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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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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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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, May 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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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]

2012


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Towards Multi-DOF model mediated teleoperation: Using vision to augment feedback

Willaert, B., Bohg, J., Van Brussel, H., Niemeyer, G.

In IEEE International Workshop on Haptic Audio Visual Environments and Games (HAVE), pages: 25-31, October 2012 (inproceedings)

Abstract
In this paper, we address some of the challenges that arise as model-mediated teleoperation is applied to systems with multiple degrees of freedom and multiple sensors. Specifically we use a system with position, force, and vision sensors to explore an environment geometry in two degrees of freedom. The inclusion of vision is proposed to alleviate the difficulties of estimating an increasing number of environment properties. Vision can furthermore increase the predictive nature of model-mediated teleoperation, by effectively predicting touch feedback before the slave is even in contact with the environment. We focus on the case of estimating the location and orientation of a local surface patch at the contact point between the slave and the environment. We describe the various information sources with their respective limitations and create a combined model estimator as part of a multi-d.o.f. model-mediated controller. An experiment demonstrates the feasibility and benefits of utilizing vision sensors in teleoperation.

DOI [BibTex]

2012

DOI [BibTex]


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Failure Recovery with Shared Autonomy

Sankaran, B., Pitzer, B., Osentoski, S.

In International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems, October 2012 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Building robots capable of long term autonomy has been a long standing goal of robotics research. Such systems must be capable of performing certain tasks with a high degree of robustness and repeatability. In the context of personal robotics, these tasks could range anywhere from retrieving items from a refrigerator, loading a dishwasher, to setting up a dinner table. Given the complexity of tasks there are a multitude of failure scenarios that the robot can encounter, irrespective of whether the environment is static or dynamic. For a robot to be successful in such situations, it would need to know how to recover from failures or when to ask a human for help. This paper, presents a novel shared autonomy behavioral executive to addresses these issues. We demonstrate how this executive combines generalized logic based recovery and human intervention to achieve continuous failure free operation. We tested the systems over 250 trials of two different use case experiments. Our current algorithm drastically reduced human intervention from 26% to 4% on the first experiment and 46% to 9% on the second experiment. This system provides a new dimension to robot autonomy, where robots can exhibit long term failure free operation with minimal human supervision. We also discuss how the system can be generalized.

link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Task-Based Grasp Adaptation on a Humanoid Robot

Bohg, J., Welke, K., León, B., Do, M., Song, D., Wohlkinger, W., Aldoma, A., Madry, M., Przybylski, M., Asfour, T., Marti, H., Kragic, D., Morales, A., Vincze, M.

In 10th IFAC Symposium on Robot Control, SyRoCo 2012, Dubrovnik, Croatia, September 5-7, 2012., pages: 779-786, September 2012 (inproceedings)

Abstract
In this paper, we present an approach towards autonomous grasping of objects according to their category and a given task. Recent advances in the field of object segmentation and categorization as well as task-based grasp inference have been leveraged by integrating them into one pipeline. This allows us to transfer task-specific grasp experience between objects of the same category. The effectiveness of the approach is demonstrated on the humanoid robot ARMAR-IIIa.

Video pdf DOI [BibTex]

Video pdf DOI [BibTex]


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Movement Segmentation and Recognition for Imitation Learning

Meier, F., Theodorou, E., Schaal, S.

In Seventeenth International Conference on Artificial Intelligence and Statistics, La Palma, Canary Islands, Fifteenth International Conference on Artificial Intelligence and Statistics , April 2012 (inproceedings)

link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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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]

Project Page [BibTex]


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Inverse dynamics with optimal distribution of contact forces for the control of legged robots

Righetti, L., Schaal, S.

In Dynamic Walking 2012, Pensacola, 2012 (inproceedings)

[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Encoding of Periodic and their Transient Motions by a Single Dynamic Movement Primitive

Ernesti, J., Righetti, L., Do, M., Asfour, T., Schaal, S.

