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2018


Thumb xl screen shot 2018 04 19 at 14.57.08
Motion-based Object Segmentation based on Dense RGB-D Scene Flow

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

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

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

Project Page arXiv DOI [BibTex]

2018

Project Page arXiv DOI [BibTex]


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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]


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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]


Thumb xl screen shot 2018 09 19 at 09.33.59
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]


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Leveraging Contact Forces for Learning to Grasp

Merzic, H., Bogdanovic, M., Kappler, D., Righetti, L., Bohg, J.

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

Abstract
Grasping objects under uncertainty remains an open problem in robotics research. This uncertainty is often due to noisy or partial observations of the object pose or shape. To enable a robot to react appropriately to unforeseen effects, it is crucial that it continuously takes sensor feedback into account. While visual feedback is important for inferring a grasp pose and reaching for an object, contact feedback offers valuable information during manipulation and grasp acquisition. In this paper, we use model-free deep reinforcement learning to synthesize control policies that exploit contact sensing to generate robust grasping under uncertainty. We demonstrate our approach on a multi-fingered hand that exhibits more complex finger coordination than the commonly used two- fingered grippers. We conduct extensive experiments in order to assess the performance of the learned policies, with and without contact sensing. While it is possible to learn grasping policies without contact sensing, our results suggest that contact feedback allows for a significant improvement of grasping robustness under object pose uncertainty and for objects with a complex shape.

video arXiv [BibTex]


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Probabilistic Recurrent State-Space Models

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

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

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

arXiv pdf Project Page [BibTex]

arXiv pdf Project Page [BibTex]


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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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Online Learning of a Memory for Learning Rates

(nominated for best paper award)

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

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

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

pdf video code [BibTex]

pdf video code [BibTex]


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

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

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

pdf video [BibTex]

pdf video [BibTex]


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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]


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On Time Optimization of Centroidal Momentum Dynamics

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

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

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

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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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]


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Unsupervised Contact Learning for Humanoid Estimation and Control

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

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

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

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Learning Task-Specific Dynamics to Improve Whole-Body Control

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

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

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

link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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An MPC Walking Framework With External Contact Forces

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

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

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

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

2013


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Probabilistic Object Tracking Using a Range Camera

Wüthrich, M., Pastor, P., Kalakrishnan, M., Bohg, J., Schaal, S.

In IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems, pages: 3195-3202, IEEE, November 2013 (inproceedings)

Abstract
We address the problem of tracking the 6-DoF pose of an object while it is being manipulated by a human or a robot. We use a dynamic Bayesian network to perform inference and compute a posterior distribution over the current object pose. Depending on whether a robot or a human manipulates the object, we employ a process model with or without knowledge of control inputs. Observations are obtained from a range camera. As opposed to previous object tracking methods, we explicitly model self-occlusions and occlusions from the environment, e.g, the human or robotic hand. This leads to a strongly non-linear observation model and additional dependencies in the Bayesian network. We employ a Rao-Blackwellised particle filter to compute an estimate of the object pose at every time step. In a set of experiments, we demonstrate the ability of our method to accurately and robustly track the object pose in real-time while it is being manipulated by a human or a robot.

arXiv Video Code Video DOI Project Page [BibTex]

2013

arXiv Video Code Video DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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3-D Object Reconstruction of Symmetric Objects by Fusing Visual and Tactile Sensing

Illonen, J., Bohg, J., Kyrki, V.

The International Journal of Robotics Research, 33(2):321-341, Sage, October 2013 (article)

Abstract
In this work, we propose to reconstruct a complete 3-D model of an unknown object by fusion of visual and tactile information while the object is grasped. Assuming the object is symmetric, a first hypothesis of its complete 3-D shape is generated. A grasp is executed on the object with a robotic manipulator equipped with tactile sensors. Given the detected contacts between the fingers and the object, the initial full object model including the symmetry parameters can be refined. This refined model will then allow the planning of more complex manipulation tasks. The main contribution of this work is an optimal estimation approach for the fusion of visual and tactile data applying the constraint of object symmetry. The fusion is formulated as a state estimation problem and solved with an iterative extended Kalman filter. The approach is validated experimentally using both artificial and real data from two different robotic platforms.

Web DOI Project Page [BibTex]

Web DOI Project Page [BibTex]


Thumb xl submodularity nips
Learning and Optimization with Submodular Functions

Sankaran, B., Ghazvininejad, M., He, X., Kale, D., Cohen, L.

