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2018


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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]


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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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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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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]

2016


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A New Perspective and Extension of the Gaussian Filter

Wüthrich, M., Trimpe, S., Garcia Cifuentes, C., Kappler, D., Schaal, S.

The International Journal of Robotics Research, 35(14):1731-1749, December 2016 (article)

Abstract
The Gaussian Filter (GF) is one of the most widely used filtering algorithms; instances are the Extended Kalman Filter, the Unscented Kalman Filter and the Divided Difference Filter. The GF represents the belief of the current state by a Gaussian distribution, whose mean is an affine function of the measurement. We show that this representation can be too restrictive to accurately capture the dependences in systems with nonlinear observation models, and we investigate how the GF can be generalized to alleviate this problem. To this end, we view the GF as the solution to a constrained optimization problem. From this new perspective, the GF is seen as a special case of a much broader class of filters, obtained by relaxing the constraint on the form of the approximate posterior. On this basis, we outline some conditions which potential generalizations have to satisfy in order to maintain the computational efficiency of the GF. We propose one concrete generalization which corresponds to the standard GF using a pseudo measurement instead of the actual measurement. Extending an existing GF implementation in this manner is trivial. Nevertheless, we show that this small change can have a major impact on the estimation accuracy.

PDF DOI Project Page [BibTex]

2016

PDF DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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Predictive and Self Triggering for Event-based State Estimation

Trimpe, S.

In Proceedings of the 55th IEEE Conference on Decision and Control (CDC), pages: 3098-3105, Las Vegas, NV, USA, December 2016 (inproceedings)

arXiv PDF DOI Project Page [BibTex]

arXiv PDF DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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Using Probabilistic Movement Primitives for Striking Movements

Gomez-Gonzalez, S., Neumann, G., Schölkopf, B., Peters, J.

16th IEEE-RAS International Conference on Humanoid Robots (Humanoids), pages: 502-508, November 2016 (conference)

link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]

link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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Jointly Learning Trajectory Generation and Hitting Point Prediction in Robot Table Tennis

Huang, Y., Büchler, D., Koc, O., Schölkopf, B., Peters, J.

16th IEEE-RAS International Conference on Humanoid Robots (Humanoids), pages: 650-655, November 2016 (conference)

final link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]

final link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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The Role of Measurement Uncertainty in Optimal Control for Contact Interactions
Workshop on the Algorithmic Foundations of Robotics, pages: 22, November 2016 (conference)

Abstract
Stochastic Optimal Control (SOC) typically considers noise only in the process model, i.e. unknown disturbances. However, in many robotic applications that involve interaction with the environment, such as locomotion and manipulation, uncertainty also comes from lack of pre- cise knowledge of the world, which is not an actual disturbance. We de- velop a computationally efficient SOC algorithm, based on risk-sensitive control, that takes into account uncertainty in the measurements. We include the dynamics of an observer in such a way that the control law explicitly depends on the current measurement uncertainty. We show that high measurement uncertainty leads to low impedance behaviors, a result in contrast with the effects of process noise variance that creates stiff behaviors. Simulation results on a simple 2D manipulator show that our controller can create better interaction with the environment under uncertain contact locations than traditional SOC approaches.

arXiv [BibTex]

arXiv [BibTex]


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Learning Where to Search Using Visual Attention

Kloss, A., Kappler, D., Lensch, H. P. A., Butz, M. V., Schaal, S., Bohg, J.

Proceedings of the IEEE/RSJ Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems, IEEE, IROS, October 2016 (conference)

Abstract
One of the central tasks for a household robot is searching for specific objects. It does not only require localizing the target object but also identifying promising search locations in the scene if the target is not immediately visible. As computation time and hardware resources are usually limited in robotics, it is desirable to avoid expensive visual processing steps that are exhaustively applied over the entire image. The human visual system can quickly select those image locations that have to be processed in detail for a given task. This allows us to cope with huge amounts of information and to efficiently deploy the limited capacities of our visual system. In this paper, we therefore propose to use human fixation data to train a top-down saliency model that predicts relevant image locations when searching for specific objects. We show that the learned model can successfully prune bounding box proposals without rejecting the ground truth object locations. In this aspect, the proposed model outperforms a model that is trained only on the ground truth segmentations of the target object instead of fixation data.

