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2006


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Learning operational space control

Peters, J., Schaal, S.

In Robotics: Science and Systems II (RSS 2006), pages: 255-262, (Editors: Gaurav S. Sukhatme and Stefan Schaal and Wolfram Burgard and Dieter Fox), Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, RSS , 2006, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
While operational space control is of essential importance for robotics and well-understood from an analytical point of view, it can be prohibitively hard to achieve accurate control in face of modeling errors, which are inevitable in complex robots, e.g., humanoid robots. In such cases, learning control methods can offer an interesting alternative to analytical control algorithms. However, the resulting learning problem is ill-defined as it requires to learn an inverse mapping of a usually redundant system, which is well known to suffer from the property of non-covexity of the solution space, i.e., the learning system could generate motor commands that try to steer the robot into physically impossible configurations. A first important insight for this paper is that, nevertheless, a physically correct solution to the inverse problem does exits when learning of the inverse map is performed in a suitable piecewise linear way. The second crucial component for our work is based on a recent insight that many operational space controllers can be understood in terms of a constraint optimal control problem. The cost function associated with this optimal control problem allows us to formulate a learning algorithm that automatically synthesizes a globally consistent desired resolution of redundancy while learning the operational space controller. From the view of machine learning, the learning problem corresponds to a reinforcement learning problem that maximizes an immediate reward and that employs an expectation-maximization policy search algorithm. Evaluations on a three degrees of freedom robot arm illustrate the feasability of our suggested approach.

link (url) [BibTex]

2006

link (url) [BibTex]


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Reinforcement Learning for Parameterized Motor Primitives

Peters, J., Schaal, S.

In Proceedings of the 2006 International Joint Conference on Neural Networks, pages: 73-80, IJCNN, 2006, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
One of the major challenges in both action generation for robotics and in the understanding of human motor control is to learn the "building blocks of movement generation", called motor primitives. Motor primitives, as used in this paper, are parameterized control policies such as splines or nonlinear differential equations with desired attractor properties. While a lot of progress has been made in teaching parameterized motor primitives using supervised or imitation learning, the self-improvement by interaction of the system with the environment remains a challenging problem. In this paper, we evaluate different reinforcement learning approaches for improving the performance of parameterized motor primitives. 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.

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Policy gradient methods for robotics

Peters, J., Schaal, S.

In Proceedings of the IEEE International Conference on Intelligent Robotics Systems, pages: 2219-2225, IROS, 2006, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
The aquisition and improvement of motor skills and control policies for robotics from trial and error is of essential importance if robots should ever leave precisely pre-structured environments. However, to date only few existing reinforcement learning methods have been scaled into the domains of highdimensional robots such as manipulator, legged or humanoid robots. Policy gradient methods remain one of the few exceptions and have found a variety of applications. Nevertheless, the application of such methods is not without peril if done in an uninformed manner. In this paper, we give an overview on learning with policy gradient methods for robotics with a strong focus on recent advances in the field. We outline previous applications to robotics and show how the most recently developed methods can significantly improve learning performance. Finally, we evaluate our most promising algorithm in the application of hitting a baseball with an anthropomorphic arm.

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Statistical Learning of LQG controllers

Theodorou, E.

Technical Report-2006-1, Computational Action and Vision Lab University of Minnesota, 2006, clmc (techreport)

PDF [BibTex]

PDF [BibTex]


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Approximate nearest neighbor regression in very high dimensions

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

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

link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]

2003


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Dynamic movement primitives - A framework for motor control in humans and humanoid robots

Schaal, S.

In The International Symposium on Adaptive Motion of Animals and Machines, Kyoto, Japan, March 4-8, 2003, March 2003, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
Sensory-motor integration is one of the key issues in robotics. In this paper, we propose an approach to rhythmic arm movement control that is synchronized with an external signal based on exploiting a simple neural oscillator network. Trajectory generation by the neural oscillator is a biologically inspired method that can allow us to generate a smooth and continuous trajectory. The parameter tuning of the oscillators is used to generate a synchronized movement with wide intervals. We adopted the method for the drumming task as an example task. By using this method, the robot can realize synchronized drumming with wide drumming intervals in real time. The paper also shows the experimental results of drumming by a humanoid robot.

link (url) [BibTex]

2003

link (url) [BibTex]