In 2012 12th IEEE-RAS International Conference on Humanoid Robots (Humanoids 2012), pages: 57-64, IEEE, Osaka, Japan, November 2012 (inproceedings)

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Learning Force Control Policies for Compliant Robotic Manipulation

Kalakrishnan, M., Righetti, L., Pastor, P., Schaal, S.

In ICML’12 Proceedings of the 29th International Coference on International Conference on Machine Learning, pages: 49-50, Edinburgh, Scotland, 2012 (inproceedings)

[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Quadratic programming for inverse dynamics with optimal distribution of contact forces

Righetti, L., Schaal, S.

In 2012 12th IEEE-RAS International Conference on Humanoid Robots (Humanoids 2012), pages: 538-543, IEEE, Osaka, Japan, November 2012 (inproceedings)

Abstract
In this contribution we propose an inverse dynamics controller for a humanoid robot that exploits torque redundancy to minimize any combination of linear and quadratic costs in the contact forces and the commands. In addition the controller satisfies linear equality and inequality constraints in the contact forces and the commands such as torque limits, unilateral contacts or friction cones limits. The originality of our approach resides in the formulation of the problem as a quadratic program where we only need to solve for the control commands and where the contact forces are optimized implicitly. Furthermore, we do not need a structured representation of the dynamics of the robot (i.e. an explicit computation of the inertia matrix). It is in contrast with existing methods based on quadratic programs. The controller is then robust to uncertainty in the estimation of the dynamics model and the optimization is fast enough to be implemented in high bandwidth torque control loops that are increasingly available on humanoid platforms. We demonstrate properties of our controller with simulations of a human size humanoid robot.

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [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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Towards Associative Skill Memories

Pastor, P., Kalakrishnan, M., Righetti, L., Schaal, S.

In 2012 12th IEEE-RAS International Conference on Humanoid Robots (Humanoids 2012), pages: 309-315, IEEE, Osaka, Japan, November 2012 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Movement primitives as basis of movement planning and control have become a popular topic in recent years. The key idea of movement primitives is that a rather small set of stereotypical movements should suffice to create a large set of complex manipulation skills. An interesting side effect of stereotypical movement is that it also creates stereotypical sensory events, e.g., in terms of kinesthetic variables, haptic variables, or, if processed appropriately, visual variables. Thus, a movement primitive executed towards a particular object in the environment will associate a large number of sensory variables that are typical for this manipulation skill. These association can be used to increase robustness towards perturbations, and they also allow failure detection and switching towards other behaviors. We call such movement primitives augmented with sensory associations Associative Skill Memories (ASM). This paper addresses how ASMs can be acquired by imitation learning and how they can create robust manipulation skill by determining subsequent ASMs online to achieve a particular manipulation goal. Evaluation for grasping and manipulation with a Barrett WAM/Hand illustrate our approach.

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Template-based learning of grasp selection

Herzog, A., Pastor, P., Kalakrishnan, M., Righetti, L., Asfour, T., Schaal, S.

In 2012 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation, pages: 2379-2384, IEEE, Saint Paul, USA, 2012 (inproceedings)

Abstract
The ability to grasp unknown objects is an important skill for personal robots, which has been addressed by many present and past research projects, but still remains an open problem. A crucial aspect of grasping is choosing an appropriate grasp configuration, i.e. the 6d pose of the hand relative to the object and its finger configuration. Finding feasible grasp configurations for novel objects, however, is challenging because of the huge variety in shape and size of these objects. Moreover, possible configurations also depend on the specific kinematics of the robotic arm and hand in use. In this paper, we introduce a new grasp selection algorithm able to find object grasp poses based on previously demonstrated grasps. Assuming that objects with similar shapes can be grasped in a similar way, we associate to each demonstrated grasp a grasp template. The template is a local shape descriptor for a possible grasp pose and is constructed using 3d information from depth sensors. For each new object to grasp, the algorithm then finds the best grasp candidate in the library of templates. The grasp selection is also able to improve over time using the information of previous grasp attempts to adapt the ranking of the templates. We tested the algorithm on two different platforms, the Willow Garage PR2 and the Barrett WAM arm which have very different hands. Our results show that the algorithm is able to find good grasp configurations for a large set of objects from a relatively small set of demonstrations, and does indeed improve its performance over time.