ArXiv, May 2013 (techreport)

Abstract
In many naturally occurring optimization problems one needs to ensure that the definition of the optimization problem lends itself to solutions that are tractable to compute. In cases where exact solutions cannot be computed tractably, it is beneficial to have strong guarantees on the tractable approximate solutions. In order operate under these criterion most optimization problems are cast under the umbrella of convexity or submodularity. In this report we will study design and optimization over a common class of functions called submodular functions. Set functions, and specifically submodular set functions, characterize a wide variety of naturally occurring optimization problems, and the property of submodularity of set functions has deep theoretical consequences with wide ranging applications. Informally, the property of submodularity of set functions concerns the intuitive principle of diminishing returns. This property states that adding an element to a smaller set has more value than adding it to a larger set. Common examples of submodular monotone functions are entropies, concave functions of cardinality, and matroid rank functions; non-monotone examples include graph cuts, network flows, and mutual information. In this paper we will review the formal definition of submodularity; the optimization of submodular functions, both maximization and minimization; and finally discuss some applications in relation to learning and reasoning using submodular functions.

arxiv link (url) [BibTex]

arxiv link (url) [BibTex]


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Hypothesis Testing Framework for Active Object Detection

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

In IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA), May 2013, clmc (inproceedings)

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 view-points, 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 experiments with real scenes captured by a kinect sensor. The results suggest a significant improvement over static object detection.

pdf [BibTex]

pdf [BibTex]


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Action and Goal Related Decision Variables Modulate the Competition Between Multiple Potential Targets

Enachescu, V, Christopoulos, Vassilios N, Schrater, P. R., Schaal, S.

In Abstracts of Neural Control of Movement Conference (NCM 2013), February 2013 (inproceedings)

[BibTex]

[BibTex]


Thumb xl synergy
The functional role of automatic body response in shaping voluntary actions based on muscle synergy theory

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

In Neural Engineering (NER), 2013 6th International IEEE/EMBS Conference on, pages: 1230-1233, 2013 (inproceedings)

DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


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Optimal control of reaching includes kinematic constraints

Mistry, M., Theodorou, E., Schaal, S., Kawato, M.

Journal of Neurophysiology, 2013, clmc (article)

Abstract
We investigate adaptation under a reaching task with an acceleration-based force field perturbation designed to alter the nominal straight hand trajectory in a potentially benign manner:pushing the hand of course in one direction before subsequently restoring towards the target. In this particular task, an explicit strategy to reduce motor effort requires a distinct deviation from the nominal rectilinear hand trajectory. Rather, our results display a clear directional preference during learning, as subjects adapted perturbed curved trajectories towards their initial baselines. We model this behavior using the framework of stochastic optimal control theory and an objective function that trades-of the discordant requirements of 1) target accuracy, 2) motor effort, and 3) desired trajectory. Our work addresses the underlying objective of a reaching movement, and we suggest that robustness, particularly against internal model uncertainly, is as essential to the reaching task as terminal accuracy and energy effciency.

PDF [BibTex]

PDF [BibTex]


Thumb xl hri
Coaching robots with biosignals based on human affective social behaviors

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

In ACM/IEEE International Conference on Human-Robot Interaction, HRI 2013, Tokyo, Japan, March 3-6, 2013, pages: 419-420, 2013 (inproceedings)

link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


Thumb xl screen shot 2015 08 23 at 00.29.36
Fusing visual and tactile sensing for 3-D object reconstruction while grasping

Ilonen, J., Bohg, J., Kyrki, V.

In IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA), pages: 3547-3554, 2013 (inproceedings)

Abstract
In this work, we propose to reconstruct a complete 3-D model of an unknown object by fusion of visual and tactile information while the object is grasped. Assuming the object is symmetric, a first hypothesis of its complete 3-D shape is generated from a single view. This initial model is used to plan a grasp on the object which is then executed with a robotic manipulator equipped with tactile sensors. Given the detected contacts between the fingers and the object, the full object model including the symmetry parameters can be refined. This refined model will then allow the planning of more complex manipulation tasks. The main contribution of this work is an optimal estimation approach for the fusion of visual and tactile data applying the constraint of object symmetry. The fusion is formulated as a state estimation problem and solved with an iterative extended Kalman filter. The approach is validated experimentally using both artificial and real data from two different robotic platforms.

DOI Project Page [BibTex]

DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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Dynamical Movement Primitives: Learning Attractor Models for Motor Behaviors

Ijspeert, A., Nakanishi, J., Pastor, P., Hoffmann, H., Schaal, S.

