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2014


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Wenn es was zu sagen gibt

(Klaus Tschira Award 2014 in Computer Science)

Trimpe, S.

Bild der Wissenschaft, pages: 20-23, November 2014, (popular science article in German) (article)

PDF Project Page [BibTex]

2014

PDF Project Page [BibTex]


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Robotics and Neuroscience

Floreano, Dario, Ijspeert, Auke Jan, Schaal, S.

Current Biology, 24(18):R910-R920, sep 2014 (article)

[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Robot Arm Pose Estimation through Pixel-Wise Part Classification

Bohg, J., Romero, J., Herzog, A., Schaal, S.

In IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA) 2014, pages: 3143-3150, IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA), June 2014 (inproceedings)

Abstract
We propose to frame the problem of marker-less robot arm pose estimation as a pixel-wise part classification problem. As input, we use a depth image in which each pixel is classified to be either from a particular robot part or the background. The classifier is a random decision forest trained on a large number of synthetically generated and labeled depth images. From all the training samples ending up at a leaf node, a set of offsets is learned that votes for relative joint positions. Pooling these votes over all foreground pixels and subsequent clustering gives us an estimate of the true joint positions. Due to the intrinsic parallelism of pixel-wise classification, this approach can run in super real-time and is more efficient than previous ICP-like methods. We quantitatively evaluate the accuracy of this approach on synthetic data. We also demonstrate that the method produces accurate joint estimates on real data despite being purely trained on synthetic data.

video code pdf DOI Project Page [BibTex]

video code pdf DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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Nonmyopic View Planning for Active Object Classification and Pose Estimation

Atanasov, N., Sankaran, B., Le Ny, J., Pappas, G., Daniilidis, K.

IEEE Transactions on Robotics, May 2014, clmc (article)

Abstract
One of the central problems in computer vision is the detection of semantically important objects and the estimation of their pose. Most of the work in object detection has been based on single image processing and its performance is limited by occlusions and ambiguity in appearance and geometry. This paper proposes an active approach to object detection by controlling the point of view of a mobile depth camera. When an initial static detection phase identifies an object of interest, several hypotheses are made about its class and orientation. The sensor then plans a sequence of viewpoints, which balances the amount of energy used to move with the chance of identifying the correct hypothesis. We formulate an active M-ary hypothesis testing problem, which includes sensor mobility, and solve it using a point-based approximate POMDP algorithm. The validity of our approach is verified through simulation and real-world experiments with the PR2 robot. The results suggest a significant improvement over static object detection

Web pdf link (url) [BibTex]

Web pdf link (url) [BibTex]


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Data-Driven Grasp Synthesis - A Survey

Bohg, J., Morales, A., Asfour, T., Kragic, D.

IEEE Transactions on Robotics, 30, pages: 289 - 309, IEEE, April 2014 (article)

Abstract
We review the work on data-driven grasp synthesis and the methodologies for sampling and ranking candidate grasps. We divide the approaches into three groups based on whether they synthesize grasps for known, familiar or unknown objects. This structure allows us to identify common object representations and perceptual processes that facilitate the employed data-driven grasp synthesis technique. In the case of known objects, we concentrate on the approaches that are based on object recognition and pose estimation. In the case of familiar objects, the techniques use some form of a similarity matching to a set of previously encountered objects. Finally for the approaches dealing with unknown objects, the core part is the extraction of specific features that are indicative of good grasps. Our survey provides an overview of the different methodologies and discusses open problems in the area of robot grasping. We also draw a parallel to the classical approaches that rely on analytic formulations.

PDF link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]

PDF link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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A Self-Tuning LQR Approach Demonstrated on an Inverted Pendulum

Trimpe, S., Millane, A., Doessegger, S., D’Andrea, R.

In Proceedings of the 19th IFAC World Congress, Cape Town, South Africa, 2014 (inproceedings)

PDF Supplementary material DOI [BibTex]

PDF Supplementary material DOI [BibTex]


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A Limiting Property of the Matrix Exponential

Trimpe, S., D’Andrea, R.

IEEE Transactions on Automatic Control, 59(4):1105-1110, 2014 (article)

PDF DOI [BibTex]

PDF DOI [BibTex]


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Learning coupling terms for obstacle avoidance

Rai, A., Meier, F., Ijspeert, A., Schaal, S.

In International Conference on Humanoid Robotics, pages: 512-518, IEEE, 2014, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
Autonomous manipulation in dynamic environments is important for robots to perform everyday tasks. For this, a manipulator should be capable of interpreting the environment and planning an appropriate movement. At least, two possible approaches exist for this in literature. Usually, a planning system is used to generate a complex movement plan that satisfies all constraints. Alternatively, a simple plan could be chosen and modified with sensory feedback to accommodate additional constraints by equipping the controller with features that remain dormant most of the time, except when specific situations arise. Dynamic Movement Primitives (DMPs) form a robust and versatile starting point for such a controller that can be modified online using a non-linear term, called the coupling term. This can prove to be a fast and reactive way of obstacle avoidance in a human-like fashion. We propose a method to learn this coupling term from human demonstrations starting with simple features and making it more robust to avoid a larger range of obstacles. We test the ability of our coupling term to model different kinds of obstacle avoidance behaviours in humans and use this learnt coupling term to avoid obstacles in a reactive manner. This line of research aims at pushing the boundary of reactive control strategies to more complex scenarios, such that complex and usually computationally more expensive planning methods can be avoided as much as possible.

link (url) Project Page [BibTex]

link (url) Project Page [BibTex]


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Event-Based State Estimation With Variance-Based Triggering

Trimpe, S., D’Andrea, R.

IEEE Transactions on Automatic Control, 59(12):3266-3281, 2014 (article)

PDF Supplementary material DOI Project Page [BibTex]

PDF Supplementary material DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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Incremental Local Gaussian Regression

Meier, F., Hennig, P., Schaal, S.

In Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 27, pages: 972-980, (Editors: Z. Ghahramani, M. Welling, C. Cortes, N.D. Lawrence and K.Q. Weinberger), 28th Annual Conference on Neural Information Processing Systems (NIPS), 2014, clmc (inproceedings)

PDF link (url) [BibTex]

PDF link (url) [BibTex]


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Generalization of the tacit learning controller based on periodic tuning functions

Berenz, V., Hayashibe, M., Alnajjar, F., Shimoda, S.

In 5th IEEE RAS/EMBS International Conference on Biomedical Robotics and Biomechatronics, pages: 893-898, 2014 (inproceedings)

DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


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Efficient Bayesian Local Model Learning for Control

Meier, F., Hennig, P., Schaal, S.

In Proceedings of the IEEE International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems, pages: 2244 - 2249, IROS, 2014, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
Model-based control is essential for compliant controland force control in many modern complex robots, like humanoidor disaster robots. Due to many unknown and hard tomodel nonlinearities, analytical models of such robots are oftenonly very rough approximations. However, modern optimizationcontrollers frequently depend on reasonably accurate models,and degrade greatly in robustness and performance if modelerrors are too large. For a long time, machine learning hasbeen expected to provide automatic empirical model synthesis,yet so far, research has only generated feasibility studies butno learning algorithms that run reliably on complex robots.In this paper, we combine two promising worlds of regressiontechniques to generate a more powerful regression learningsystem. On the one hand, locally weighted regression techniquesare computationally efficient, but hard to tune due to avariety of data dependent meta-parameters. On the other hand,Bayesian regression has rather automatic and robust methods toset learning parameters, but becomes quickly computationallyinfeasible for big and high-dimensional data sets. By reducingthe complexity of Bayesian regression in the spirit of local modellearning through variational approximations, we arrive at anovel algorithm that is computationally efficient and easy toinitialize for robust learning. Evaluations on several datasetsdemonstrate very good learning performance and the potentialfor a general regression learning tool for robotics.

PDF link (url) DOI [BibTex]

PDF link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Perspective: Intelligent Systems: Bits and Bots

Spatz, J. P., Schaal, S.

Nature, (509), 2014, clmc (article)

Abstract
What is intelligence, and can we create it? Animals can perceive, reason, react and learn, but they are just one example of an intelligent system. Intelligent systems could be robots as large as humans, helping with search-and- rescue operations in dangerous places, or smart devices as tiny as a cell, delivering drugs to a target within the body. Even computing systems can be intelligent, by perceiving the world, crawling the web and processing â??big dataâ?? to extract and learn from complex information.Understanding not only how intelligence can be reproduced, but also how to build systems that put these ideas into practice, will be a challenge. Small intelligent systems will require new materials and fabrication methods, as well as com- pact information processors and power sources. And for nano-sized systems, the rules change altogether. The laws of physics operate very differently at tiny scales: for a nanorobot, swimming through water is like struggling through treacle.Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems have begun to solve these problems by developing new computational methods, experiment- ing with unique robotic systems and fabricating tiny, artificial propellers, like bacterial flagella, to propel nanocreations through their environment.

PDF link (url) [BibTex]

PDF link (url) [BibTex]


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Stability Analysis of Distributed Event-Based State Estimation

Trimpe, S.

In Proceedings of the 53rd IEEE Conference on Decision and Control, Los Angeles, CA, 2014 (inproceedings)

Abstract
An approach for distributed and event-based state estimation that was proposed in previous work [1] is analyzed and extended to practical networked systems in this paper. Multiple sensor-actuator-agents observe a dynamic process, sporadically exchange their measurements over a broadcast network according to an event-based protocol, and estimate the process state from the received data. The event-based approach was shown in [1] to mimic a centralized Luenberger observer up to guaranteed bounds, under the assumption of identical estimates on all agents. This assumption, however, is unrealistic (it is violated by a single packet drop or slight numerical inaccuracy) and removed herein. By means of a simulation example, it is shown that non-identical estimates can actually destabilize the overall system. To achieve stability, the event-based communication scheme is supplemented by periodic (but infrequent) exchange of the agentsâ?? estimates and reset to their joint average. When the local estimates are used for feedback control, the stability guarantee for the estimation problem extends to the event-based control system.

PDF Supplementary material DOI Project Page [BibTex]

PDF Supplementary material DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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Dual Execution of Optimized Contact Interaction Trajectories

Toussaint, M., Ratliff, N., Bohg, J., Righetti, L., Englert, P., Schaal, S.

In 2014 IEEE/RSJ Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems, pages: 47-54, IEEE, Chicago, USA, 2014 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Efficient manipulation requires contact to reduce uncertainty. The manipulation literature refers to this as funneling: a methodology for increasing reliability and robustness by leveraging haptic feedback and control of environmental interaction. However, there is a fundamental gap between traditional approaches to trajectory optimization and this concept of robustness by funneling: traditional trajectory optimizers do not discover force feedback strategies. From a POMDP perspective, these behaviors could be regarded as explicit observation actions planned to sufficiently reduce uncertainty thereby enabling a task. While we are sympathetic to the full POMDP view, solving full continuous-space POMDPs in high-dimensions is hard. In this paper, we propose an alternative approach in which trajectory optimization objectives are augmented with new terms that reward uncertainty reduction through contacts, explicitly promoting funneling. This augmentation shifts the responsibility of robustness toward the actual execution of the optimized trajectories. Directly tracing trajectories through configuration space would lose all robustness-dual execution achieves robustness by devising force controllers to reproduce the temporal interaction profile encoded in the dual solution of the optimization problem. This work introduces dual execution in depth and analyze its performance through robustness experiments in both simulation and on a real-world robotic platform.

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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An autonomous manipulation system based on force control and optimization

Righetti, L., Kalakrishnan, M., Pastor, P., Binney, J., Kelly, J., Voorhies, R. C., Sukhatme, G. S., Schaal, S.