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [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]


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Probabilistic depth image registration incorporating nonvisual information

Wüthrich, M., Pastor, P., Righetti, L., Billard, A., Schaal, S.

In 2012 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation, pages: 3637-3644, IEEE, Saint Paul, USA, 2012 (inproceedings)

Abstract
In this paper, we derive a probabilistic registration algorithm for object modeling and tracking. In many robotics applications, such as manipulation tasks, nonvisual information about the movement of the object is available, which we will combine with the visual information. Furthermore we do not only consider observations of the object, but we also take space into account which has been observed to not be part of the object. Furthermore we are computing a posterior distribution over the relative alignment and not a point estimate as typically done in for example Iterative Closest Point (ICP). To our knowledge no existing algorithm meets these three conditions and we thus derive a novel registration algorithm in a Bayesian framework. Experimental results suggest that the proposed methods perform favorably in comparison to PCL [1] implementations of feature mapping and ICP, especially if nonvisual information is available.

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

2008


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Learning to control in operational space

Peters, J., Schaal, S.

International Journal of Robotics Research, 27, pages: 197-212, 2008, clmc (article)

Abstract
One of the most general frameworks for phrasing control problems for complex, redundant robots is operational space control. However, while this framework is of essential importance for robotics and well-understood from an analytical point of view, it can be prohibitively hard to achieve accurate control in face of modeling errors, which are inevitable in com- plex robots, e.g., humanoid robots. In this paper, we suggest a learning approach for opertional space control as a direct inverse model learning problem. A first important insight for this paper is that a physically cor- rect solution to the inverse problem with redundant degrees-of-freedom does exist when learning of the inverse map is performed in a suitable piecewise linear way. The second crucial component for our work is based on the insight that many operational space controllers can be understood in terms of a constrained optimal control problem. The cost function as- sociated with this optimal control problem allows us to formulate a learn- ing algorithm that automatically synthesizes a globally consistent desired resolution of redundancy while learning the operational space controller. From the machine learning point of view, this learning problem corre- sponds to a reinforcement learning problem that maximizes an immediate reward. We employ an expectation-maximization policy search algorithm in order to solve this problem. Evaluations on a three degrees of freedom robot arm are used to illustrate the suggested approach. The applica- tion to a physically realistic simulator of the anthropomorphic SARCOS Master arm demonstrates feasibility for complex high degree-of-freedom robots. We also show that the proposed method works in the setting of learning resolved motion rate control on real, physical Mitsubishi PA-10 medical robotics arm.

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

2008

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Adaptation to a sub-optimal desired trajectory

M. Mistry, E. A. G. L. T. Y. S. S. M. K.

Advances in Computational Motor Control VII, Symposium at the Society for Neuroscience Meeting, Washington DC, 2008, 2008, clmc (article)

PDF [BibTex]

PDF [BibTex]


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Human movement generation based on convergent flow fields: A computational model and a behavioral experiment

Hoffmann, H., Schaal, S.

In Advances in Computational Motor Control VII, Symposium at the Society for Neuroscience Meeting, Washington DC, 2008, 2008, clmc (inproceedings)

link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Operational space control: A theoretical and emprical comparison

Nakanishi, J., Cory, R., Mistry, M., Peters, J., Schaal, S.

