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2010


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Are reaching movements planned in kinematic or dynamic coordinates?

Ellmer, A., Schaal, S.

In Abstracts of Neural Control of Movement Conference (NCM 2010), Naples, Florida, 2010, 2010, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
Whether human reaching movements are planned and optimized in kinematic (task space) or dynamic (joint or muscle space) coordinates is still an issue of debate. The first hypothesis implies that a planner produces a desired end-effector position at each point in time during the reaching movement, whereas the latter hypothesis includes the dynamics of the muscular-skeletal control system to produce a continuous end-effector trajectory. Previous work by Wolpert et al (1995) showed that when subjects were led to believe that their straight reaching paths corresponded to curved paths as shown on a computer screen, participants adapted the true path of their hand such that they would visually perceive a straight line in visual space, despite that they actually produced a curved path. These results were interpreted as supporting the stance that reaching trajectories are planned in kinematic coordinates. However, this experiment could only demonstrate that adaptation to altered paths, i.e. the position of the end-effector, did occur, but not that the precise timing of end-effector position was equally planned, i.e., the trajectory. Our current experiment aims at filling this gap by explicitly testing whether position over time, i.e. velocity, is a property of reaching movements that is planned in kinematic coordinates. In the current experiment, the velocity profiles of cursor movements corresponding to the participant's hand motions were skewed either to the left or to the right; the path itself was left unaltered. We developed an adaptation paradigm, where the skew of the velocity profile was introduced gradually and participants reported no awareness of any manipulation. Preliminary results indicate that the true hand motion of participants did not alter, i.e. there was no adaptation so as to counterbalance the introduced skew. However, for some participants, peak hand velocities were lowered for higher skews, which suggests that participants interpreted the manipulation as mere noise due to variance in their own movement. In summary, for a visuomotor transformation task, the hypothesis of a planned continuous end-effector trajectory predicts adaptation to a modified velocity profile. The current experiment found no systematic adaptation under such transformation, but did demonstrate an effect that is more in accordance that subjects could not perceive the manipulation and rather interpreted as an increase of noise.

[BibTex]

2010

[BibTex]


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Optimality in Neuromuscular Systems

Theodorou, E. A., Valero-Cuevas, F.

In 32nd Annual International Conference of the IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society, 2010, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
Abstract? We provide an overview of optimal control meth- ods to nonlinear neuromuscular systems and discuss their lim- itations. Moreover we extend current optimal control methods to their application to neuromuscular models with realistically numerous musculotendons; as most prior work is limited to torque-driven systems. Recent work on computational motor control has explored the used of control theory and esti- mation as a conceptual tool to understand the underlying computational principles of neuromuscular systems. After all, successful biological systems regularly meet conditions for stability, robustness and performance for multiple classes of complex tasks. Among a variety of proposed control theory frameworks to explain this, stochastic optimal control has become a dominant framework to the point of being a standard computational technique to reproduce kinematic trajectories of reaching movements (see [12]) In particular, we demonstrate the application of optimal control to a neuromuscular model of the index finger with all seven musculotendons producing a tapping task. Our simu- lations include 1) a muscle model that includes force- length and force-velocity characteristics; 2) an anatomically plausible biomechanical model of the index finger that includes a tendi- nous network for the extensor mechanism and 3) a contact model that is based on a nonlinear spring-damper attached at the end effector of the index finger. We demonstrate that it is feasible to apply optimal control to systems with realistically large state vectors and conclude that, while optimal control is an adequate formalism to create computational models of neuro- musculoskeletal systems, there remain important challenges and limitations that need to be considered and overcome such as contact transitions, curse of dimensionality, and constraints on states and controls.