Autonomous Robots, 36(1-2):11-30, January 2014 (article)

Abstract
In this paper we present an architecture for autonomous manipulation. Our approach is based on the belief that contact interactions during manipulation should be exploited to improve dexterity and that optimizing motion plans is useful to create more robust and repeatable manipulation behaviors. We therefore propose an architecture where state of the art force/torque control and optimization-based motion planning are the core components of the system. We give a detailed description of the modules that constitute the complete system and discuss the challenges inherent to creating such a system. We present experimental results for several grasping and manipulation tasks to demonstrate the performance and robustness of our approach.

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Learning and Exploration in a Novel Dimensionality-Reduction Task

Ebert, J, Kim, S, Schweighofer, N., Sternad, D, Schaal, S.

In Abstracts of Neural Control of Movement Conference (NCM 2009), Amsterdam, Netherlands, 2014 (inproceedings)

[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Learning of grasp selection based on shape-templates

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

Autonomous Robots, 36(1-2):51-65, January 2014 (article)

Abstract
The ability to grasp unknown objects still remains an unsolved problem in the robotics community. One of the challenges is to choose an appropriate grasp configuration, i.e., the 6D pose of the hand relative to the object and its finger configuration. In this paper, we introduce an algorithm that is based on the assumption that similarly shaped objects can be grasped in a similar way. It is able to synthesize good grasp poses for unknown objects by finding the best matching object shape templates associated with previously demonstrated grasps. The grasp selection algorithm is able to improve over time by using the information of previous grasp attempts to adapt the ranking of the templates to new situations. We tested our approach on two different platforms, the Willow Garage PR2 and the Barrett WAM robot, which have very different hand kinematics. Furthermore, we compared our algorithm with other grasp planners and demonstrated its superior performance. The results presented in this paper show that the algorithm is able to find good grasp configurations for a large set of unknown objects from a relatively small set of demonstrations, and does improve its performance over time.

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Balancing experiments on a torque-controlled humanoid with hierarchical inverse dynamics

Herzog, A., Righetti, L., Grimminger, F., Pastor, P., Schaal, S.

In 2014 IEEE/RSJ Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems, pages: 981-988, IEEE, Chicago, USA, 2014 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Recently several hierarchical inverse dynamics controllers based on cascades of quadratic programs have been proposed for application on torque controlled robots. They have important theoretical benefits but have never been implemented on a torque controlled robot where model inaccuracies and real-time computation requirements can be problematic. In this contribution we present an experimental evaluation of these algorithms in the context of balance control for a humanoid robot. The presented experiments demonstrate the applicability of the approach under real robot conditions (i.e. model uncertainty, estimation errors, etc). We propose a simplification of the optimization problem that allows us to decrease computation time enough to implement it in a fast torque control loop. We implement a momentum-based balance controller which shows robust performance in face of unknown disturbances, even when the robot is standing on only one foot. In a second experiment, a tracking task is evaluated to demonstrate the performance of the controller with more complicated hierarchies. Our results show that hierarchical inverse dynamics controllers can be used for feedback control of humanoid robots and that momentum-based balance control can be efficiently implemented on a real robot.

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Full Dynamics LQR Control of a Humanoid Robot: An Experimental Study on Balancing and Squatting

Mason, S., Righetti, L., Schaal, S.

In 2014 IEEE-RAS International Conference on Humanoid Robots, pages: 374-379, IEEE, Madrid, Spain, 2014 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Humanoid robots operating in human environments require whole-body controllers that can offer precise tracking and well-defined disturbance rejection behavior. In this contribution, we propose an experimental evaluation of a linear quadratic regulator (LQR) using a linearization of the full robot dynamics together with the contact constraints. The advantage of the controller is that it explicitly takes into account the coupling between the different joints to create optimal feedback controllers for whole-body control. We also propose a method to explicitly regulate other tasks of interest, such as the regulation of the center of mass of the robot or its angular momentum. In order to evaluate the performance of linear optimal control designs in a real-world scenario (model uncertainty, sensor noise, imperfect state estimation, etc), we test the controllers in a variety of tracking and balancing experiments on a torque controlled humanoid (e.g. balancing, split plane balancing, squatting, pushes while squatting, and balancing on a wheeled platform). The proposed control framework shows a reliable push recovery behavior competitive with more sophisticated balance controllers, rejecting impulses up to 11.7 Ns with peak forces of 650 N, with the added advantage of great computational simplicity. Furthermore, the controller is able to track squatting trajectories up to 1 Hz without relinearization, suggesting that the linearized dynamics is sufficient for significant ranges of motion.

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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State Estimation for a Humanoid Robot

Rotella, N., Bloesch, M., Righetti, L., Schaal, S.

In 2014 IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems, pages: 952-958, IEEE, Chicago, USA, 2014 (inproceedings)

Abstract
This paper introduces a framework for state estimation on a humanoid robot platform using only common proprioceptive sensors and knowledge of leg kinematics. The presented approach extends that detailed in prior work on a point-foot quadruped platform by adding the rotational constraints imposed by the humanoid's flat feet. As in previous work, the proposed Extended Kalman Filter accommodates contact switching and makes no assumptions about gait or terrain, making it applicable on any humanoid platform for use in any task. A nonlinear observability analysis is performed on both the point-foot and flat-foot filters and it is concluded that the addition of rotational constraints significantly simplifies singular cases and improves the observability characteristics of the system. Results on a simulated walking dataset demonstrate the performance gain of the flat-foot filter as well as confirm the results of the presented observability analysis.

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

2009


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Grasping familiar objects using shape context

Bohg, J., Kragic, D.

In Advanced Robotics, 2009. ICAR 2009. International Conference on, pages: 1-6, 2009 (inproceedings)

Abstract
We present work on vision based robotic grasping. The proposed method relies on extracting and representing the global contour of an object in a monocular image. A suitable grasp is then generated using a learning framework where prototypical grasping points are learned from several examples and then used on novel objects. For representation purposes, we apply the concept of shape context and for learning we use a supervised learning approach in which the classifier is trained with labeled synthetic images. Our results show that a combination of a descriptor based on shape context with a non-linear classification algorithm leads to a stable detection of grasping points for a variety of objects. Furthermore, we will show how our representation supports the inference of a full grasp configuration.

pdf slides [BibTex]

2009

pdf slides [BibTex]


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Sensory-objects network driven by intrinsic motivation for survival abilities

Berenz, V., Suzuki, K.