Project Page [BibTex]

PDF Project Page [BibTex]


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Parameter Learning for Improving Binary Descriptor Matching

Sankaran, B., Ramalingam, S., Taguchi, Y.

In International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS) 2016, IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems, October 2016 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Binary descriptors allow fast detection and matching algorithms in computer vision problems. Though binary descriptors can be computed at almost two orders of magnitude faster than traditional gradient based descriptors, they suffer from poor matching accuracy in challenging conditions. In this paper we propose three improvements for binary descriptors in their computation and matching that enhance their performance in comparison to traditional binary and non-binary descriptors without compromising their speed. This is achieved by learning some weights and threshold parameters that allow customized matching under some variations such as lighting and viewpoint. Our suggested improvements can be easily applied to any binary descriptor. We demonstrate our approach on the ORB (Oriented FAST and Rotated BRIEF) descriptor and compare its performance with the traditional ORB and SIFT descriptors on a wide variety of datasets. In all instances, our enhancements outperform standard ORB and is comparable to SIFT.

[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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A New Trajectory Generation Framework in Robotic Table Tennis

Koc, O., Maeda, G., Peters, J.

Proceedings of the IEEE/RSJ Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS), pages: 3750-3756, October 2016 (conference)

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Superpixel Convolutional Networks using Bilateral Inceptions

Gadde, R., Jampani, V., Kiefel, M., Kappler, D., Gehler, P.

In European Conference on Computer Vision (ECCV), Lecture Notes in Computer Science, Springer, 14th European Conference on Computer Vision, October 2016 (inproceedings)

Abstract
In this paper we propose a CNN architecture for semantic image segmentation. We introduce a new “bilateral inception” module that can be inserted in existing CNN architectures and performs bilateral filtering, at multiple feature-scales, between superpixels in an image. The feature spaces for bilateral filtering and other parameters of the module are learned end-to-end using standard backpropagation techniques. The bilateral inception module addresses two issues that arise with general CNN segmentation architectures. First, this module propagates information between (super) pixels while respecting image edges, thus using the structured information of the problem for improved results. Second, the layer recovers a full resolution segmentation result from the lower resolution solution of a CNN. In the experiments, we modify several existing CNN architectures by inserting our inception modules between the last CNN (1 × 1 convolution) layers. Empirical results on three different datasets show reliable improvements not only in comparison to the baseline networks, but also in comparison to several dense-pixel prediction techniques such as CRFs, while being competitive in time.

pdf supplementary poster Project Page Project Page [BibTex]

pdf supplementary poster Project Page Project Page [BibTex]


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Barrista - Caffe Well-Served

Lassner, C., Kappler, D., Kiefel, M., Gehler, P.

In ACM Multimedia Open Source Software Competition, ACM OSSC16, October 2016 (inproceedings)

Abstract
The caffe framework is one of the leading deep learning toolboxes in the machine learning and computer vision community. While it offers efficiency and configurability, it falls short of a full interface to Python. With increasingly involved procedures for training deep networks and reaching depths of hundreds of layers, creating configuration files and keeping them consistent becomes an error prone process. We introduce the barrista framework, offering full, pythonic control over caffe. It separates responsibilities and offers code to solve frequently occurring tasks for pre-processing, training and model inspection. It is compatible to all caffe versions since mid 2015 and can import and export .prototxt files. Examples are included, e.g., a deep residual network implemented in only 172 lines (for arbitrary depths), comparing to 2320 lines in the official implementation for the equivalent model.

pdf link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]

pdf link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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Robust Gaussian Filtering using a Pseudo Measurement

Wüthrich, M., Garcia Cifuentes, C., Trimpe, S., Meier, F., Bohg, J., Issac, J., Schaal, S.