International Journal of Robotics Research, 27(6):737-757, 2008, clmc (article)

Abstract
Dexterous manipulation with a highly redundant movement system is one of the hallmarks of hu- man motor skills. From numerous behavioral studies, there is strong evidence that humans employ compliant task space control, i.e., they focus control only on task variables while keeping redundant degrees-of-freedom as compliant as possible. This strategy is robust towards unknown disturbances and simultaneously safe for the operator and the environment. The theory of operational space con- trol in robotics aims to achieve similar performance properties. However, despite various compelling theoretical lines of research, advanced operational space control is hardly found in actual robotics imple- mentations, in particular new kinds of robots like humanoids and service robots, which would strongly profit from compliant dexterous manipulation. To analyze the pros and cons of different approaches to operational space control, this paper focuses on a theoretical and empirical evaluation of different methods that have been suggested in the literature, but also some new variants of operational space controllers. We address formulations at the velocity, acceleration and force levels. First, we formulate all controllers in a common notational framework, including quaternion-based orientation control, and discuss some of their theoretical properties. Second, we present experimental comparisons of these approaches on a seven-degree-of-freedom anthropomorphic robot arm with several benchmark tasks. As an aside, we also introduce a novel parameter estimation algorithm for rigid body dynamics, which ensures physical consistency, as this issue was crucial for our successful robot implementations. Our extensive empirical results demonstrate that one of the simplified acceleration-based approaches can be advantageous in terms of task performance, ease of parameter tuning, and general robustness and compliance in face of inevitable modeling errors.

link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Movement reproduction and obstacle avoidance with dynamic movement primitives and potential fields

Park, D., Hoffmann, H., Pastor, P., Schaal, S.

In IEEE International Conference on Humanoid Robots, 2008., 2008, clmc (inproceedings)

PDF [BibTex]

PDF [BibTex]


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The dual role of uncertainty in force field learning

Mistry, M., Theodorou, E., Hoffmann, H., Schaal, S.

In Abstracts of the Eighteenth Annual Meeting of Neural Control of Movement (NCM), Naples, Florida, April 29-May 4, 2008, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
Force field experiments have been a successful paradigm for studying the principles of planning, execution, and learning in human arm movements. Subjects have been shown to cope with the disturbances generated by force fields by learning internal models of the underlying dynamics to predict disturbance effects or by increasing arm impedance (via co-contraction) if a predictive approach becomes infeasible. Several studies have addressed the issue uncertainty in force field learning. Scheidt et al. demonstrated that subjects exposed to a viscous force field of fixed structure but varying strength (randomly changing from trial to trial), learn to adapt to the mean disturbance, regardless of the statistical distribution. Takahashi et al. additionally show a decrease in strength of after-effects after learning in the randomly varying environment. Thus they suggest that the nervous system adopts a dual strategy: learning an internal model of the mean of the random environment, while simultaneously increasing arm impedance to minimize the consequence of errors. In this study, we examine what role variance plays in the learning of uncertain force fields. We use a 7 degree-of-freedom exoskeleton robot as a manipulandum (Sarcos Master Arm, Sarcos, Inc.), and apply a 3D viscous force field of fixed structure and strength randomly selected from trial to trial. Additionally, in separate blocks of trials, we alter the variance of the randomly selected strength multiplier (while keeping a constant mean). In each block, after sufficient learning has occurred, we apply catch trials with no force field and measure the strength of after-effects. As expected in higher variance cases, results show increasingly smaller levels of after-effects as the variance is increased, thus implying subjects choose the robust strategy of increasing arm impedance to cope with higher levels of uncertainty. Interestingly, however, subjects show an increase in after-effect strength with a small amount of variance as compared to the deterministic (zero variance) case. This result implies that a small amount of variability aides in internal model formation, presumably a consequence of the additional amount of exploration conducted in the workspace of the task.

[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Dynamic movement primitives for movement generation motivated by convergent force fields in frog

Hoffmann, H., Pastor, P., Schaal, S.

In Adaptive Motion of Animals and Machines (AMAM), 2008, clmc (inproceedings)

PDF [BibTex]

PDF [BibTex]


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Efficient inverse kinematics algorithms for highdimensional movement systems

Tevatia, G., Schaal, S.