In Robotics and Biomimetics (ROBIO), 2009 IEEE International Conference on, pages: 871-876, 2009 (inproceedings)

DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


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Towards Grasp-Oriented Visual Perception of Humanoid Robots

Bohg, J., Barck-Holst, C., Huebner, K., Ralph, M., Rasolzadeh, B., Song, D., Kragic, D.

International Journal of Humanoid Robotics, 06(03):387-434, 2009 (article)

Abstract
A distinct property of robot vision systems is that they are embodied. Visual information is extracted for the purpose of moving in and interacting with the environment. Thus, different types of perception-action cycles need to be implemented and evaluated. In this paper, we study the problem of designing a vision system for the purpose of object grasping in everyday environments. This vision system is firstly targeted at the interaction with the world through recognition and grasping of objects and secondly at being an interface for the reasoning and planning module to the real world. The latter provides the vision system with a certain task that drives it and defines a specific context, i.e. search for or identify a certain object and analyze it for potential later manipulation. We deal with cases of: (i) known objects, (ii) objects similar to already known objects, and (iii) unknown objects. The perception-action cycle is connected to the reasoning system based on the idea of affordances. All three cases are also related to the state of the art and the terminology in the neuroscientific area.

pdf DOI [BibTex]

pdf DOI [BibTex]


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A Limiting Property of the Matrix Exponential with Application to Multi-loop Control

Trimpe, S., D’Andrea, R.

In Proceedings of the Joint 48th IEEE Conference on Decision (CDC) and Control and 28th Chinese Control Conference, 2009 (inproceedings)

PDF DOI [BibTex]

PDF DOI [BibTex]


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Path integral-based stochastic optimal control for rigid body dynamics

Theodorou, E. A., Buchli, J., Schaal, S.

In Adaptive Dynamic Programming and Reinforcement Learning, 2009. ADPRL ’09. IEEE Symposium on, pages: 219-225, 2009, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
Recent advances on path integral stochastic optimal control [1],[2] provide new insights in the optimal control of nonlinear stochastic systems which are linear in the controls, with state independent and time invariant control transition matrix. Under these assumptions, the Hamilton-Jacobi-Bellman (HJB) equation is formulated and linearized with the use of the logarithmic transformation of the optimal value function. The resulting HJB is a linear second order partial differential equation which is solved by an approximation based on the Feynman-Kac formula [3]. In this work we review the theory of path integral control and derive the linearized HJB equation for systems with state dependent control transition matrix. In addition we derive the path integral formulation for the general class of systems with state dimensionality that is higher than the dimensionality of the controls. Furthermore, by means of a modified inverse dynamics controller, we apply path integral stochastic optimal control over the new control space. Simulations illustrate the theoretical results. Future developments and extensions are discussed.

link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Learning locomotion over rough terrain using terrain templates

Kalakrishnan, M., Buchli, J., Pastor, P., Schaal, S.

In Intelligent Robots and Systems, 2009. IROS 2009. IEEE/RSJ International Conference on, pages: 167-172, 2009, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
We address the problem of foothold selection in robotic legged locomotion over very rough terrain. The difficulty of the problem we address here is comparable to that of human rock-climbing, where foot/hand-hold selection is one of the most critical aspects. Previous work in this domain typically involves defining a reward function over footholds as a weighted linear combination of terrain features. However, a significant amount of effort needs to be spent in designing these features in order to model more complex decision functions, and hand-tuning their weights is not a trivial task. We propose the use of terrain templates, which are discretized height maps of the terrain under a foothold on different length scales, as an alternative to manually designed features. We describe an algorithm that can simultaneously learn a small set of templates and a foothold ranking function using these templates, from expert-demonstrated footholds. Using the LittleDog quadruped robot, we experimentally show that the use of terrain templates can produce complex ranking functions with higher performance than standard terrain features, and improved generalization to unseen terrain.

link (url) Project Page [BibTex]

link (url) Project Page [BibTex]


Valero-Cuevas, F., Hoffmann, H., Kurse, M. U., Kutch, J. J., Theodorou, E. A.

IEEE Reviews in Biomedical Engineering – (All authors have equally contributed), (2):110?135, 2009, clmc (article)

Abstract
Computational models of the neuromuscular system hold the potential to allow us to reach a deeper understanding of neuromuscular function and clinical rehabilitation by complementing experimentation. By serving as a means to distill and explore specific hypotheses, computational models emerge from prior experimental data and motivate future experimental work. Here we review computational tools used to understand neuromuscular function including musculoskeletal modeling, machine learning, control theory, and statistical model analysis. We conclude that these tools, when used in combination, have the potential to further our understanding of neuromuscular function by serving as a rigorous means to test scientific hypotheses in ways that complement and leverage experimental data.

link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Compact models of motor primitive variations for predictible reaching and obstacle avoidance

Stulp, F., Oztop, E., Pastor, P., Beetz, M., Schaal, S.

