 19(4):627-665, 2000, clmc (article)

Abstract
The study investigates a single-joint movement task that combines a translatory and cyclic component with the objective to investigate the interaction of discrete and rhythmic movement elements. Participants performed an elbow movement in the horizontal plane, oscillating at a prescribed frequency around one target and shifting to a second target upon a trigger signal, without stopping the oscillation. Analyses focused on extracting the mutual influences of the rhythmic and the discrete component of the task. Major findings are: (1) The onset of the discrete movement was confined to a limited phase window in the rhythmic cycle. (2) Its duration was influenced by the period of oscillation. (3) The rhythmic oscillation was "perturbed" by the discrete movement as indicated by phase resetting. On the basis of these results we propose a model for the coordination of discrete and rhythmic actions (K. Matsuoka, Sustained oscillations generated by mutually inhibiting neurons with adaptations, Biological Cybernetics 52 (1985) 367-376; Mechanisms of frequency and pattern control in the neural rhythm generators, Biological Cybernetics 56 (1987) 345-353). For rhythmic movements an oscillatory pattern generator is developed following models of half-center oscillations (D. Bullock, S. Grossberg, The VITE model: a neural command circuit for generating arm and articulated trajectories, in: J.A.S. Kelso, A.J. Mandel, M. F. Shlesinger (Eds.), Dynamic Patterns in Complex Systems. World Scientific. Singapore. 1988. pp. 305-326). For discrete movements a point attractor dynamics is developed close to the VITE model For each joint degree of freedom both pattern generators co-exist but exert mutual inhibition onto each other. The suggested modeling framework provides a unified account for both discrete and rhythmic movements on the basis of neuronal circuitry. Simulation results demonstrated that the effects observed in human performance can be replicated using the two pattern generators with a mutually inhibiting coupling.

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Dynamics of a bouncing ball in human performance

Sternad, D., Duarte, M., Katsumata, H., Schaal, S.

Physical Review E, 63(011902):1-8, 2000, clmc (article)

Abstract
On the basis of a modified bouncing-ball model, we investigated whether human movements utilize principles of dynamic stability in their performance of a similar movement task. Stability analyses of the model provided predictions about conditions indicative of a dynamically stable period-one regime. In a series of experiments, human subjects bounced a ball rhythmically on a racket and displayed these conditions supporting that they attuned to and exploited the dynamic stability properties of the task.

link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]