PDF [BibTex]

PDF [BibTex]


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Efficient learning and feature detection in high dimensional regression

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

Neural Computation, 22, pages: 831-886, 2010, clmc (article)

Abstract
We present a novel algorithm for efficient learning and feature selection in high- dimensional regression problems. We arrive at this model through a modification of the standard regression model, enabling us to derive a probabilistic version of the well-known statistical regression technique of backfitting. Using the Expectation- Maximization algorithm, along with variational approximation methods to overcome intractability, we extend our algorithm to include automatic relevance detection of the input features. This Variational Bayesian Least Squares (VBLS) approach retains its simplicity as a linear model, but offers a novel statistically robust â??black- boxâ? approach to generalized linear regression with high-dimensional inputs. It can be easily extended to nonlinear regression and classification problems. In particular, we derive the framework of sparse Bayesian learning, e.g., the Relevance Vector Machine, with VBLS at its core, offering significant computational and robustness advantages for this class of methods. We evaluate our algorithm on synthetic and neurophysiological data sets, as well as on standard regression and classification benchmark data sets, comparing it with other competitive statistical approaches and demonstrating its suitability as a drop-in replacement for other generalized linear regression techniques.

link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Stochastic Differential Dynamic Programming

Theodorou, E., Tassa, Y., Todorov, E.

In the proceedings of American Control Conference (ACC 2010) , 2010, clmc (article)

Abstract
We present a generalization of the classic Differential Dynamic Programming algorithm. We assume the existence of state- and control-dependent process noise, and proceed to derive the second-order expansion of the cost-to-go. Despite having quartic and cubic terms in the initial expression, we show that these vanish, leaving us with the same quadratic structure as standard DDP.

PDF [BibTex]

PDF [BibTex]


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Learning Policy Improvements with Path Integrals

Theodorou, E. A., Buchli, J., Schaal, S.

In International Conference on Artificial Intelligence and Statistics (AISTATS 2010), 2010, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
With the goal to generate more scalable algo- rithms with higher efficiency and fewer open parameters, reinforcement learning (RL) has recently moved towards combining classi- cal techniques from optimal control and dy- namic programming with modern learning techniques from statistical estimation the- ory. In this vein, this paper suggests the framework of stochastic optimal control with path integrals to derive a novel approach to RL with parametrized policies. While solidly grounded in value function estimation and optimal control based on the stochastic Hamilton-Jacobi-Bellman (HJB) equations, policy improvements can be transformed into an approximation problem of a path inte- gral which has no open parameters other than the exploration noise. The resulting algorithm can be conceived of as model- based, semi-model-based, or even model free, depending on how the learning problem is structured. Our new algorithm demon- strates interesting similarities with previous RL research in the framework of proba- bility matching and provides intuition why the slightly heuristically motivated proba- bility matching approach can actually per- form well. Empirical evaluations demon- strate significant performance improvements over gradient-based policy learning and scal- ability to high-dimensional control problems. We believe that Policy Improvement with Path Integrals (PI2) offers currently one of the most efficient, numerically robust, and easy to implement algorithms for RL based on trajectory roll-outs.

PDF [BibTex]

PDF [BibTex]


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Learning optimal control solutions: a path integral approach

Theodorou, E., Schaal, S.

In Abstracts of Neural Control of Movement Conference (NCM 2010), Naples, Florida, 2010, 2010, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
Investigating principles of human motor control in the framework of optimal control has had a long tradition in neural control of movement, and has recently experienced a new surge of investigations. Ideally, optimal control problems are addresses as a reinforcement learning (RL) problem, which would allow to investigate both the process of acquiring an optimal control solution as well as the solution itself. Unfortunately, the applicability of RL to complex neural and biomechanics systems has been largely impossible so far due to the computational difficulties that arise in high dimensional continuous state-action spaces. As a way out, research has focussed on computing optimal control solutions based on iterative optimal control methods that are based on linear and quadratic approximations of dynamical models and cost functions. These methods require perfect knowledge of the dynamics and cost functions while they are based on gradient and Newton optimization schemes. Their applicability is also restricted to low dimensional problems due to problematic convergence in high dimensions. Moreover, the process of computing the optimal solution is removed from the learning process that might be plausible in biology. In this work, we present a new reinforcement learning method for learning optimal control solutions or motor control. This method, based on the framework of stochastic optimal control with path integrals, has a very solid theoretical foundation, while resulting in surprisingly simple learning algorithms. It is also possible to apply this approach without knowledge of the system model, and to use a wide variety of complex nonlinear cost functions for optimization. We illustrate the theoretical properties of this approach and its applicability to learning motor control tasks for reaching movements and locomotion studies. We discuss its applicability to learning desired trajectories, variable stiffness control (co-contraction), and parameterized control policies. We also investigate the applicability to signal dependent noise control systems. We believe that the suggested method offers one of the easiest to use approaches to learning optimal control suggested in the literature so far, which makes it ideally suited for computational investigations of biological motor control.