In IEEE-RAS International Conference on Humanoid Robots (Humanoids 2009), Paris, Dec.7-10, 2009, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
over and over again. This regularity allows humans and robots to reuse existing solutions for known recurring tasks. We expect that reusing a set of standard solutions to solve similar tasks will facilitate the design and on-line adaptation of the control systems of robots operating in human environments. In this paper, we derive a set of standard solutions for reaching behavior from human motion data. We also derive stereotypical reaching trajectories for variations of the task, in which obstacles are present. These stereotypical trajectories are then compactly represented with Dynamic Movement Primitives. On the humanoid robot Sarcos CB, this approach leads to reproducible, predictable, and human-like reaching motions.

link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Human optimization strategies under reward feedback

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

In Abstracts of Neural Control of Movement Conference (NCM 2009), Waikoloa, Hawaii, 2009, 2009, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
Many hypothesis on human movement generation have been cast into an optimization framework, implying that movements are adapted to optimize a single quantity, like, e.g., jerk, end-point variance, or control cost. However, we still do not understand how humans actually learn when given only a cost or reward feedback at the end of a movement. Such a reinforcement learning setting has been extensively explored theoretically in engineering and computer science, but in human movement control, hardly any experiment studied movement learning under reward feedback. We present experiments probing which computational strategies humans use to optimize a movement under a continuous reward function. We present two experimental paradigms. The first paradigm mimics a ball-hitting task. Subjects (n=12) sat in front of a computer screen and moved a stylus on a tablet towards an unknown target. This target was located on a line that the subjects had to cross. During the movement, visual feedback was suppressed. After the movement, a reward was displayed graphically as a colored bar. As reward, we used a Gaussian function of the distance between the target location and the point of line crossing. We chose such a function since in sensorimotor tasks, the cost or loss function that humans seem to represent is close to an inverted Gaussian function (Koerding and Wolpert 2004). The second paradigm mimics pocket billiards. On the same experimental setup as above, the computer screen displayed a pocket (two bars), a white disk, and a green disk. The goal was to hit with the white disk the green disk (as in a billiard collision), such that the green disk moved into the pocket. Subjects (n=8) manipulated with the stylus the white disk to effectively choose start point and movement direction. Reward feedback was implicitly given as hitting or missing the pocket with the green disk. In both paradigms, subjects increased the average reward over trials. The surprising result was that in these experiments, humans seem to prefer a strategy that uses a reward-weighted average over previous movements instead of gradient ascent. The literature on reinforcement learning is dominated by gradient-ascent methods. However, our computer simulations and theoretical analysis revealed that reward-weighted averaging is the more robust choice given the amount of movement variance observed in humans. Apparently, humans choose an optimization strategy that is suitable for their own movement variance.

[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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On-line learning and modulation of periodic movements with nonlinear dynamical systems

Gams, A., Ijspeert, A., Schaal, S., Lenarčič, J.

Autonomous Robots, 27(1):3-23, 2009, clmc (article)

Abstract
Abstract  The paper presents a two-layered system for (1) learning and encoding a periodic signal without any knowledge on its frequency and waveform, and (2) modulating the learned periodic trajectory in response to external events. The system is used to learn periodic tasks on a humanoid HOAP-2 robot. The first layer of the system is a dynamical system responsible for extracting the fundamental frequency of the input signal, based on adaptive frequency oscillators. The second layer is a dynamical system responsible for learning of the waveform based on a built-in learning algorithm. By combining the two dynamical systems into one system we can rapidly teach new trajectories to robots without any knowledge of the frequency of the demonstration signal. The system extracts and learns only one period of the demonstration signal. Furthermore, the trajectories are robust to perturbations and can be modulated to cope with a dynamic environment. The system is computationally inexpensive, works on-line for any periodic signal, requires no additional signal processing to determine the frequency of the input signal and can be applied in parallel to multiple dimensions. Additionally, it can adapt to changes in frequency and shape, e.g. to non-stationary signals, such as hand-generated signals and human demonstrations.

link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Local dimensionality reduction for non-parametric regression

Hoffman, H., Schaal, S., Vijayakumar, S.

Neural Processing Letters, 2009, clmc (article)

Abstract
Locally-weighted regression is a computationally-efficient technique for non-linear regression. However, for high-dimensional data, this technique becomes numerically brittle and computationally too expensive if many local models need to be maintained simultaneously. Thus, local linear dimensionality reduction combined with locally-weighted regression seems to be a promising solution. In this context, we review linear dimensionality-reduction methods, compare their performance on nonparametric locally-linear regression, and discuss their ability to extend to incremental learning. The considered methods belong to the following three groups: (1) reducing dimensionality only on the input data, (2) modeling the joint input-output data distribution, and (3) optimizing the correlation between projection directions and output data. Group 1 contains principal component regression (PCR); group 2 contains principal component analysis (PCA) in joint input and output space, factor analysis, and probabilistic PCA; and group 3 contains reduced rank regression (RRR) and partial least squares (PLS) regression. Among the tested methods, only group 3 managed to achieve robust performance even for a non-optimal number of components (factors or projection directions). In contrast, group 1 and 2 failed for fewer components since these methods rely on the correct estimate of the true intrinsic dimensionality. In group 3, PLS is the only method for which a computationally-efficient incremental implementation exists. Thus, PLS appears to be ideally suited as a building block for a locally-weighted regressor in which projection directions are incrementally added on the fly.

link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Learning and generalization of motor skills by learning from demonstration

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

In International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA2009), Kobe, Japan, May 12-19, 2009, 2009, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
We provide a general approach for learning robotic motor skills from human demonstration. To represent an observed movement, a non-linear differential equation is learned such that it reproduces this movement. Based on this representation, we build a library of movements by labeling each recorded movement according to task and context (e.g., grasping, placing, and releasing). Our differential equation is formulated such that generalization can be achieved simply by adapting a start and a goal parameter in the equation to the desired position values of a movement. For object manipulation, we present how our framework extends to the control of gripper orientation and finger position. The feasibility of our approach is demonstrated in simulation as well as on a real robot. The robot learned a pick-and-place operation and a water-serving task and could generalize these tasks to novel situations.

link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Compliant quadruped locomotion over rough terrain

Buchli, J., Kalakrishnan, M., Mistry, M., Pastor, P., Schaal, S.