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Bayesian backfitting

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

In Proceedings of the 10th Joint Symposium on Neural Computation (JSNC 2003), Irvine, CA, May 2003, 2003, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
We present an algorithm aimed at addressing both computational and analytical intractability of Bayesian regression models which operate in very high-dimensional, usually underconstrained spaces. Several domains of research frequently provide such datasets, including chemometrics [2], and human movement analysis [1]. The literature in nonparametric statistics provides interesting solutions such as Backfitting [3] and Partial Least Squares [4], which are extremely robust and efficient, yet lack a probabilistic interpretation that could place them in the context of current research in statistical learning algorithms that emphasize the estimation of confidence, posterior distributions, and model complexity. In order to achieve numerical robustness and low computational cost, we first derive a novel Bayesian interpretation of Backfitting (BB) as a computationally efficient regression algorithm. BBÕs learning complexity scales linearly with the input dimensionality by decoupling inference among individual input dimensions. We embed BB in an efficient, locally variational model selection mechanism that automatically grows the number of backfitting experts in a mixture-of-experts regression model. We demonstrate the effectiveness of the algorithm in performing principled regularization of model complexity when fitting nonlinear manifolds while avoiding the numerical hazards associated with highly underconstrained problems. We also note that this algorithm appears applicable in various areas of neural computation, e.g., in abstract models of computational neuroscience, or implementations of statistical learning on artificial systems.

link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Reinforcement learning for humanoid robotics

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

In IEEE-RAS International Conference on Humanoid Robots (Humanoids2003), Karlsruhe, Germany, Sept.29-30, 2003, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
Reinforcement learning offers one of the most general framework to take traditional robotics towards true autonomy and versatility. However, applying reinforcement learning to high dimensional movement systems like humanoid robots remains an unsolved problem. In this paper, we discuss different approaches of reinforcement learning in terms of their applicability in humanoid robotics. Methods can be coarsely classified into three different categories, i.e., greedy methods, `vanilla' policy gradient methods, and natural gradient methods. We discuss that greedy methods are not likely to scale into the domain humanoid robotics as they are problematic when used with function approximation. `Vanilla' policy gradient methods on the other hand have been successfully applied on real-world robots including at least one humanoid robot. We demonstrate that these methods can be significantly improved using the natural policy gradient instead of the regular policy gradient. A derivation of the natural policy gradient is provided, proving that the average policy gradient of Kakade (2002) is indeed the true natural gradient. A general algorithm for estimating the natural gradient, the Natural Actor-Critic algorithm, is introduced. This algorithm converges to the nearest local minimum of the cost function with respect to the Fisher information metric under suitable conditions. The algorithm outperforms non-natural policy gradients by far in a cart-pole balancing evaluation, and for learning nonlinear dynamic motor primitives for humanoid robot control. It offers a promising route for the development of reinforcement learning for truly high dimensionally continuous state-action systems.

link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Discovering imitation strategies through categorization of multi-cimensional data

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

In IEEE International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS 2003), Las Vegas, NV, Oct. 27-31, 2003, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
An essential problem of imitation is that of determining Ówhat to imitateÓ, i.e. to determine which of the many features of the demonstration are relevant to the task and which should be reproduced. The strategy followed by the imitator can be modeled as a hierarchical optimization system, which minimizes the discrepancy between two multidimensional datasets. We consider imitation of a manipulation task. To classify across manipulation strategies, we apply a probabilistic analysis to data in Cartesian and joint spaces. We determine a general metric that optimizes the policy of task reproduction, following strategy determination. The model successfully discovers strategies in six different manipulation tasks and controls task reproduction by a full body humanoid robot. or the complete path followed by the demonstrator. We follow a similar taxonomy and apply it to the learning and reproduction of a manipulation task by a humanoid robot. We take the perspective that the features of the movements to imitate are those that appear most frequently, i.e. the invariants in time. The model builds upon previous work [3], [4] and is composed of a hierarchical time delay neural network that extracts invariant features from a manipulation task performed by a human demonstrator. The system analyzes the Carthesian trajectories of the objects and the joint

link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Scaling reinforcement learning paradigms for motor learning