In Proceedings of the American Control Conference (ACC), Boston, MA, USA, July 2016 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Most widely-used state estimation algorithms, such as the Extended Kalman Filter and the Unscented Kalman Filter, belong to the family of Gaussian Filters (GF). Unfortunately, GFs fail if the measurement process is modelled by a fat-tailed distribution. This is a severe limitation, because thin-tailed measurement models, such as the analytically-convenient and therefore widely-used Gaussian distribution, are sensitive to outliers. In this paper, we show that mapping the measurements into a specific feature space enables any existing GF algorithm to work with fat-tailed measurement models. We find a feature function which is optimal under certain conditions. Simulation results show that the proposed method allows for robust filtering in both linear and nonlinear systems with measurements contaminated by fat-tailed noise.

Web link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]

Web link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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Robot Arm Pose Estimation by Pixel-wise Regression of Joint Angles

Widmaier, F., Kappler, D., Schaal, S., Bohg, J.

In Proceedings of the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA) 2016, IEEE, IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation, May 2016 (inproceedings)

Abstract
To achieve accurate vision-based control with a robotic arm, a good hand-eye coordination is required. However, knowing the current configuration of the arm can be very difficult due to noisy readings from joint encoders or an inaccurate hand-eye calibration. We propose an approach for robot arm pose estimation that uses depth images of the arm as input to directly estimate angular joint positions. This is a frame-by-frame method which does not rely on good initialisation of the solution from the previous frames or knowledge from the joint encoders. For estimation, we employ a random regression forest which is trained on synthetically generated data. We compare different training objectives of the forest and also analyse the influence of prior segmentation of the arms on accuracy. We show that this approach improves previous work both in terms of computational complexity and accuracy. Despite being trained on synthetic data only, we demonstrate that the estimation also works on real depth images.

pdf DOI Project Page [BibTex]

pdf DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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Optimizing for what matters: the Top Grasp Hypothesis

Kappler, D., Schaal, S., Bohg, J.

In Proceedings of the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA) 2016, IEEE, IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation, May 2016 (inproceedings)

Abstract
In this paper, we consider the problem of robotic grasping of objects when only partial and noisy sensor data of the environment is available. We are specifically interested in the problem of reliably selecting the best hypothesis from a whole set. This is commonly the case when trying to grasp an object for which we can only observe a partial point cloud from one viewpoint through noisy sensors. There will be many possible ways to successfully grasp this object, and even more which will fail. We propose a supervised learning method that is trained with a ranking loss. This explicitly encourages that the top-ranked training grasp in a hypothesis set is also positively labeled. We show how we adapt the standard ranking loss to work with data that has binary labels and explain the benefits of this formulation. Additionally, we show how we can efficiently optimize this loss with stochastic gradient descent. In quantitative experiments, we show that we can outperform previous models by a large margin.

pdf DOI Project Page [BibTex]

pdf DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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Exemplar-based Prediction of Object Properties from Local Shape Similarity

Bohg, J., Kappler, D., Schaal, S.

In Proceedings of the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA) 2016, IEEE, IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation, May 2016 (inproceedings)