In Intelligent Robots and Systems, 2009. IROS 2009. IEEE/RSJ International Conference on, pages: 814-820, 2009, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
Many critical elements for statically stable walking for legged robots have been known for a long time, including stability criteria based on support polygons, good foothold selection, recovery strategies to name a few. All these criteria have to be accounted for in the planning as well as the control phase. Most legged robots usually employ high gain position control, which means that it is crucially important that the planned reference trajectories are a good match for the actual terrain, and that tracking is accurate. Such an approach leads to conservative controllers, i.e. relatively low speed, ground speed matching, etc. Not surprisingly such controllers are not very robust - they are not suited for the real world use outside of the laboratory where the knowledge of the world is limited and error prone. Thus, to achieve robust robotic locomotion in the archetypical domain of legged systems, namely complex rough terrain, where the size of the obstacles are in the order of leg length, additional elements are required. A possible solution to improve the robustness of legged locomotion is to maximize the compliance of the controller. While compliance is trivially achieved by reduced feedback gains, for terrain requiring precise foot placement (e.g. climbing rocks, walking over pegs or cracks) compliance cannot be introduced at the cost of inferior tracking. Thus, model-based control and - in contrast to passive dynamic walkers - active balance control is required. To achieve these objectives, in this paper we add two crucial elements to legged locomotion, i.e., floating-base inverse dynamics control and predictive force control, and we show that these elements increase robustness in face of unknown and unanticipated perturbations (e.g. obstacles). Furthermore, we introduce a novel line-based COG trajectory planner, which yields a simpler algorithm than traditional polygon based methods and creates the appropriate input to our control system.We show results from bot- h simulation and real world of a robotic dog walking over non-perceived obstacles and rocky terrain. The results prove the effectivity of the inverse dynamics/force controller. The presented results show that we have all elements needed for robust all-terrain locomotion, which should also generalize to other legged systems, e.g., humanoid robots.

link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Incorporating Muscle Activation-Contraction dynamics to an optimal control framework for finger movements

Theodorou, Evangelos A., Valero-Cuevas, Francisco J.

Abstracts of Neural Control of Movement Conference (NCM 2009), 2009, clmc (article)

Abstract
Recent experimental and theoretical work [1] investigated the neural control of contact transition between motion and force during tapping with the index finger as a nonlinear optimization problem. Such transitions from motion to well-directed contact force are a fundamental part of dexterous manipulation. There are 3 alternative hypotheses of how this transition could be accomplished by the nervous system as a function of changes in direction and magnitude of the torque vector controlling the finger. These hypotheses are 1) an initial change in direction with a subsequent change in magnitude of the torque vector; 2) an initial change in magnitude with a subsequent directional change of the torque vector; and 3) a simultaneous and proportionally equal change of both direction and magnitude of the torque vector. Experimental work in [2] shows that the nervous system selects the first strategy, and in [1] we suggest that this may in fact be the optimal strategy. In [4] the framework of Iterative Linear Quadratic Optimal Regulator (ILQR) was extended to incorporate motion and force control. However, our prior simulation work assumed direct and instantaneous control of joint torques, which ignores the known delays and filtering properties of skeletal muscle. In this study, we implement an ILQR controller for a more biologically plausible biomechanical model of the index finger than [4], and add activation-contraction dynamics to the system to simulate muscle function. The planar biomechanical model includes the kinematics of the 3 joints while the applied torques are driven by activation?contraction dynamics with biologically plausible time constants [3]. In agreement with our experimental work [2], the task is to, within 500 ms, move the finger from a given resting configuration to target configuration with a desired terminal velocity. ILQR does not only stabilize the finger dynamics according to the objective function, but it also generates smooth joint space trajectories with minimal tuning and without an a-priori initial control policy (which is difficult to find for highly dimensional biomechanical systems). Furthemore, the use of this optimal control framework and the addition of activation-contraction dynamics considers the full nonlinear dynamics of the index finger and produces a sequence of postures which are compatible with experimental motion data [2]. These simulations combined with prior experimental results suggest that optimal control is a strong candidate for the generation of finger movements prior to abrupt motion-to-force transitions. This work is funded in part by grants NIH R01 0505520 and NSF EFRI-0836042 to Dr. Francisco J. Valero- Cuevas 1 Venkadesan M, Valero-Cuevas FJ. 
Effects of neuromuscular lags on controlling contact transitions. 
Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A: 2008. 2 Venkadesan M, Valero-Cuevas FJ. 
Neural Control of Motion-to-Force Transitions with the Fingertip. 
J. Neurosci., Feb 2008; 28: 1366 - 1373; 3 Zajac. Muscle and tendon: properties, models, scaling, and application to biomechanics and motor control. Crit Rev Biomed Eng, 17 4. Weiwei Li., Francisco Valero Cuevas: ?Linear Quadratic Optimal Control of Contact Transition with Fingertip ? ACC 2009

PDF [BibTex]

PDF [BibTex]


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Inertial parameter estimation of floating-base humanoid systems using partial force sensing

Mistry, M., Schaal, S., Yamane, K.

In IEEE-RAS International Conference on Humanoid Robots (Humanoids 2009), Paris, Dec.7-10, 2009, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
Recently, several controllers have been proposed for humanoid robots which rely on full-body dynamic models. The estimation of inertial parameters from data is a critical component for obtaining accurate models for control. However, floating base systems, such as humanoid robots, incur added challenges to this task (e.g. contact forces must be measured, contact states can change, etc.) In this work, we outline a theoretical framework for whole body inertial parameter estimation, including the unactuated floating base. Using a least squares minimization approach, conducted within the nullspace of unmeasured degrees of freedom, we are able to use a partial force sensor set for full-body estimation, e.g. using only joint torque sensors, allowing for estimation when contact force measurement is unavailable or unreliable (e.g. due to slipping, rolling contacts, etc.). We also propose how to determine the theoretical minimum force sensor set for full body estimation, and discuss the practical limitations of doing so.

link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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On-line learning and modulation of periodic movements with nonlinear dynamical systems

Gams, A., Ijspeert, A., Schaal, S., Lenarčič, J.