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

In Proceedings of the 10th Joint Symposium on Neural Computation (JSNC 2003), Irvine, CA, May 2003, 2003, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
Reinforcement learning offers a general framework to explain reward related learning in artificial and biological motor control. However, current reinforcement learning methods rarely scale to high dimensional movement systems and mainly operate in discrete, low dimensional domains like game-playing, artificial toy problems, etc. This drawback makes them unsuitable for application to human or bio-mimetic motor control. In this poster, we look at promising approaches that can potentially scale and suggest a novel formulation of the actor-critic algorithm which takes steps towards alleviating the current shortcomings. We argue that methods based on greedy policies are not likely to scale into high-dimensional domains as they are problematic when used with function approximation Ð a must when dealing with continuous domains. We adopt the path of direct policy gradient based policy improvements since they avoid the problems of unstabilizing dynamics encountered in traditional value iteration based updates. While regular policy gradient methods have demonstrated promising results in the domain of humanoid notor control, we demonstrate that these methods can be significantly improved using the natural policy gradient instead of the regular policy gradient. Based on this, it is proved that KakadeÕs Ôaverage natural policy gradientÕ is indeed the true natural gradient. A general algorithm for estimating the natural gradient, the Natural Actor-Critic algorithm, is introduced. This algorithm converges with probability one to the nearest local minimum in Riemannian space of the cost function. The algorithm outperforms nonnatural policy gradients by far in a cart-pole balancing evaluation, and offers a promising route for the development of reinforcement learning for truly high-dimensionally continuous state-action systems.

link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Learning attractor landscapes for learning motor primitives

Ijspeert, A., Nakanishi, J., Schaal, S.

In Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 15, pages: 1547-1554, (Editors: Becker, S.;Thrun, S.;Obermayer, K.), Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2003, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
If globally high dimensional data has locally only low dimensional distributions, it is advantageous to perform a local dimensionality reduction before further processing the data. In this paper we examine several techniques for local dimensionality reduction in the context of locally weighted linear regression. As possible candidates, we derive local versions of factor analysis regression, principle component regression, principle component regression on joint distributions, and partial least squares regression. After outlining the statistical bases of these methods, we perform Monte Carlo simulations to evaluate their robustness with respect to violations of their statistical assumptions. One surprising outcome is that locally weighted partial least squares regression offers the best average results, thus outperforming even factor analysis, the theoretically most appealing of our candidate techniques.Ê

link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Learning from demonstration and adaptation of biped locomotion with dynamical movement primitives

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

In Workshop on Robot Learning by Demonstration, IEEE International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS 2003), Las Vegas, NV, Oct. 27-31, 2003, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
In this paper, we report on our research for learning biped locomotion from human demonstration. Our ultimate goal is to establish a design principle of a controller in order to achieve natural human-like locomotion. We suggest dynamical movement primitives as a CPG of a biped robot, an approach we have previously proposed for learning and encoding complex human movements. Demonstrated trajectories are learned through the movement primitives by locally weighted regression, and the frequency of the learned trajectories is adjusted automatically by a novel frequency adaptation algorithm based on phase resetting and entrainment of oscillators. Numerical simulations demonstrate the effectiveness of the proposed locomotion controller.

link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Movement planning and imitation by shaping nonlinear attractors

Schaal, S.

In Proceedings of the 12th Yale Workshop on Adaptive and Learning Systems, Yale University, New Haven, CT, 2003, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
Given the continuous stream of movements that biological systems exhibit in their daily activities, an account for such versatility and creativity has to assume that movement sequences consist of segments, executed either in sequence or with partial or complete overlap. Therefore, a fundamental question that has pervaded research in motor control both in artificial and biological systems revolves around identifying movement primitives (a.k.a. units of actions, basis behaviors, motor schemas, etc.). What are the fundamental building blocks that are strung together, adapted to, and created for ever new behaviors? This paper summarizes results that led to the hypothesis of Dynamic Movement Primitives (DMP). DMPs are units of action that are formalized as stable nonlinear attractor systems. They are useful for autonomous robotics as they are highly flexible in creating complex rhythmic (e.g., locomotion) and discrete (e.g., a tennis swing) behaviors that can quickly be adapted to the inevitable perturbations of a dy-namically changing, stochastic environment. Moreover, DMPs provide a formal framework that also lends itself to investigations in computational neuroscience. A recent finding that allows creating DMPs with the help of well-understood statistical learning methods has elevated DMPs from a more heuristic to a principled modeling approach, and, moreover, created a new foundation for imitation learning. Theoretical insights, evaluations on a humanoid robot, and behavioral and brain imaging data will serve to outline the framework of DMPs for a general approach to motor control and imitation in robotics and biology.

link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Computational approaches to motor learning by imitation

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

Philosophical Transaction of the Royal Society of London: Series B, Biological Sciences, 358(1431):537-547, 2003, clmc (article)

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

link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]

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]

1996


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A kendama learning robot based on a dynamic optimiation principle

Miyamoto, H., Gandolfo, F., Gomi, H., Schaal, S., Koike, Y., Rieka, O., Nakano, E., Wada, Y., Kawato, M.