[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Learning control in robotics – trajectory-based opitimal control techniques

Schaal, S., Atkeson, C. G.

Robotics and Automation Magazine, 17(2):20-29, 2010, clmc (article)

Abstract
In a not too distant future, robots will be a natural part of daily life in human society, providing assistance in many areas ranging from clinical applications, education and care giving, to normal household environments [1]. It is hard to imagine that all possible tasks can be preprogrammed in such robots. Robots need to be able to learn, either by themselves or with the help of human supervision. Additionally, wear and tear on robots in daily use needs to be automatically compensated for, which requires a form of continuous self-calibration, another form of learning. Finally, robots need to react to stochastic and dynamic environments, i.e., they need to learn how to optimally adapt to uncertainty and unforeseen changes. Robot learning is going to be a key ingredient for the future of autonomous robots. While robot learning covers a rather large field, from learning to perceive, to plan, to make decisions, etc., we will focus this review on topics of learning control, in particular, as it is concerned with learning control in simulated or actual physical robots. In general, learning control refers to the process of acquiring a control strategy for a particular control system and a particular task by trial and error. Learning control is usually distinguished from adaptive control [2] in that the learning system can have rather general optimization objectivesâ??not just, e.g., minimal tracking errorâ??and is permitted to fail during the process of learning, while adaptive control emphasizes fast convergence without failure. Thus, learning control resembles the way that humans and animals acquire new movement strategies, while adaptive control is a special case of learning control that fulfills stringent performance constraints, e.g., as needed in life-critical systems like airplanes. Learning control has been an active topic of research for at least three decades. However, given the lack of working robots that actually use learning components, more work needs to be done before robot learning will make it beyond the laboratory environment. This article will survey some ongoing and past activities in robot learning to assess where the field stands and where it is going. We will largely focus on nonwheeled robots and less on topics of state estimation, as typically explored in wheeled robots [3]â??6], and we emphasize learning in continuous state-action spaces rather than discrete state-action spaces [7], [8]. We will illustrate the different topics of robot learning with examples from our own research with anthropomorphic and humanoid robots.

link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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

Kalakrishnan, M., Buchli, J., Pastor, P., Mistry, M., Schaal, S.

International Journal of Robotics Research, 30(2):236-258, 2010, clmc (article)

Abstract
We present a control architecture for fast quadruped locomotion over rough terrain. We approach the problem by decomposing it into many sub-systems, in which we apply state-of-the-art learning, planning, optimization, and control techniques to achieve robust, fast locomotion. Unique features of our control strategy include: (1) a system that learns optimal foothold choices from expert demonstration using terrain templates, (2) a body trajectory optimizer based on the Zero- Moment Point (ZMP) stability criterion, and (3) a floating-base inverse dynamics controller that, in conjunction with force control, allows for robust, compliant locomotion over unperceived obstacles. We evaluate the performance of our controller by testing it on the LittleDog quadruped robot, over a wide variety of rough terrains of varying difficulty levels. The terrain that the robot was tested on includes rocks, logs, steps, barriers, and gaps, with obstacle sizes up to the leg length of the robot. We demonstrate the generalization ability of this controller by presenting results from testing performed by an independent external test team on terrain that has never been shown to us.

link (url) Project Page [BibTex]

link (url) Project Page [BibTex]


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Constrained Accelerations for Controlled Geometric Reduction: Sagittal-Plane Decoupling for Bipedal Locomotion

Gregg, R., Righetti, L., Buchli, J., Schaal, S.