Autonomous Robots, 27(1):3-23, 2009, clmc (article)

Abstract
Abstract  The paper presents a two-layered system for (1) learning and encoding a periodic signal without any knowledge on its frequency and waveform, and (2) modulating the learned periodic trajectory in response to external events. The system is used to learn periodic tasks on a humanoid HOAP-2 robot. The first layer of the system is a dynamical system responsible for extracting the fundamental frequency of the input signal, based on adaptive frequency oscillators. The second layer is a dynamical system responsible for learning of the waveform based on a built-in learning algorithm. By combining the two dynamical systems into one system we can rapidly teach new trajectories to robots without any knowledge of the frequency of the demonstration signal. The system extracts and learns only one period of the demonstration signal. Furthermore, the trajectories are robust to perturbations and can be modulated to cope with a dynamic environment. The system is computationally inexpensive, works on-line for any periodic signal, requires no additional signal processing to determine the frequency of the input signal and can be applied in parallel to multiple dimensions. Additionally, it can adapt to changes in frequency and shape, e.g. to non-stationary signals, such as hand-generated signals and human demonstrations.

link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]

2007


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Towards Machine Learning of Motor Skills

Peters, J., Schaal, S., Schölkopf, B.

In Proceedings of Autonome Mobile Systeme (AMS), pages: 138-144, (Editors: K Berns and T Luksch), 2007, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
Autonomous robots that can adapt to novel situations has been a long standing vision of robotics, artificial intelligence, and cognitive sciences. Early approaches to this goal during the heydays of artificial intelligence research in the late 1980s, however, made it clear that an approach purely based on reasoning or human insights would not be able to model all the perceptuomotor tasks that a robot should fulfill. Instead, new hope was put in the growing wake of machine learning that promised fully adaptive control algorithms which learn both by observation and trial-and-error. However, to date, learning techniques have yet to fulfill this promise as only few methods manage to scale into the high-dimensional domains of manipulator robotics, or even the new upcoming trend of humanoid robotics, and usually scaling was only achieved in precisely pre-structured domains. In this paper, we investigate the ingredients for a general approach to motor skill learning in order to get one step closer towards human-like performance. For doing so, we study two ma jor components for such an approach, i.e., firstly, a theoretically well-founded general approach to representing the required control structures for task representation and execution and, secondly, appropriate learning algorithms which can be applied in this setting.

PDF DOI [BibTex]

2007

PDF DOI [BibTex]


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Reinforcement Learning for Optimal Control of Arm Movements

Theodorou, E., Peters, J., Schaal, S.

In Abstracts of the 37st Meeting of the Society of Neuroscience., Neuroscience, 2007, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
Every day motor behavior consists of a plethora of challenging motor skills from discrete movements such as reaching and throwing to rhythmic movements such as walking, drumming and running. How this plethora of motor skills can be learned remains an open question. In particular, is there any unifying computa-tional framework that could model the learning process of this variety of motor behaviors and at the same time be biologically plausible? In this work we aim to give an answer to these questions by providing a computational framework that unifies the learning mechanism of both rhythmic and discrete movements under optimization criteria, i.e., in a non-supervised trial-and-error fashion. Our suggested framework is based on Reinforcement Learning, which is mostly considered as too costly to be a plausible mechanism for learning com-plex limb movement. However, recent work on reinforcement learning with pol-icy gradients combined with parameterized movement primitives allows novel and more efficient algorithms. By using the representational power of such mo-tor primitives we show how rhythmic motor behaviors such as walking, squash-ing and drumming as well as discrete behaviors like reaching and grasping can be learned with biologically plausible algorithms. Using extensive simulations and by using different reward functions we provide results that support the hy-pothesis that Reinforcement Learning could be a viable candidate for motor learning of human motor behavior when other learning methods like supervised learning are not feasible.

[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Reinforcement learning by reward-weighted regression for operational space control

Peters, J., Schaal, S.

In Proceedings of the 24th Annual International Conference on Machine Learning, pages: 745-750, ICML, 2007, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
Many robot control problems of practical importance, including operational space control, can be reformulated as immediate reward reinforcement learning problems. However, few of the known optimization or reinforcement learning algorithms can be used in online learning control for robots, as they are either prohibitively slow, do not scale to interesting domains of complex robots, or require trying out policies generated by random search, which are infeasible for a physical system. Using a generalization of the EM-base reinforcement learning framework suggested by Dayan & Hinton, we reduce the problem of learning with immediate rewards to a reward-weighted regression problem with an adaptive, integrated reward transformation for faster convergence. The resulting algorithm is efficient, learns smoothly without dangerous jumps in solution space, and works well in applications of complex high degree-of-freedom robots.

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Policy gradient methods for machine learning

Peters, J., Theodorou, E., Schaal, S.

In Proceedings of the 14th INFORMS Conference of the Applied Probability Society, pages: 97-98, Eindhoven, Netherlands, July 9-11, 2007, 2007, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
We present an in-depth survey of policy gradient methods as they are used in the machine learning community for optimizing parameterized, stochastic control policies in Markovian systems with respect to the expected reward. Despite having been developed separately in the reinforcement learning literature, policy gradient methods employ likelihood ratio gradient estimators as also suggested in the stochastic simulation optimization community. It is well-known that this approach to policy gradient estimation traditionally suffers from three drawbacks, i.e., large variance, a strong dependence on baseline functions and a inefficient gradient descent. In this talk, we will present a series of recent results which tackles each of these problems. The variance of the gradient estimation can be reduced significantly through recently introduced techniques such as optimal baselines, compatible function approximations and all-action gradients. However, as even the analytically obtainable policy gradients perform unnaturally slow, it required the step from ÔvanillaÕ policy gradient methods towards natural policy gradients in order to overcome the inefficiency of the gradient descent. This development resulted into the Natural Actor-Critic architecture which can be shown to be very efficient in application to motor primitive learning for robotics.

[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Policy Learning for Motor Skills

Peters, J., Schaal, S.