Abstract
We propose a novel method that enables a robot to identify a graspable object part of an unknown object given only noisy and partial information that is obtained from an RGB-D camera. Our method combines the benefits of local with the advantages of global methods. It learns a classifier that takes a local shape representation as input and outputs the probability that a grasp applied at this location will be successful. Given a query data point that is classified in this way, we can retrieve all the locally similar training data points and use them to predict latent global object shape. This information may help to further prune positively labeled grasp hypotheses based on, e.g. relation to the predicted average global shape or suitability for a specific task. This prediction can also guide scene exploration to prune object shape hypotheses. To learn the function that maps local shape to grasp stability we use a Random Forest Classifier. We show that our method reaches the same classification performance as the current state-of-the-art on this dataset which uses a Convolutional Neural Network. Additionally, we exploit the natural ability of the Random Forest to cluster similar data. For a positively predicted query data point, we retrieve all the locally similar training data points that are associated with the same leaf nodes of the Random Forest. The main insight from this work is that local object shape that affords a grasp is also a good predictor of global object shape. We empirically support this claim with quantitative experiments. Additionally, we demonstrate the predictive capability of the method on some real data examples.

pdf DOI Project Page [BibTex]

pdf DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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Automatic LQR Tuning Based on Gaussian Process Global Optimization

Marco, A., Hennig, P., Bohg, J., Schaal, S., Trimpe, S.

In Proceedings of the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA), pages: 270-277, IEEE, IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation, May 2016 (inproceedings)

Abstract
This paper proposes an automatic controller tuning framework based on linear optimal control combined with Bayesian optimization. With this framework, an initial set of controller gains is automatically improved according to a pre-defined performance objective evaluated from experimental data. The underlying Bayesian optimization algorithm is Entropy Search, which represents the latent objective as a Gaussian process and constructs an explicit belief over the location of the objective minimum. This is used to maximize the information gain from each experimental evaluation. Thus, this framework shall yield improved controllers with fewer evaluations compared to alternative approaches. A seven-degree- of-freedom robot arm balancing an inverted pole is used as the experimental demonstrator. Results of a two- and four- dimensional tuning problems highlight the method’s potential for automatic controller tuning on robotic platforms.

Video PDF DOI Project Page [BibTex]

Video PDF DOI Project Page [BibTex]


Thumb xl screen shot 2016 01 19 at 14.56.20
Depth-based Object Tracking Using a Robust Gaussian Filter

Issac, J., Wüthrich, M., Garcia Cifuentes, C., Bohg, J., Trimpe, S., Schaal, S.

In Proceedings of the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA) 2016, IEEE, IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation, May 2016 (inproceedings)

Abstract
We consider the problem of model-based 3D- tracking of objects given dense depth images as input. Two difficulties preclude the application of a standard Gaussian filter to this problem. First of all, depth sensors are characterized by fat-tailed measurement noise. To address this issue, we show how a recently published robustification method for Gaussian filters can be applied to the problem at hand. Thereby, we avoid using heuristic outlier detection methods that simply reject measurements if they do not match the model. Secondly, the computational cost of the standard Gaussian filter is prohibitive due to the high-dimensional measurement, i.e. the depth image. To address this problem, we propose an approximation to reduce the computational complexity of the filter. In quantitative experiments on real data we show how our method clearly outperforms the standard Gaussian filter. Furthermore, we compare its performance to a particle-filter-based tracking method, and observe comparable computational efficiency and improved accuracy and smoothness of the estimates.

Video Bayesian Object Tracking Library Bayesian Filtering Framework Object Tracking Dataset link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]

Video Bayesian Object Tracking Library Bayesian Filtering Framework Object Tracking Dataset link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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Implications of Action-Oriented Paradigm Shifts in Cognitive Science

Dominey, P. F., Prescott, T. J., Bohg, J., Engel, A. K., Gallagher, S., Heed, T., Hoffmann, M., Knoblich, G., Prinz, W., Schwartz, A.