In 2010 10th IEEE-RAS International Conference on Humanoid Robots, pages: 1-7, IEEE, Nashville, USA, 2010 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Energy-shaping control methods have produced strong theoretical results for asymptotically stable 3D bipedal dynamic walking in the literature. In particular, geometric controlled reduction exploits robot symmetries to control momentum conservation laws that decouple the sagittal-plane dynamics, which are easier to stabilize. However, the associated control laws require high-dimensional matrix inverses multiplied with complicated energy-shaping terms, often making these control theories difficult to apply to highly-redundant humanoid robots. This paper presents a first step towards the application of energy-shaping methods on real robots by casting controlled reduction into a framework of constrained accelerations for inverse dynamics control. By representing momentum conservation laws as constraints in acceleration space, we construct a general expression for desired joint accelerations that render the constraint surface invariant. By appropriately choosing an orthogonal projection, we show that the unconstrained (reduced) dynamics are decoupled from the constrained dynamics. Any acceleration-based controller can then be used to stabilize this planar subsystem, including passivity-based methods. The resulting control law is surprisingly simple and represents a practical way to employ control theoretic stability results in robotic platforms. Simulated walking of a 3D compass-gait biped show correspondence between the new and original controllers, and simulated motions of a 16-DOF humanoid demonstrate the applicability of this method.

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Variable impedance control - a reinforcement learning approach

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

In Robotics Science and Systems (2010), Zaragoza, Spain, June 27-30, 2010, clmc (inproceedings)

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 DOF robotic tasks. In this contribution, we accomplish such gain scheduling with a reinforcement learning approach algorithm, PI2 (Policy Improvement with Path Integrals). PI2 is a model-free, sampling based learning method derived from first principles of optimal control. The PI2 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 PI2 is that it can scale to problems of many DOFs, so that RL on real robotic systems becomes feasible. We sketch the PI2 algorithm and its theoretical properties, and how it is applied to gain scheduling. We evaluate our approach by presenting results on two different simulated robotic systems, a 3-DOF Phantom Premium Robot and a 6-DOF Kuka Lightweight Robot. We investigate tasks where the optimal strategy requires both tuning of the impedance of the end-effector, and tuning of a reference trajectory. The results show that we can use path integral based RL 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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Inverse dynamics with optimal distribution of ground reaction forces for legged robot

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

In Proceedings of the 13th International Conference on Climbing and Walking Robots (CLAWAR), pages: 580-587, Nagoya, Japan, sep 2010 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Contact interaction with the environment is crucial in the design of locomotion controllers for legged robots, to prevent slipping for example. Therefore, it is of great importance to be able to control the effects of the robots movements on the contact reaction forces. In this contribution, we extend a recent inverse dynamics algorithm for floating base robots to optimize the distribution of contact forces while achieving precise trajectory tracking. The resulting controller is algorithmically simple as compared to other approaches. Numerical simulations show that this result significantly increases the range of possible movements of a humanoid robot as compared to the previous inverse dynamics algorithm. We also present a simplification of the result where no inversion of the inertia matrix is needed which is particularly relevant for practical use on a real robot. Such an algorithm becomes interesting for agile locomotion of robots on difficult terrains where the contacts with the environment are critical, such as walking over rough or slippery terrain.

DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]

1999


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Is imitation learning the route to humanoid robots?

Schaal, S.

Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 3(6):233-242, 1999, clmc (article)

Abstract
This review will focus on two recent developments in artificial intelligence and neural computation: learning from imitation and the development of humanoid robots. It will be postulated that the study of imitation learning offers a promising route to gain new insights into mechanisms of perceptual motor control that could ultimately lead to the creation of autonomous humanoid robots. This hope is justified because imitation learning channels research efforts towards three important issues: efficient motor learning, the connection between action and perception, and modular motor control in form of movement primitives. In order to make these points, first, a brief review of imitation learning will be given from the view of psychology and neuroscience. In these fields, representations and functional connections between action and perception have been explored that contribute to the understanding of motor acts of other beings. The recent discovery that some areas in the primate brain are active during both movement perception and execution provided a first idea of the possible neural basis of imitation. Secondly, computational approaches to imitation learning will be described, initially from the perspective of traditional AI and robotics, and then with a focus on neural network models and statistical learning research. Parallels and differences between biological and computational approaches to imitation will be highlighted. The review will end with an overview of current projects that actually employ imitation learning for humanoid robots.

link (url) [BibTex]

1999

link (url) [BibTex]


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Nonparametric regression for learning nonlinear transformations

Schaal, S.

