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2020


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, September 2020 (article)

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) DOI [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]

2018


A Value-Driven Eldercare Robot: Virtual and Physical Instantiations of a Case-Supported Principle-Based Behavior Paradigm
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]


Playful: Reactive Programming for Orchestrating Robotic Behavior
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]


ClusterNet: Instance Segmentation in RGB-D Images
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]


Real-time Perception meets Reactive Motion Generation
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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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]

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]

2016


A New Perspective and Extension of the Gaussian Filter
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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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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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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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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Bioinspired Motor Control for Articulated Robots [From the Guest Editors]

Vitiello, Nicola, Ijspeert, Auke J, Schaal, S.

IEEE Robotics {\&} Automation Magazine, 23(1):20-21, 2016 (article)

[BibTex]

[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]

2000


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A brachiating robot controller

Nakanishi, J., Fukuda, T., Koditschek, D. E.

IEEE Transactions on Robotics and Automation, 16(2):109-123, 2000, clmc (article)

Abstract
We report on our empirical studies of a new controller for a two-link brachiating robot. Motivated by the pendulum-like motion of an apeâ??s brachiation, we encode this task as the output of a â??target dynamical system.â? Numerical simulations indicate that the resulting controller solves a number of brachiation problems that we term the â??ladder,â? â??swing-up,â? and â??ropeâ? problems. Preliminary analysis provides some explanation for this success. The proposed controller is implemented on a physical system in our laboratory. The robot achieves behaviors including â??swing locomotionâ? and â??swing upâ? and is capable of continuous locomotion over several rungs of a ladder. We discuss a number of formal questions whose answers will be required to gain a full understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of this approach.

link (url) [BibTex]

2000

link (url) [BibTex]


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Interaction of rhythmic and discrete pattern generators in single joint movements

Sternad, D., Dean, W. J., Schaal, S.

Human Movement Science, 19(4):627-665, 2000, clmc (article)

Abstract
The study investigates a single-joint movement task that combines a translatory and cyclic component with the objective to investigate the interaction of discrete and rhythmic movement elements. Participants performed an elbow movement in the horizontal plane, oscillating at a prescribed frequency around one target and shifting to a second target upon a trigger signal, without stopping the oscillation. Analyses focused on extracting the mutual influences of the rhythmic and the discrete component of the task. Major findings are: (1) The onset of the discrete movement was confined to a limited phase window in the rhythmic cycle. (2) Its duration was influenced by the period of oscillation. (3) The rhythmic oscillation was "perturbed" by the discrete movement as indicated by phase resetting. On the basis of these results we propose a model for the coordination of discrete and rhythmic actions (K. Matsuoka, Sustained oscillations generated by mutually inhibiting neurons with adaptations, Biological Cybernetics 52 (1985) 367-376; Mechanisms of frequency and pattern control in the neural rhythm generators, Biological Cybernetics 56 (1987) 345-353). For rhythmic movements an oscillatory pattern generator is developed following models of half-center oscillations (D. Bullock, S. Grossberg, The VITE model: a neural command circuit for generating arm and articulated trajectories, in: J.A.S. Kelso, A.J. Mandel, M. F. Shlesinger (Eds.), Dynamic Patterns in Complex Systems. World Scientific. Singapore. 1988. pp. 305-326). For discrete movements a point attractor dynamics is developed close to the VITE model For each joint degree of freedom both pattern generators co-exist but exert mutual inhibition onto each other. The suggested modeling framework provides a unified account for both discrete and rhythmic movements on the basis of neuronal circuitry. Simulation results demonstrated that the effects observed in human performance can be replicated using the two pattern generators with a mutually inhibiting coupling.

link (url) [BibTex]


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Dynamics of a bouncing ball in human performance

Sternad, D., Duarte, M., Katsumata, H., Schaal, S.

Physical Review E, 63(011902):1-8, 2000, clmc (article)

Abstract
On the basis of a modified bouncing-ball model, we investigated whether human movements utilize principles of dynamic stability in their performance of a similar movement task. Stability analyses of the model provided predictions about conditions indicative of a dynamically stable period-one regime. In a series of experiments, human subjects bounced a ball rhythmically on a racket and displayed these conditions supporting that they attuned to and exploited the dynamic stability properties of the task.

link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]

1996


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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]

1996

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]

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]