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Combining learned and analytical models for predicting action effects from sensory data
Combining learned and analytical models for predicting action effects from sensory data

Kloss, A., Schaal, S., Bohg, J.

International Journal of Robotics Research, 2020 (article) Accepted

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]


Safe and Fast Tracking on a Robot Manipulator: Robust MPC and Neural Network Control
Safe and Fast Tracking on a Robot Manipulator: Robust MPC and Neural Network Control

Nubert, J., Koehler, J., Berenz, V., Allgower, F., Trimpe, S.

IEEE Robotics and Automation Letters, 2020 (article) Accepted

Abstract
Fast feedback control and safety guarantees are essential in modern robotics. We present an approach that achieves both by combining novel robust model predictive control (MPC) with function approximation via (deep) neural networks (NNs). The result is a new approach for complex tasks with nonlinear, uncertain, and constrained dynamics as are common in robotics. Specifically, we leverage recent results in MPC research to propose a new robust setpoint tracking MPC algorithm, which achieves reliable and safe tracking of a dynamic setpoint while guaranteeing stability and constraint satisfaction. The presented robust MPC scheme constitutes a one-layer approach that unifies the often separated planning and control layers, by directly computing the control command based on a reference and possibly obstacle positions. As a separate contribution, we show how the computation time of the MPC can be drastically reduced by approximating the MPC law with a NN controller. The NN is trained and validated from offline samples of the MPC, yielding statistical guarantees, and used in lieu thereof at run time. Our experiments on a state-of-the-art robot manipulator are the first to show that both the proposed robust and approximate MPC schemes scale to real-world robotic systems.

arXiv PDF DOI [BibTex]

arXiv PDF DOI [BibTex]

2017


Interactive Perception: Leveraging Action in Perception and Perception in Action
Interactive Perception: Leveraging Action in Perception and Perception in Action

Bohg, J., Hausman, K., Sankaran, B., Brock, O., Kragic, D., Schaal, S., Sukhatme, G.

IEEE Transactions on Robotics, 33, pages: 1273-1291, December 2017 (article)

Abstract
Recent approaches in robotics follow the insight that perception is facilitated by interactivity with the environment. These approaches are subsumed under the term of Interactive Perception (IP). We argue that IP provides the following benefits: (i) any type of forceful interaction with the environment creates a new type of informative sensory signal that would otherwise not be present and (ii) any prior knowledge about the nature of the interaction supports the interpretation of the signal. This is facilitated by knowledge of the regularity in the combined space of sensory information and action parameters. The goal of this survey is to postulate this as a principle and collect evidence in support by analyzing and categorizing existing work in this area. We also provide an overview of the most important applications of Interactive Perception. We close this survey by discussing the remaining open questions. Thereby, we hope to define a field and inspire future work.

arXiv DOI Project Page [BibTex]

2017

arXiv DOI Project Page [BibTex]


Acquiring Target Stacking Skills by Goal-Parameterized Deep Reinforcement Learning
Acquiring Target Stacking Skills by Goal-Parameterized Deep Reinforcement Learning

Li, W., Bohg, J., Fritz, M.

arXiv, November 2017 (article) Submitted

Abstract
Understanding physical phenomena is a key component of human intelligence and enables physical interaction with previously unseen environments. In this paper, we study how an artificial agent can autonomously acquire this intuition through interaction with the environment. We created a synthetic block stacking environment with physics simulation in which the agent can learn a policy end-to-end through trial and error. Thereby, we bypass to explicitly model physical knowledge within the policy. We are specifically interested in tasks that require the agent to reach a given goal state that may be different for every new trial. To this end, we propose a deep reinforcement learning framework that learns policies which are parametrized by a goal. We validated the model on a toy example navigating in a grid world with different target positions and in a block stacking task with different target structures of the final tower. In contrast to prior work, our policies show better generalization across different goals.

arXiv [BibTex]


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Event-based State Estimation: An Emulation-based Approach

Trimpe, S.

