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2014


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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]

2014

video code pdf 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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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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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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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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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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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]

2013


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Probabilistic Object Tracking Using a Range Camera

Wüthrich, M., Pastor, P., Kalakrishnan, M., Bohg, J., Schaal, S.

In IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems, pages: 3195-3202, IEEE, November 2013 (inproceedings)

Abstract
We address the problem of tracking the 6-DoF pose of an object while it is being manipulated by a human or a robot. We use a dynamic Bayesian network to perform inference and compute a posterior distribution over the current object pose. Depending on whether a robot or a human manipulates the object, we employ a process model with or without knowledge of control inputs. Observations are obtained from a range camera. As opposed to previous object tracking methods, we explicitly model self-occlusions and occlusions from the environment, e.g, the human or robotic hand. This leads to a strongly non-linear observation model and additional dependencies in the Bayesian network. We employ a Rao-Blackwellised particle filter to compute an estimate of the object pose at every time step. In a set of experiments, we demonstrate the ability of our method to accurately and robustly track the object pose in real-time while it is being manipulated by a human or a robot.

arXiv Video Code Video DOI Project Page [BibTex]

2013

arXiv Video Code Video DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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Hypothesis Testing Framework for Active Object Detection

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

In IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA), May 2013, clmc (inproceedings)

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 view-points, 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 experiments with real scenes captured by a kinect sensor. The results suggest a significant improvement over static object detection.

pdf [BibTex]

pdf [BibTex]


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Action and Goal Related Decision Variables Modulate the Competition Between Multiple Potential Targets

Enachescu, V, Christopoulos, Vassilios N, Schrater, P. R., Schaal, S.

In Abstracts of Neural Control of Movement Conference (NCM 2013), February 2013 (inproceedings)

[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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The functional role of automatic body response in shaping voluntary actions based on muscle synergy theory

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

In Neural Engineering (NER), 2013 6th International IEEE/EMBS Conference on, pages: 1230-1233, 2013 (inproceedings)

DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


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Coaching robots with biosignals based on human affective social behaviors

Suzuki, K., Gruebler, A., Berenz, V.

In ACM/IEEE International Conference on Human-Robot Interaction, HRI 2013, Tokyo, Japan, March 3-6, 2013, pages: 419-420, 2013 (inproceedings)

link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Fusing visual and tactile sensing for 3-D object reconstruction while grasping

Ilonen, J., Bohg, J., Kyrki, V.

In IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA), pages: 3547-3554, 2013 (inproceedings)

Abstract
In this work, we propose to reconstruct a complete 3-D model of an unknown object by fusion of visual and tactile information while the object is grasped. Assuming the object is symmetric, a first hypothesis of its complete 3-D shape is generated from a single view. This initial model is used to plan a grasp on the object which is then executed with a robotic manipulator equipped with tactile sensors. Given the detected contacts between the fingers and the object, the full object model including the symmetry parameters can be refined. This refined model will then allow the planning of more complex manipulation tasks. The main contribution of this work is an optimal estimation approach for the fusion of visual and tactile data applying the constraint of object symmetry. The fusion is formulated as a state estimation problem and solved with an iterative extended Kalman filter. The approach is validated experimentally using both artificial and real data from two different robotic platforms.

DOI Project Page [BibTex]

DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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Learning Objective Functions for Manipulation

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

In 2013 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation, IEEE, Karlsruhe, Germany, 2013 (inproceedings)

Abstract
We present an approach to learning objective functions for robotic manipulation based on inverse reinforcement learning. Our path integral inverse reinforcement learning algorithm can deal with high-dimensional continuous state-action spaces, and only requires local optimality of demonstrated trajectories. We use L 1 regularization in order to achieve feature selection, and propose an efficient algorithm to minimize the resulting convex objective function. We demonstrate our approach by applying it to two core problems in robotic manipulation. First, we learn a cost function for redundancy resolution in inverse kinematics. Second, we use our method to learn a cost function over trajectories, which is then used in optimization-based motion planning for grasping and manipulation tasks. Experimental results show that our method outperforms previous algorithms in high-dimensional settings.

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Learning Task Error Models for Manipulation

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

In 2013 IEEE Conference on Robotics and Automation, IEEE, Karlsruhe, Germany, 2013 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Precise kinematic forward models are important for robots to successfully perform dexterous grasping and manipulation tasks, especially when visual servoing is rendered infeasible due to occlusions. A lot of research has been conducted to estimate geometric and non-geometric parameters of kinematic chains to minimize reconstruction errors. However, kinematic chains can include non-linearities, e.g. due to cable stretch and motor-side encoders, that result in significantly different errors for different parts of the state space. Previous work either does not consider such non-linearities or proposes to estimate non-geometric parameters of carefully engineered models that are robot specific. We propose a data-driven approach that learns task error models that account for such unmodeled non-linearities. We argue that in the context of grasping and manipulation, it is sufficient to achieve high accuracy in the task relevant state space. We identify this relevant state space using previously executed joint configurations and learn error corrections for those. Therefore, our system is developed to generate subsequent executions that are similar to previous ones. The experiments show that our method successfully captures the non-linearities in the head kinematic chain (due to a counterbalancing spring) and the arm kinematic chains (due to cable stretch) of the considered experimental platform, see Fig. 1. The feasibility of the presented error learning approach has also been evaluated in independent DARPA ARM-S testing contributing to successfully complete 67 out of 72 grasping and manipulation tasks.