CLMC Technical Report: TR-CLMC-2008-1, 2008, clmc (techreport)

Abstract
Real-time control of the endeffector of a humanoid robot in external coordinates requires computationally efficient solutions of the inverse kinematics problem. In this context, this paper investigates methods of resolved motion rate control (RMRC) that employ optimization criteria to resolve kinematic redundancies. In particular we focus on two established techniques, the pseudo inverse with explicit optimization and the extended Jacobian method. We prove that the extended Jacobian method includes pseudo-inverse methods as a special solution. In terms of computational complexity, however, pseudo-inverse and extended Jacobian differ significantly in favor of pseudo-inverse methods. Employing numerical estimation techniques, we introduce a computationally efficient version of the extended Jacobian with performance comparable to the original version. Our results are illustrated in simulation studies with a multiple degree-offreedom robot, and were evaluated on an actual 30 degree-of-freedom full-body humanoid robot.

link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Behavioral experiments on reinforcement learning in human motor control

Hoffmann, H., Theodorou, E., Schaal, S.

In Abstracts of the Eighteenth Annual Meeting of Neural Control of Movement (NCM), Naples, Florida, April 29-May 4, 2008, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
Reinforcement learning (RL) - learning solely based on reward or cost feedback - is widespread in robotics control and has been also suggested as computational model for human motor control. In human motor control, however, hardly any experiment studied reinforcement learning. Here, we study learning based on visual cost feedback in a reaching task and did three experiments: (1) to establish a simple enough experiment for RL, (2) to study spatial localization of RL, and (3) to study the dependence of RL on the cost function. In experiment (1), subjects sit in front of a drawing tablet and look at a screen onto which the drawing pen's position is projected. Beginning from a start point, their task is to move with the pen through a target point presented on screen. Visual feedback about the pen's position is given only before movement onset. At the end of a movement, subjects get visual feedback only about the cost of this trial. We choose as cost the squared distance between target and virtual pen position at the target line. Above a threshold value, the cost was fixed at this value. In the mapping of the pen's position onto the screen, we added a bias (unknown to subject) and Gaussian noise. As result, subjects could learn the bias, and thus, showed reinforcement learning. In experiment (2), we randomly altered the target position between three different locations (three different directions from start point: -45, 0, 45). For each direction, we chose a different bias. As result, subjects learned all three bias values simultaneously. Thus, RL can be spatially localized. In experiment (3), we varied the sensitivity of the cost function by multiplying the squared distance with a constant value C, while keeping the same cut-off threshold. As in experiment (2), we had three target locations. We assigned to each location a different C value (this assignment was randomized between subjects). Since subjects learned the three locations simultaneously, we could directly compare the effect of the different cost functions. As result, we found an optimal C value; if C was too small (insensitive cost), learning was slow; if C was too large (narrow cost valley), the exploration time was longer and learning delayed. Thus, reinforcement learning in human motor control appears to be sen

[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Movement generation by learning from demonstration and generalization to new targets

Pastor, P., Hoffmann, H., Schaal, S.

In Adaptive Motion of Animals and Machines (AMAM), 2008, clmc (inproceedings)

PDF [BibTex]

PDF [BibTex]


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Combining dynamic movement primitives and potential fields for online obstacle avoidance

Park, D., Hoffmann, H., Schaal, S.

In Adaptive Motion of Animals and Machines (AMAM), Cleveland, Ohio, 2008, 2008, clmc (inproceedings)

link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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A library for locally weighted projection regression

Klanke, S., Vijayakumar, S., Schaal, S.

Journal of Machine Learning Research, 9, pages: 623-626, 2008, clmc (article)

Abstract
In this paper we introduce an improved implementation of locally weighted projection regression (LWPR), a supervised learning algorithm that is capable of handling high-dimensional input data. As the key features, our code supports multi-threading, is available for multiple platforms, and provides wrappers for several programming languages.

link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Computational model for movement learning under uncertain cost

Theodorou, E., Hoffmann, H., Mistry, M., Schaal, S.