In Preceedings of the International Conference on Neural Information Processing, pages: 938-942, Hong Kong, September 1996, clmc (inproceedings)

[BibTex]

1996

[BibTex]


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A Kendama learning robot based on bi-directional theory

Miyamoto, H., Schaal, S., Gandolfo, F., Koike, Y., Osu, R., Nakano, E., Wada, Y., Kawato, M.

Neural Networks, 9(8):1281-1302, 1996, clmc (article)

Abstract
A general theory of movement-pattern perception based on bi-directional theory for sensory-motor integration can be used for motion capture and learning by watching in robotics. We demonstrate our methods using the game of Kendama, executed by the SARCOS Dextrous Slave Arm, which has a very similar kinematic structure to the human arm. Three ingredients have to be integrated for the successful execution of this task. The ingredients are (1) to extract via-points from a human movement trajectory using a forward-inverse relaxation model, (2) to treat via-points as a control variable while reconstructing the desired trajectory from all the via-points, and (3) to modify the via-points for successful execution. In order to test the validity of the via-point representation, we utilized a numerical model of the SARCOS arm, and examined the behavior of the system under several conditions.

link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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From isolation to cooperation: An alternative of a system of experts

Schaal, S., Atkeson, C. G.

In Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 8, pages: 605-611, (Editors: Touretzky, D. S.;Mozer, M. C.;Hasselmo, M. E.), MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, 1996, clmc (inbook)

Abstract
We introduce a constructive, incremental learning system for regression problems that models data by means of locally linear experts. In contrast to other approaches, the experts are trained independently and do not compete for data during learning. Only when a prediction for a query is required do the experts cooperate by blending their individual predictions. Each expert is trained by minimizing a penalized local cross validation error using second order methods. In this way, an expert is able to adjust the size and shape of the receptive field in which its predictions are valid, and also to adjust its bias on the importance of individual input dimensions. The size and shape adjustment corresponds to finding a local distance metric, while the bias adjustment accomplishes local dimensionality reduction. We derive asymptotic results for our method. In a variety of simulations we demonstrate the properties of the algorithm with respect to interference, learning speed, prediction accuracy, feature detection, and task oriented incremental learning. 

link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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One-handed juggling: A dynamical approach to a rhythmic movement task

Schaal, S., Sternad, D., Atkeson, C. G.

Journal of Motor Behavior, 28(2):165-183, 1996, clmc (article)

Abstract
The skill of rhythmic juggling a ball on a racket is investigated from the viewpoint of nonlinear dynamics. The difference equations that model the dynamical system are analyzed by means of local and non-local stability analyses. These analyses yield that the task dynamics offer an economical juggling pattern which is stable even for open-loop actuator motion. For this pattern, two types of pre dictions are extracted: (i) Stable periodic bouncing is sufficiently characterized by a negative acceleration of the racket at the moment of impact with the ball; (ii) A nonlinear scaling relation maps different juggling trajectories onto one topologically equivalent dynamical system. The relevance of these results for the human control of action was evaluated in an experiment where subjects performed a comparable task of juggling a ball on a paddle. Task manipulations involved different juggling heights and gravity conditions of the ball. The predictions were confirmed: (i) For stable rhythmic performance the paddle's acceleration at impact is negative and fluctuations of the impact acceleration follow predictions from global stability analysis; (ii) For each subject, the realizations of juggling for the different experimental conditions are related by the scaling relation. These results allow the conclusion that for the given task, humans reliably exploit the stable solutions inherent to the dynamics of the task and do not overrule these dynamics by other control mechanisms. The dynamical scaling serves as an efficient principle to generate different movement realizations from only a few parameter changes and is discussed as a dynamical formalization of the principle of motor equivalence.

link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]