In The Pragmatic Turn - Toward Action-Oriented Views in Cognitive Science, 18, pages: 333-356, 20, Strüngmann Forum Reports, vol. 18, J. Lupp, series editor, (Editors: Andreas K. Engel and Karl J. Friston and Danica Kragic), The MIT Press, 18th Ernst Strüngmann Forum, May 2016 (incollection) In press

Abstract
An action-oriented perspective changes the role of an individual from a passive observer to an actively engaged agent interacting in a closed loop with the world as well as with others. Cognition exists to serve action within a landscape that contains both. This chapter surveys this landscape and addresses the status of the pragmatic turn. Its potential influence on science and the study of cognition are considered (including perception, social cognition, social interaction, sensorimotor entrainment, and language acquisition) and its impact on how neuroscience is studied is also investigated (with the notion that brains do not passively build models, but instead support the guidance of action). A review of its implications in robotics and engineering includes a discussion of the application of enactive control principles to couple action and perception in robotics as well as the conceptualization of system design in a more holistic, less modular manner. Practical applications that can impact the human condition are reviewed (e.g. educational applications, treatment possibilities for developmental and psychopathological disorders, the development of neural prostheses). All of this foreshadows the potential societal implications of the pragmatic turn. The chapter concludes that an action-oriented approach emphasizes a continuum of interaction between technical aspects of cognitive systems and robotics, biology, psychology, the social sciences, and the humanities, where the individual is part of a grounded cultural system.

The Pragmatic Turn - Toward Action-Oriented Views in Cognitive Science 18th Ernst Strüngmann Forum Bibliography Chapter link (url) [BibTex]

The Pragmatic Turn - Toward Action-Oriented Views in Cognitive Science 18th Ernst Strüngmann Forum Bibliography Chapter link (url) [BibTex]


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Communication Rate Analysis for Event-based State Estimation

(Best student paper finalist)

Ebner, S., Trimpe, S.

In Proceedings of the 13th International Workshop on Discrete Event Systems, May 2016 (inproceedings)

PDF DOI [BibTex]

PDF DOI [BibTex]


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A Lightweight Robotic Arm with Pneumatic Muscles for Robot Learning

Büchler, D., Ott, H., Peters, J.

Proceedings of the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA), pages: 4086-4092, IEEE, IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation, May 2016 (conference)

ICRA16final DOI Project Page [BibTex]

ICRA16final DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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Drifting Gaussian Processes with Varying Neighborhood Sizes for Online Model Learning

Meier, F., Schaal, S.

In Proceedings of the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA) 2016, IEEE, IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation, May 2016 (inproceedings)

[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Learning Action-Perception Cycles in Robotics: A Question of Representations and Embodiment

Bohg, J., Kragic, D.

In The Pragmatic Turn - Toward Action-Oriented Views in Cognitive Science, 18, pages: 309-320, 18, Strüngmann Forum Reports, vol. 18, J. Lupp, series editor, (Editors: Andreas K. Engel and Karl J. Friston and Danica Kragic), The MIT Press, 18th Ernst Strüngmann Forum, May 2016 (incollection) In press

Abstract
Since the 1950s, robotics research has sought to build a general-purpose agent capable of autonomous, open-ended interaction with realistic, unconstrained environments. Cognition is perceived to be at the core of this process, yet understanding has been challenged because cognition is referred to differently within and across research areas, and is not clearly defined. The classic robotics approach is decomposition into functional modules which perform planning, reasoning, and problem-solving or provide input to these mechanisms. Although advancements have been made and numerous success stories reported in specific niches, this systems-engineering approach has not succeeded in building such a cognitive agent. The emergence of an action-oriented paradigm offers a new approach: action and perception are no longer separable into functional modules but must be considered in a complete loop. This chapter reviews work on different mechanisms for action- perception learning and discusses the role of embodiment in the design of the underlying representations and learning. It discusses the evaluation of agents and suggests the development of a new embodied Turing Test. Appropriate scenarios need to be devised in addition to current competitions, so that abilities can be tested over long time periods.

18th Ernst Strüngmann Forum The Pragmatic Turn- Toward Action-Oriented Views in Cognitive Science Bibliography Chapter link (url) [BibTex]

18th Ernst Strüngmann Forum The Pragmatic Turn- Toward Action-Oriented Views in Cognitive Science Bibliography Chapter link (url) [BibTex]


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Probabilistic Inference for Determining Options in Reinforcement Learning

Daniel, C., van Hoof, H., Peters, J., Neumann, G.