In Abstracts of the Society of Neuroscience Meeting (SFN 2008), Washington, DC 2008, 2008, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
Stochastic optimal control is a framework for computing control commands that lead to an optimal behavior under a given cost. Despite the long history of optimal control in engineering, it has been only recently applied to describe human motion. So far, stochastic optimal control has been mainly used in tasks that are already learned, such as reaching to a target. For learning, however, there are only few cases where optimal control has been applied. The main assumptions of stochastic optimal control that restrict its application to tasks after learning are the a priori knowledge of (1) a quadratic cost function (2) a state space model that captures the kinematics and/or dynamics of musculoskeletal system and (3) a measurement equation that models the proprioceptive and/or exteroceptive feedback. Under these assumptions, a sequence of control gains is computed that is optimal with respect to the prespecified cost function. In our work, we relax the assumption of the a priori known cost function and provide a computational framework for modeling tasks that involve learning. Typically, a cost function consists of two parts: one part that models the task constraints, like squared distance to goal at movement endpoint, and one part that integrates over the squared control commands. In learning a task, the first part of this cost function will be adapted. We use an expectation-maximization scheme for learning: the expectation step optimizes the task constraints through gradient descent of a reward function and the maximizing step optimizes the control commands. Our computational model is tested and compared with data given from a behavioral experiment. In this experiment, subjects sit in front of a drawing tablet and look at a screen onto which the drawing-pen's position is projected. Beginning from a start point, their task is to move with the pen through a target point presented on screen. Visual feedback about the pen's position is given only before movement onset. At the end of a movement, subjects get visual feedback only about the cost of this trial. In the mapping of the pen's position onto the screen, we added a bias (unknown to subject) and Gaussian noise. Therefore the cost is a function of this bias. The subjects were asked to reach to the target and minimize this cost over trials. In this behavioral experiment, subjects could learn the bias and thus showed reinforcement learning. With our computational model, we could model the learning process over trials. Particularly, the dependence on parameters of the reward function (Gaussian width) and the modulation of movement variance over time were similar in experiment and model.

[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Optimization strategies in human reinforcement learning

Hoffmann, H., Theodorou, E., Schaal, S.

Advances in Computational Motor Control VII, Symposium at the Society for Neuroscience Meeting, Washington DC, 2008, 2008, clmc (article)

PDF [BibTex]

PDF [BibTex]


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A Bayesian approach to empirical local linearizations for robotics

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

In International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA2008), Pasadena, CA, USA, May 19-23, 2008, 2008, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
Local linearizations are ubiquitous in the control of robotic systems. Analytical methods, if available, can be used to obtain the linearization, but in complex robotics systems where the the dynamics and kinematics are often not faithfully obtainable, empirical linearization may be preferable. In this case, it is important to only use data for the local linearization that lies within a ``reasonable'' linear regime of the system, which can be defined from the Hessian at the point of the linearization -- a quantity that is not available without an analytical model. We introduce a Bayesian approach to solve statistically what constitutes a ``reasonable'' local regime. We approach this problem in the context local linear regression. In contrast to previous locally linear methods, we avoid cross-validation or complex statistical hypothesis testing techniques to find the appropriate local regime. Instead, we treat the parameters of the local regime probabilistically and use approximate Bayesian inference for their estimation. This approach results in an analytical set of iterative update equations that are easily implemented on real robotics systems for real-time applications. As in other locally weighted regressions, our algorithm also lends itself to complete nonlinear function approximation for learning empirical internal models. We sketch the derivation of our Bayesian method and provide evaluations on synthetic data and actual robot data where the analytical linearization was known.

link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Do humans plan continuous trajectories in kinematic coordinates?

Hoffmann, H., Schaal, S.