Neural Computation, (25):328-373, 2013, clmc (article)

Abstract
Nonlinear dynamical systems have been used in many disciplines to model complex behaviors, including biological motor control, robotics, perception, economics, traffic prediction, and neuroscience. While often the unexpected emergent behavior of nonlinear systems is the focus of investigations, it is of equal importance to create goal-directed behavior (e.g., stable locomotion from a system of coupled oscillators under perceptual guidance). Modeling goal-directed behavior with nonlinear systems is, however, rather difficult due to the parameter sensitivity of these systems, their complex phase transitions in response to subtle parameter changes, and the difficulty of analyzing and predicting their long-term behavior; intuition and time-consuming parameter tuning play a major role. This letter presents and reviews dynamical movement primitives, a line of research for modeling attractor behaviors of autonomous nonlinear dynamical systems with the help of statistical learning techniques. The essence of our approach is to start with a simple dynamical system, such as a set of linear differential equations, and transform those into a weakly nonlinear system with prescribed attractor dynamics by meansof a learnable autonomous forcing term. Both point attractors and limit cycle attractors of almost arbitrary complexity can be generated. We explain the design principle of our approach and evaluate its properties in several example applications in motor control and robotics.

link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Learning Objective Functions for Manipulation

Kalakrishnan, M., Pastor, P., Righetti, L., Schaal, S.

In 2013 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation, IEEE, Karlsruhe, Germany, 2013 (inproceedings)

Abstract
We present an approach to learning objective functions for robotic manipulation based on inverse reinforcement learning. Our path integral inverse reinforcement learning algorithm can deal with high-dimensional continuous state-action spaces, and only requires local optimality of demonstrated trajectories. We use L 1 regularization in order to achieve feature selection, and propose an efficient algorithm to minimize the resulting convex objective function. We demonstrate our approach by applying it to two core problems in robotic manipulation. First, we learn a cost function for redundancy resolution in inverse kinematics. Second, we use our method to learn a cost function over trajectories, which is then used in optimization-based motion planning for grasping and manipulation tasks. Experimental results show that our method outperforms previous algorithms in high-dimensional settings.

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Using Torque Redundancy to Optimize Contact Forces in Legged Robots

Righetti, L., Buchli, J., Mistry, M., Kalakrishnan, M., Schaal, S.

In Redundancy in Robot Manipulators and Multi-Robot Systems, 57, pages: 35-51, Lecture Notes in Electrical Engineering, Springer Berlin Heidelberg, 2013 (incollection)

Abstract
The development of legged robots for complex environments requires controllers that guarantee both high tracking performance and compliance with the environment. More specifically the control of contact interaction with the environment is of crucial importance to ensure stable, robust and safe motions. In the following, we present an inverse dynamics controller that exploits torque redundancy to directly and explicitly minimize any combination of linear and quadratic costs in the contact constraints and in the commands. Such a result is particularly relevant for legged robots as it allows to use torque redundancy to directly optimize contact interactions. For example, given a desired locomotion behavior, it can guarantee the minimization of contact forces to reduce slipping on difficult terrains while ensuring high tracking performance of the desired motion. The proposed controller is very simple and computationally efficient, and most importantly it can greatly improve the performance of legged locomotion on difficult terrains as can be seen in the experimental results.

link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Optimal distribution of contact forces with inverse-dynamics control

Righetti, L., Buchli, J., Mistry, M., Kalakrishnan, M., Schaal, S.

The International Journal of Robotics Research, 32(3):280-298, March 2013 (article)

Abstract
The development of legged robots for complex environments requires controllers that guarantee both high tracking performance and compliance with the environment. More specifically the control of the contact interaction with the environment is of crucial importance to ensure stable, robust and safe motions. In this contribution we develop an inverse-dynamics controller for floating-base robots under contact constraints that can minimize any combination of linear and quadratic costs in the contact constraints and the commands. Our main result is the exact analytical derivation of the controller. Such a result is particularly relevant for legged robots as it allows us to use torque redundancy to directly optimize contact interactions. For example, given a desired locomotion behavior, we can guarantee the minimization of contact forces to reduce slipping on difficult terrains while ensuring high tracking performance of the desired motion. The main advantages of the controller are its simplicity, computational efficiency and robustness to model inaccuracies. We present detailed experimental results on simulated humanoid and quadruped robots as well as a real quadruped robot. The experiments demonstrate that the controller can greatly improve the robustness of locomotion of the robots.1

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Learning Task Error Models for Manipulation