In Proceedings of 14th International Conference on Neural Information Processing (ICONIP), pages: 233-242, (Editors: Ishikawa, M. , K. Doya, H. Miyamoto, T. Yamakawa), 2007, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
Policy learning which allows autonomous robots to adapt to novel situations has been a long standing vision of robotics, artificial intelligence, and cognitive sciences. However, to date, learning techniques have yet to fulfill this promise as only few methods manage to scale into the high-dimensional domains of manipulator robotics, or even the new upcoming trend of humanoid robotics, and usually scaling was only achieved in precisely pre-structured domains. In this paper, we investigate the ingredients for a general approach policy learning with the goal of an application to motor skill refinement in order to get one step closer towards human-like performance. For doing so, we study two major components for such an approach, i.e., firstly, we study policy learning algorithms which can be applied in the general setting of motor skill learning, and, secondly, we study a theoretically well-founded general approach to representing the required control structures for task representation and execution.

PDF DOI [BibTex]

PDF DOI [BibTex]


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Reinforcement learning for operational space control

Peters, J., Schaal, S.

In Proceedings of the 2007 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation, pages: 2111-2116, IEEE Computer Society, ICRA, 2007, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
While operational space control is of essential importance for robotics and well-understood from an analytical point of view, it can be prohibitively hard to achieve accurate control in face of modeling errors, which are inevitable in complex robots, e.g., humanoid robots. In such cases, learning control methods can offer an interesting alternative to analytical control algorithms. However, the resulting supervised learning problem is ill-defined as it requires to learn an inverse mapping of a usually redundant system, which is well known to suffer from the property of non-convexity of the solution space, i.e., the learning system could generate motor commands that try to steer the robot into physically impossible configurations. The important insight that many operational space control algorithms can be reformulated as optimal control problems, however, allows addressing this inverse learning problem in the framework of reinforcement learning. However, few of the known optimization or reinforcement learning algorithms can be used in online learning control for robots, as they are either prohibitively slow, do not scale to interesting domains of complex robots, or require trying out policies generated by random search, which are infeasible for a physical system. Using a generalization of the EM-based reinforcement learning framework suggested by Dayan & Hinton, we reduce the problem of learning with immediate rewards to a reward-weighted regression problem with an adaptive, integrated reward transformation for faster convergence. The resulting algorithm is efficient, learns smoothly without dangerous jumps in solution space, and works well in applications of complex high degree-of-freedom robots.

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Less Conservative Polytopic LPV Models for Charge Control by Combining Parameter Set Mapping and Set Intersection

Kwiatkowski, A., Trimpe, S., Werner, H.

In Proceedings of the 46th IEEE Conference on Decision and Control, 2007 (inproceedings)

DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


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Using reward-weighted regression for reinforcement learning of task space control

Peters, J., Schaal, S.

In Proceedings of the 2007 IEEE International Symposium on Approximate Dynamic Programming and Reinforcement Learning, pages: 262-267, Honolulu, Hawaii, April 1-5, 2007, 2007, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
In this paper, we evaluate different versions from the three main kinds of model-free policy gradient methods, i.e., finite difference gradients, `vanilla' policy gradients and natural policy gradients. Each of these methods is first presented in its simple form and subsequently refined and optimized. By carrying out numerous experiments on the cart pole regulator benchmark we aim to provide a useful baseline for future research on parameterized policy search algorithms. Portable C++ code is provided for both plant and algorithms; thus, the results in this paper can be reevaluated, reused and new algorithms can be inserted with ease.

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Evaluation of Policy Gradient Methods and Variants on the Cart-Pole Benchmark

Riedmiller, M., Peters, J., Schaal, S.

In Proceedings of the 2007 IEEE International Symposium on Approximate Dynamic Programming and Reinforcement Learning, pages: 254-261, ADPRL, 2007, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
In this paper, we evaluate different versions from the three main kinds of model-free policy gradient methods, i.e., finite difference gradients, `vanilla' policy gradients and natural policy gradients. Each of these methods is first presented in its simple form and subsequently refined and optimized. By carrying out numerous experiments on the cart pole regulator benchmark we aim to provide a useful baseline for future research on parameterized policy search algorithms. Portable C++ code is provided for both plant and algorithms; thus, the results in this paper can be reevaluated, reused and new algorithms can be inserted with ease.

PDF [BibTex]

PDF [BibTex]


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Uncertain 3D Force Fields in Reaching Movements: Do Humans Favor Robust or Average Performance?

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

In Abstracts of the 37th Meeting of the Society of Neuroscience, 2007, clmc (inproceedings)

PDF [BibTex]

PDF [BibTex]


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Applying the episodic natural actor-critic architecture to motor primitive learning

Peters, J., Schaal, S.

In Proceedings of the 2007 European Symposium on Artificial Neural Networks (ESANN), Bruges, Belgium, April 25-27, 2007, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
In this paper, we investigate motor primitive learning with the Natural Actor-Critic approach. The Natural Actor-Critic consists out of actor updates which are achieved using natural stochastic policy gradients while the critic obtains the natural policy gradient by linear regression. We show that this architecture can be used to learn the Òbuilding blocks of movement generationÓ, called motor primitives. Motor primitives are parameterized control policies such as splines or nonlinear differential equations with desired attractor properties. We show that our most modern algorithm, the Episodic Natural Actor-Critic outperforms previous algorithms by at least an order of magnitude. We demonstrate the efficiency of this reinforcement learning method in the application of learning to hit a baseball with an anthropomorphic robot arm.

link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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The new robotics - towards human-centered machines

Schaal, S.

HFSP Journal Frontiers of Interdisciplinary Research in the Life Sciences, 1(2):115-126, 2007, clmc (article)

Abstract
Research in robotics has moved away from its primary focus on industrial applications. The New Robotics is a vision that has been developed in past years by our own university and many other national and international research instiutions and addresses how increasingly more human-like robots can live among us and take over tasks where our current society has shortcomings. Elder care, physical therapy, child education, search and rescue, and general assistance in daily life situations are some of the examples that will benefit from the New Robotics in the near future. With these goals in mind, research for the New Robotics has to embrace a broad interdisciplinary approach, ranging from traditional mathematical issues of robotics to novel issues in psychology, neuroscience, and ethics. This paper outlines some of the important research problems that will need to be resolved to make the New Robotics a reality.

link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]