In Abstracts of the Society of Neuroscience Meeting (SFN 2008), Washington, DC 2008, 2008, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
The planning and execution of human arm movements is still unresolved. An ongoing controversy is whether we plan a movement in kinematic coordinates and convert these coordinates with an inverse internal model into motor commands (like muscle activation) or whether we combine a few muscle synergies or equilibrium points to move a hand, e.g., between two targets. The first hypothesis implies that a planner produces a desired end-effector position for all time points; the second relies on the dynamics of the muscular-skeletal system for a given control command to produce a continuous end-effector trajectory. To distinguish between these two possibilities, we use a visuomotor adaptation experiment. Subjects moved a pen on a graphics tablet and observed the pen's mapped position onto a screen (subjects quickly adapted to this mapping). The task was to move a cursor between two points in a given time window. In the adaptation test, we manipulated the velocity profile of the cursor feedback such that the shape of the trajectories remained unchanged (for straight paths). If humans would use a kinematic plan and map at each time the desired end-effector position onto control commands, subjects should adapt to the above manipulation. In a similar experiment, Wolpert et al (1995) showed adaptation to changes in the curvature of trajectories. This result, however, cannot rule out a shift of an equilibrium point or an additional synergy activation between start and end point of a movement. In our experiment, subjects did two sessions, one control without and one with velocity-profile manipulation. To skew the velocity profile of the cursor trajectory, we added to the current velocity, v, the function 0.8*v*cos(pi + pi*x), where x is the projection of the cursor position onto the start-goal line divided by the distance start to goal (x=0 at the start point). As result, subjects did not adapt to this manipulation: for all subjects, the true hand motion was not significantly modified in a direction consistent with adaptation, despite that the visually presented motion differed significantly from the control motion. One may still argue that this difference in motion was insufficient to be processed visually. Thus, as a control experiment, we replayed control and modified motions to the subjects and asked which of the two motions appeared 'more natural'. Subjects chose the unperturbed motion as more natural significantly better than chance. In summary, for a visuomotor transformation task, the hypothesis of a planned continuous end-effector trajectory predicts adaptation to a modified velocity profile. The current experiment found no adaptation under such transformation.

[BibTex]

[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]

1998


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Programmable pattern generators

Schaal, S., Sternad, D.

In 3rd International Conference on Computational Intelligence in Neuroscience, pages: 48-51, Research Triangle Park, NC, Oct. 24-28, October 1998, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
This paper explores the idea to create complex human-like arm movements from movement primitives based on nonlinear attractor dynamics. Each degree-of-freedom of an arm is assumed to have two independent abilities to create movement, one through a discrete dynamic system, and one through a rhythmic system. The discrete system creates point-to-point movements based on internal or external target specifications. The rhythmic system can add an additional oscillatory movement relative to the current position of the discrete system. In the present study, we develop appropriate dynamic systems that can realize the above model, motivate the particular choice of the systems from a biological and engineering point of view, and present simulation results of the performance of such movement primitives. Implementation results on a Sarcos Dexterous Arm are discussed.

link (url) [BibTex]

1998

link (url) [BibTex]


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Robust local learning in high dimensional spaces

Vijayakumar, S., Schaal, S.

In 5th Joint Symposium on Neural Computation, pages: 186-193, Institute for Neural Computation, University of California, San Diego, San Diego, CA, 1998, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
Incremental learning of sensorimotor transformations in high dimensional spaces is one of the basic prerequisites for the success of autonomous robot devices as well as biological movement systems. So far, due to sparsity of data in high dimensional spaces, learning in such settings requires a significant amount of prior knowledge about the learning task, usually provided by a human expert. In this paper, we suggest a partial revision of this view. Based on empirical studies, we observed that, despite being globally high dimensional and sparse, data distributions from physical movement systems are locally low dimensional and dense. Under this assumption, we derive a learning algorithm, Locally Adaptive Subspace Regression, that exploits this property by combining a dynamically growing local dimensionality reduction technique as a preprocessing step with a nonparametric learning technique, locally weighted regression, that also learns the region of validity of the regression. The usefulness of the algorithm and the validity of its assumptions are illustrated for a synthetic data set, and for data of the inverse dynamics of human arm movements and an actual 7 degree-of-freedom anthropomorphic robot arm.

[BibTex]

[BibTex]