IET Control Theory & Applications, 11(11):1684-1693, July 2017 (article)

Abstract
An event-based state estimation approach for reducing communication in a networked control system is proposed. Multiple distributed sensor agents observe a dynamic process and sporadically transmit their measurements to estimator agents over a shared bus network. Local event-triggering protocols ensure that data is transmitted only when necessary to meet a desired estimation accuracy. The event-based design is shown to emulate the performance of a centralised state observer design up to guaranteed bounds, but with reduced communication. The stability results for state estimation are extended to the distributed control system that results when the local estimates are used for feedback control. Results from numerical simulations and hardware experiments illustrate the effectiveness of the proposed approach in reducing network communication.

arXiv Supplementary material PDF DOI Project Page [BibTex]


Probabilistic Articulated Real-Time Tracking for Robot Manipulation
Probabilistic Articulated Real-Time Tracking for Robot Manipulation

(Best Paper of RA-L 2017, Finalist of Best Robotic Vision Paper Award of ICRA 2017)

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

IEEE Robotics and Automation Letters (RA-L), 2(2):577-584, April 2017 (article)

Abstract
We propose a probabilistic filtering method which fuses joint measurements with depth images to yield a precise, real-time estimate of the end-effector pose in the camera frame. This avoids the need for frame transformations when using it in combination with visual object tracking methods. Precision is achieved by modeling and correcting biases in the joint measurements as well as inaccuracies in the robot model, such as poor extrinsic camera calibration. We make our method computationally efficient through a principled combination of Kalman filtering of the joint measurements and asynchronous depth-image updates based on the Coordinate Particle Filter. We quantitatively evaluate our approach on a dataset recorded from a real robotic platform, annotated with ground truth from a motion capture system. We show that our approach is robust and accurate even under challenging conditions such as fast motion, significant and long-term occlusions, and time-varying biases. We release the dataset along with open-source code of our approach to allow for quantitative comparison with alternative approaches.

arXiv video code and dataset video PDF DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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Anticipatory Action Selection for Human-Robot Table Tennis

Wang, Z., Boularias, A., Mülling, K., Schölkopf, B., Peters, J.

Artificial Intelligence, 247, pages: 399-414, 2017, Special Issue on AI and Robotics (article)

Abstract
Abstract Anticipation can enhance the capability of a robot in its interaction with humans, where the robot predicts the humans' intention for selecting its own action. We present a novel framework of anticipatory action selection for human-robot interaction, which is capable to handle nonlinear and stochastic human behaviors such as table tennis strokes and allows the robot to choose the optimal action based on prediction of the human partner's intention with uncertainty. The presented framework is generic and can be used in many human-robot interaction scenarios, for example, in navigation and human-robot co-manipulation. In this article, we conduct a case study on human-robot table tennis. Due to the limited amount of time for executing hitting movements, a robot usually needs to initiate its hitting movement before the opponent hits the ball, which requires the robot to be anticipatory based on visual observation of the opponent's movement. Previous work on Intention-Driven Dynamics Models (IDDM) allowed the robot to predict the intended target of the opponent. In this article, we address the problem of action selection and optimal timing for initiating a chosen action by formulating the anticipatory action selection as a Partially Observable Markov Decision Process (POMDP), where the transition and observation are modeled by the \{IDDM\} framework. We present two approaches to anticipatory action selection based on the \{POMDP\} formulation, i.e., a model-free policy learning method based on Least-Squares Policy Iteration (LSPI) that employs the \{IDDM\} for belief updates, and a model-based Monte-Carlo Planning (MCP) method, which benefits from the transition and observation model by the IDDM. Experimental results using real data in a simulated environment show the importance of anticipatory action selection, and that \{POMDPs\} are suitable to formulate the anticipatory action selection problem by taking into account the uncertainties in prediction. We also show that existing algorithms for POMDPs, such as \{LSPI\} and MCP, can be applied to substantially improve the robot's performance in its interaction with humans.

DOI Project Page [BibTex]

DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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Robot Learning

Peters, J., Lee, D., Kober, J., Nguyen-Tuong, D., Bagnell, J., Schaal, S.

In Springer Handbook of Robotics, pages: 357-394, 15, 2nd, (Editors: Siciliano, Bruno and Khatib, Oussama), Springer International Publishing, 2017 (inbook)

Project Page [BibTex]

Project Page [BibTex]

2012


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From Dynamic Movement Primitives to Associative Skill Memories

Pastor, P., Kalakrishnan, M., Meier, F., Stulp, F., Buchli, J., Theodorou, E., Schaal, S.