Machine Learning, Special Issue, 104(2):337-357, (Editors: Gärtner, T., Nanni, M., Passerini, A. and Robardet, C.), European Conference on Machine Learning im Machine Learning, Journal Track, 2016, Best Student Paper Award of ECML-PKDD 2016 (article)

DOI Project Page [BibTex]

DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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Ensuring Ethical Behavior from Autonomous Systems

Anderson, M., Anderson, S. L., Berenz, V.

In Artificial Intelligence Applied to Assistive Technologies and Smart Environments, Papers from the 2016 AAAI Workshop, Phoenix, Arizona, USA, February 12, 2016, 2016 (inproceedings)

link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Towards Robust Online Inverse Dynamics Learning

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

Proceedings of the IEEE/RSJ Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems, IEEE, IROS, 2016 (conference) Accepted

fmeier_iros_2016 [BibTex]

fmeier_iros_2016 [BibTex]


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Self-Supervised Regrasping using Spatio-Temporal Tactile Features and Reinforcement Learning

Chebotar, Y., Hausman, K., Su, Z., Sukhatme, G., Schaal, S.

In International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS) 2016, IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems, 2016 (inproceedings)

pdf video [BibTex]

pdf video [BibTex]


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Modeling Variability of Musculoskeletal Systems with Heteroscedastic Gaussian Processes

Büchler, D., Calandra, R., Peters, J.

Workshop on Neurorobotics, Neural Information Processing Systems (NIPS), 2016 (conference)

NIPS16Neurorobotics [BibTex]

NIPS16Neurorobotics [BibTex]


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Locally Weighted Regression for Control

Ting, J., Meier, F., Vijayakumar, S., Schaal, S.

In Encyclopedia of Machine Learning and Data Mining, pages: 1-14, Springer US, Boston, MA, 2016 (inbook)

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Event-based Sampling for Reducing Communication Load in Realtime Human Motion Analysis by Wireless Inertial Sensor Networks

Laidig, D., Trimpe, S., Seel, T.

Current Directions in Biomedical Engineering, 2(1):711-714, De Gruyter, 2016 (article)

PDF DOI [BibTex]

PDF DOI [BibTex]


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Generalizing Regrasping with Supervised Policy Learning

Chebotar, Y., Hausman, K., Kroemer, O., Sukhatme, G., Schaal, S.

In International Symposium on Experimental Robotics (ISER) 2016, International Symposium on Experimental Robotics, 2016 (inproceedings)

pdf video [BibTex]

pdf video [BibTex]


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A Convex Model of Momentum Dynamics for Multi-Contact Motion Generation

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

In 2016 IEEE-RAS 16th International Conference on Humanoid Robots Humanoids, pages: 842-849, IEEE, Cancun, Mexico, 2016 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Linear models for control and motion generation of humanoid robots have received significant attention in the past years, not only due to their well known theoretical guarantees, but also because of practical computational advantages. However, to tackle more challenging tasks and scenarios such as locomotion on uneven terrain, a more expressive model is required. In this paper, we are interested in contact interaction-centered motion optimization based on the momentum dynamics model. This model is non-linear and non-convex; however, we find a relaxation of the problem that allows us to formulate it as a single convex quadratically-constrained quadratic program (QCQP) that can be very efficiently optimized and is useful for multi-contact planning. This convex model is then coupled to the optimization of end-effector contact locations using a mixed integer program, which can also be efficiently solved. This becomes relevant e.g. to recover from external pushes, where a predefined stepping plan is likely to fail and an online adaptation of the contact location is needed. The performance of our algorithm is demonstrated in several multi-contact scenarios for a humanoid robot.

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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On the Effects of Measurement Uncertainty in Optimal Control of Contact Interactions

Ponton, B., Schaal, S., Righetti, L.