In Prerational Intelligence in Strategies, High-Level Processes and Collective Behavior, 2, pages: 595-621, (Editors: Ritter, H.;Cruse, H.;Dean, J.), Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1999, clmc (inbook)

Abstract
Information processing in animals and artificial movement systems consists of a series of transformations that map sensory signals to intermediate representations, and finally to motor commands. Given the physical and neuroanatomical differences between individuals and the need for plasticity during development, it is highly likely that such transformations are learned rather than pre-programmed by evolution. Such self-organizing processes, capable of discovering nonlinear dependencies between different groups of signals, are one essential part of prerational intelligence. While neural network algorithms seem to be the natural choice when searching for solutions for learning transformations, this paper will take a more careful look at which types of neural networks are actually suited for the requirements of an autonomous learning system. The approach that we will pursue is guided by recent developments in learning theory that have linked neural network learning to well established statistical theories. In particular, this new statistical understanding has given rise to the development of neural network systems that are directly based on statistical methods. One family of such methods stems from nonparametric regression. This paper will compare nonparametric learning with the more widely used parametric counterparts in a non technical fashion, and investigate how these two families differ in their properties and their applicabilities. We will argue that nonparametric neural networks offer a set of characteristics that make them a very promising candidate for on-line learning in autonomous system.

link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Segmentation of endpoint trajectories does not imply segmented control

Sternad, D., Schaal, D.

Experimental Brain Research, 124(1):118-136, 1999, clmc (article)

Abstract
While it is generally assumed that complex movements consist of a sequence of simpler units, the quest to define these units of action, or movement primitives, still remains an open question. In this context, two hypotheses of movement segmentation of endpoint trajectories in 3D human drawing movements are re-examined: (1) the stroke-based segmentation hypothesis based on the results that the proportionality coefficient of the 2/3 power law changes discontinuously with each new â??strokeâ?, and (2) the segmentation hypothesis inferred from the observation of piecewise planar endpoint trajectories of 3D drawing movements. In two experiments human subjects performed a set of elliptical and figure-8 patterns of different sizes and orientations using their whole arm in 3D. The kinematic characteristics of the endpoint trajectories and the seven joint angles of the arm were analyzed. While the endpoint trajectories produced similar segmentation features as reported in the literature, analyses of the joint angles show no obvious segmentation but rather continuous oscillatory patterns. By approximating the joint angle data of human subjects with sinusoidal trajectories, and by implementing this model on a 7-degree-of-freedom anthropomorphic robot arm, it is shown that such a continuous movement strategy can produce exactly the same features as observed by the above segmentation hypotheses. The origin of this apparent segmentation of endpoint trajectories is traced back to the nonlinear transformations of the forward kinematics of human arms. The presented results demonstrate that principles of discrete movement generation may not be reconciled with those of rhythmic movement as easily as has been previously suggested, while the generalization of nonlinear pattern generators to arm movements can offer an interesting alternative to approach the question of units of action.

link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]

1992


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Ins CAD integrierte Kostenkalkulation (CAD-Integrated Cost Calculation)

Ehrlenspiel, K., Schaal, S.

Konstruktion 44, 12, pages: 407-414, 1992, clmc (article)

[BibTex]

1992

[BibTex]


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Integrierte Wissensverarbeitung mit CAD am Beispiel der konstruktionsbegleitenden Kalkulation (Ways to smarter CAD Systems)

Schaal, S.

Hanser 1992. (Konstruktionstechnik München Band 8). Zugl. München: TU Diss., München, 1992, clmc (book)

[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Informationssysteme mit CAD (Information systems within CAD)

Schaal, S.

In CAD/CAM Grundlagen, pages: 199-204, (Editors: Milberg, J.), Springer, Buchreihe CIM-TT. Berlin, 1992, clmc (inbook)

[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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What should be learned?

Schaal, S., Atkeson, C. G., Botros, S.

In Proceedings of Seventh Yale Workshop on Adaptive and Learning Systems, pages: 199-204, New Haven, CT, May 20-22, 1992, clmc (inproceedings)

[BibTex]

[BibTex]