Robotics and Autonomous Systems, 2012 (article)

Project Page [BibTex]

2012

Project Page [BibTex]


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Model-free reinforcement learning of impedance control in stochastic environments

Stulp, Freek, Buchli, Jonas, Ellmer, Alice, Mistry, Michael, Theodorou, Evangelos A., Schaal, S.

Autonomous Mental Development, IEEE Transactions on, 4(4):330-341, 2012 (article)

[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Reinforcement Learning with Sequences of Motion Primitives for Robust Manipulation

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

IEEE Transactions on Robotics, 2012 (article)

[BibTex]

[BibTex]

2011


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

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

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

[BibTex]

2011

[BibTex]


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Bayesian robot system identification with input and output noise

Ting, J., D’Souza, A., Schaal, S.

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

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

link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Learning variable impedance control

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

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

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

link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Understanding haptics by evolving mechatronic systems

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

Progress in Brain Research, 192, pages: 129, 2011 (article)

[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Intelligent Mobility—Autonomous Outdoor Robotics at the DFKI

Joyeux, S., Schwendner, J., Kirchner, F., Babu, A., Grimminger, F., Machowinski, J., Paranhos, P., Gaudig, C.

KI, 25(2):133-139, May 2011 (article)

DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]

2002


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Forward models in visuomotor control

Mehta, B., Schaal, S.

J Neurophysiol, 88(2):942-53, August 2002, clmc (article)

Abstract
In recent years, an increasing number of research projects investigated whether the central nervous system employs internal models in motor control. While inverse models in the control loop can be identified more readily in both motor behavior and the firing of single neurons, providing direct evidence for the existence of forward models is more complicated. In this paper, we will discuss such an identification of forward models in the context of the visuomotor control of an unstable dynamic system, the balancing of a pole on a finger. Pole balancing imposes stringent constraints on the biological controller, as it needs to cope with the large delays of visual information processing while keeping the pole at an unstable equilibrium. We hypothesize various model-based and non-model-based control schemes of how visuomotor control can be accomplished in this task, including Smith Predictors, predictors with Kalman filters, tapped-delay line control, and delay-uncompensated control. Behavioral experiments with human participants allow exclusion of most of the hypothesized control schemes. In the end, our data support the existence of a forward model in the sensory preprocessing loop of control. As an important part of our research, we will provide a discussion of when and how forward models can be identified and also the possible pitfalls in the search for forward models in control.

link (url) [BibTex]

2002

link (url) [BibTex]


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Learning robot control

Schaal, S.

In The handbook of brain theory and neural networks, 2nd Edition, pages: 983-987, 2, (Editors: Arbib, M. A.), MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, 2002, clmc (inbook)

Abstract
This is a review article on learning control in robots.

link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Arm and hand movement control

Schaal, S.

In The handbook of brain theory and neural networks, 2nd Edition, pages: 110-113, 2, (Editors: Arbib, M. A.), MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, 2002, clmc (inbook)

Abstract
This is a review article on computational and biological research on arm and hand control.

link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Scalable techniques from nonparameteric statistics for real-time robot learning

Schaal, S., Atkeson, C. G., Vijayakumar, S.

Applied Intelligence, 17(1):49-60, 2002, clmc (article)

Abstract
Locally weighted learning (LWL) is a class of techniques from nonparametric statistics that provides useful representations and training algorithms for learning about complex phenomena during autonomous adaptive control of robotic systems. This paper introduces several LWL algorithms that have been tested successfully in real-time learning of complex robot tasks. We discuss two major classes of LWL, memory-based LWL and purely incremental LWL that does not need to remember any data explicitly. In contrast to the traditional belief that LWL methods cannot work well in high-dimensional spaces, we provide new algorithms that have been tested on up to 90 dimensional learning problems. The applicability of our LWL algorithms is demonstrated in various robot learning examples, including the learning of devil-sticking, pole-balancing by a humanoid robot arm, and inverse-dynamics learning for a seven and a 30 degree-of-freedom robot. In all these examples, the application of our statistical neural networks techniques allowed either faster or more accurate acquisition of motor control than classical control engineering.

link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]

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]

1991


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Ways to smarter CAD-systems

Ehrlenspiel, K., Schaal, S.

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

[BibTex]

1991

[BibTex]