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

In 2013 IEEE Conference on Robotics and Automation, IEEE, Karlsruhe, Germany, 2013 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Precise kinematic forward models are important for robots to successfully perform dexterous grasping and manipulation tasks, especially when visual servoing is rendered infeasible due to occlusions. A lot of research has been conducted to estimate geometric and non-geometric parameters of kinematic chains to minimize reconstruction errors. However, kinematic chains can include non-linearities, e.g. due to cable stretch and motor-side encoders, that result in significantly different errors for different parts of the state space. Previous work either does not consider such non-linearities or proposes to estimate non-geometric parameters of carefully engineered models that are robot specific. We propose a data-driven approach that learns task error models that account for such unmodeled non-linearities. We argue that in the context of grasping and manipulation, it is sufficient to achieve high accuracy in the task relevant state space. We identify this relevant state space using previously executed joint configurations and learn error corrections for those. Therefore, our system is developed to generate subsequent executions that are similar to previous ones. The experiments show that our method successfully captures the non-linearities in the head kinematic chain (due to a counterbalancing spring) and the arm kinematic chains (due to cable stretch) of the considered experimental platform, see Fig. 1. The feasibility of the presented error learning approach has also been evaluated in independent DARPA ARM-S testing contributing to successfully complete 67 out of 72 grasping and manipulation tasks.

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

2005


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Composite adaptive control with locally weighted statistical learning

Nakanishi, J., Farrell, J. A., Schaal, S.

Neural Networks, 18(1):71-90, January 2005, clmc (article)

Abstract
This paper introduces a provably stable learning adaptive control framework with statistical learning. The proposed algorithm employs nonlinear function approximation with automatic growth of the learning network according to the nonlinearities and the working domain of the control system. The unknown function in the dynamical system is approximated by piecewise linear models using a nonparametric regression technique. Local models are allocated as necessary and their parameters are optimized on-line. Inspired by composite adaptive control methods, the proposed learning adaptive control algorithm uses both the tracking error and the estimation error to update the parameters. We first discuss statistical learning of nonlinear functions, and motivate our choice of the locally weighted learning framework. Second, we begin with a class of first order SISO systems for theoretical development of our learning adaptive control framework, and present a stability proof including a parameter projection method that is needed to avoid potential singularities during adaptation. Then, we generalize our adaptive controller to higher order SISO systems, and discuss further extension to MIMO problems. Finally, we evaluate our theoretical control framework in numerical simulations to illustrate the effectiveness of the proposed learning adaptive controller for rapid convergence and high accuracy of control.

link (url) [BibTex]

2005

link (url) [BibTex]


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Natural Actor-Critic

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

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

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

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Comparative experiments on task space control with redundancy resolution

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

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

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

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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A model of smooth pursuit based on learning of the target dynamics using only retinal signals

Shibata, T., Tabata, H., Schaal, S., Kawato, M.

Neural Networks, 18, pages: 213-225, 2005, clmc (article)

Abstract
While the predictive nature of the primate smooth pursuit system has been evident through several behavioural and neurophysiological experiments, few models have attempted to explain these results comprehensively. The model we propose in this paper in line with previous models employing optimal control theory; however, we hypothesize two new issues: (1) the medical superior temporal (MST) area in the cerebral cortex implements a recurrent neural network (RNN) in order to predict the current or future target velocity, and (2) a forward model of the target motion is acquired by on-line learning. We use stimulation studies to demonstrate how our new model supports these hypotheses.

link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Linear and Nonlinear Estimation models applied to Hemodynamic Model

Theodorou, E.

Technical Report-2005-1, Computational Action and Vision Lab University of Minnesota, 2005, clmc (techreport)

Abstract
The relation between BOLD signal and neural activity is still poorly understood. The Gaussian Linear Model known as GLM is broadly used in many fMRI data analysis for recovering the underlying neural activity. Although GLM has been proved to be a really useful tool for analyzing fMRI data it can not be used for describing the complex biophysical process of neural metabolism. In this technical report we make use of a system of Stochastic Differential Equations that is based on Buxton model [1] for describing the underlying computational principles of hemodynamic process. Based on this SDE we built a Kalman Filter estimator so as to estimate the induced neural signal as well as the blood inflow under physiologic and sensor noise. The performance of Kalman Filter estimator is investigated under different physiologic noise characteristics and measurement frequencies.

PDF [BibTex]

PDF [BibTex]


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Predicting EMG Data from M1 Neurons with Variational Bayesian Least Squares

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

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

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

link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Rapbid synchronization and accurate phase-locking of rhythmic motor primitives

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

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

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

link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Parametric and Non-Parametric approaches for nonlinear tracking of moving objects

Hidaka, Y, Theodorou, E.

Technical Report-2005-1, 2005, clmc (article)

PDF [BibTex]

PDF [BibTex]


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A new methodology for robot control design

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

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

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

link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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

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

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

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

link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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A unifying framework for the control of robotics systems

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

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

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

link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]

1991


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Ways to smarter CAD-systems

Ehrlenspiel, K., Schaal, S.

In Proceedings of ICED’91Heurista, pages: 10-16, (Editors: Hubka), Edition, Schriftenreihe WDK 21. Zürich, 1991, clmc (inbook)

[BibTex]

1991

[BibTex]