In The 12th International Workshop on the Algorithmic Foundations of Robotics WAFR, Berkeley, USA, 2016 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Stochastic Optimal Control (SOC) typically considers noise only in the process model, i.e. unknown disturbances. However, in many robotic applications involving interaction with the environment, such as locomotion and manipulation, uncertainty also comes from lack of precise knowledge of the world, which is not an actual disturbance. We analyze the effects of also considering noise in the measurement model, by devel- oping a SOC algorithm based on risk-sensitive control, that includes the dynamics of an observer in such a way that the control law explicitly de- pends on the current measurement uncertainty. In simulation results on a simple 2D manipulator, we have observed that measurement uncertainty leads to low impedance behaviors, a result in contrast with the effects of process noise that creates stiff behaviors. This suggests that taking into account measurement uncertainty could be a potentially very interesting way to approach problems involving uncertain contact interactions.

link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Momentum Control with Hierarchical Inverse Dynamics on a Torque-Controlled Humanoid

Herzog, A., Rotella, N., Mason, S., Grimminger, F., Schaal, S., Righetti, L.

Autonomous Robots, 40(3):473-491, 2016 (article)

Abstract
Hierarchical inverse dynamics based on cascades of quadratic programs have been proposed for the control of legged robots. They have important benefits but to the best of our knowledge have never been implemented on a torque controlled humanoid where model inaccuracies, sensor noise and real-time computation requirements can be problematic. Using a reformulation of existing algorithms, we propose a simplification of the problem that allows to achieve real-time control. Momentum-based control is integrated in the task hierarchy and a LQR design approach is used to compute the desired associated closed-loop behavior and improve performance. Extensive experiments on various balancing and tracking tasks show very robust performance in the face of unknown disturbances, even when the humanoid is standing on one foot. Our results demonstrate that hierarchical inverse dynamics together with momentum control can be efficiently used for feedback control under real robot conditions.

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Inertial Sensor-Based Humanoid Joint State Estimation

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

In 2016 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA), pages: 1825-1831, IEEE, Stockholm, Sweden, 2016 (inproceedings)

Abstract
This work presents methods for the determination of a humanoid robot's joint velocities and accelerations directly from link-mounted Inertial Measurement Units (IMUs) each containing a three-axis gyroscope and a three-axis accelerometer. No information about the global pose of the floating base or its links is required and precise knowledge of the link IMU poses is not necessary due to presented calibration routines. Additionally, a filter is introduced to fuse gyroscope angular velocities with joint position measurements and compensate the computed joint velocities for time-varying gyroscope biases. The resulting joint velocities are subject to less noise and delay than filtered velocities computed from numerical differentiation of joint potentiometer signals, leading to superior performance in joint feedback control as demonstrated in experiments performed on a SARCOS hydraulic humanoid.

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Stepping Stabilization Using a Combination of DCM Tracking and Step Adjustment

Khadiv, M., Kleff, S., Herzog, A., Moosavian, S. A. A., Schaal, S., Righetti, L.

In 2016 4th International Conference on Robotics and Mechatronics (ICROM), pages: 130-135, IEEE, Teheran, Iran, 2016 (inproceedings)

Abstract
In this paper, a method for stabilizing biped robots stepping by a combination of Divergent Component of Motion (DCM) tracking and step adjustment is proposed. In this method, the DCM trajectory is generated, consistent with the predefined footprints. Furthermore, a swing foot trajectory modification strategy is proposed to adapt the landing point, using DCM measurement. In order to apply the generated trajectories to the full robot, a Hierarchical Inverse Dynamics (HID) is employed. The HID enables us to use different combinations of the DCM tracking and step adjustment for stabilizing different biped robots. Simulation experiments on two scenarios for two different simulated robots, one with active ankles and the other with passive ankles, are carried out. Simulation results demonstrate the effectiveness of the proposed method for robots with both active and passive ankles.

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]