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

2008


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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]

2008

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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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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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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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]

2006


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Learning operational space control

Peters, J., Schaal, S.

In Robotics: Science and Systems II (RSS 2006), pages: 255-262, (Editors: Gaurav S. Sukhatme and Stefan Schaal and Wolfram Burgard and Dieter Fox), Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, RSS , 2006, 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 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-covexity of the solution space, i.e., the learning system could generate motor commands that try to steer the robot into physically impossible configurations. A first important insight for this paper is that, nevertheless, a physically correct solution to the inverse problem does exits when learning of the inverse map is performed in a suitable piecewise linear way. The second crucial component for our work is based on a recent insight that many operational space controllers can be understood in terms of a constraint optimal control problem. The cost function associated with this optimal control problem allows us to formulate a learning algorithm that automatically synthesizes a globally consistent desired resolution of redundancy while learning the operational space controller. From the view of machine learning, the learning problem corresponds to a reinforcement learning problem that maximizes an immediate reward and that employs an expectation-maximization policy search algorithm. Evaluations on a three degrees of freedom robot arm illustrate the feasability of our suggested approach.

link (url) [BibTex]

2006

link (url) [BibTex]


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Reinforcement Learning for Parameterized Motor Primitives

Peters, J., Schaal, S.

In Proceedings of the 2006 International Joint Conference on Neural Networks, pages: 73-80, IJCNN, 2006, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
One of the major challenges in both action generation for robotics and in the understanding of human motor control is to learn the "building blocks of movement generation", called motor primitives. Motor primitives, as used in this paper, are parameterized control policies such as splines or nonlinear differential equations with desired attractor properties. While a lot of progress has been made in teaching parameterized motor primitives using supervised or imitation learning, the self-improvement by interaction of the system with the environment remains a challenging problem. In this paper, we evaluate different reinforcement learning approaches for improving the performance of parameterized motor primitives. For pursuing this goal, we highlight the difficulties with current reinforcement learning methods, and outline both established and novel algorithms for the gradient-based improvement of parameterized policies. We compare these algorithms in the context of motor primitive learning, and 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) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Policy gradient methods for robotics

Peters, J., Schaal, S.

In Proceedings of the IEEE International Conference on Intelligent Robotics Systems, pages: 2219-2225, IROS, 2006, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
The aquisition and improvement of motor skills and control policies for robotics from trial and error is of essential importance if robots should ever leave precisely pre-structured environments. However, to date only few existing reinforcement learning methods have been scaled into the domains of highdimensional robots such as manipulator, legged or humanoid robots. Policy gradient methods remain one of the few exceptions and have found a variety of applications. Nevertheless, the application of such methods is not without peril if done in an uninformed manner. In this paper, we give an overview on learning with policy gradient methods for robotics with a strong focus on recent advances in the field. We outline previous applications to robotics and show how the most recently developed methods can significantly improve learning performance. Finally, we evaluate our most promising algorithm in the application of hitting a baseball with an anthropomorphic arm.

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

2003


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Dynamic movement primitives - A framework for motor control in humans and humanoid robots

Schaal, S.

In The International Symposium on Adaptive Motion of Animals and Machines, Kyoto, Japan, March 4-8, 2003, March 2003, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
Sensory-motor integration is one of the key issues in robotics. In this paper, we propose an approach to rhythmic arm movement control that is synchronized with an external signal based on exploiting a simple neural oscillator network. Trajectory generation by the neural oscillator is a biologically inspired method that can allow us to generate a smooth and continuous trajectory. The parameter tuning of the oscillators is used to generate a synchronized movement with wide intervals. We adopted the method for the drumming task as an example task. By using this method, the robot can realize synchronized drumming with wide drumming intervals in real time. The paper also shows the experimental results of drumming by a humanoid robot.

link (url) [BibTex]

2003

link (url) [BibTex]


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Bayesian backfitting

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

In Proceedings of the 10th Joint Symposium on Neural Computation (JSNC 2003), Irvine, CA, May 2003, 2003, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
We present an algorithm aimed at addressing both computational and analytical intractability of Bayesian regression models which operate in very high-dimensional, usually underconstrained spaces. Several domains of research frequently provide such datasets, including chemometrics [2], and human movement analysis [1]. The literature in nonparametric statistics provides interesting solutions such as Backfitting [3] and Partial Least Squares [4], which are extremely robust and efficient, yet lack a probabilistic interpretation that could place them in the context of current research in statistical learning algorithms that emphasize the estimation of confidence, posterior distributions, and model complexity. In order to achieve numerical robustness and low computational cost, we first derive a novel Bayesian interpretation of Backfitting (BB) as a computationally efficient regression algorithm. BBÕs learning complexity scales linearly with the input dimensionality by decoupling inference among individual input dimensions. We embed BB in an efficient, locally variational model selection mechanism that automatically grows the number of backfitting experts in a mixture-of-experts regression model. We demonstrate the effectiveness of the algorithm in performing principled regularization of model complexity when fitting nonlinear manifolds while avoiding the numerical hazards associated with highly underconstrained problems. We also note that this algorithm appears applicable in various areas of neural computation, e.g., in abstract models of computational neuroscience, or implementations of statistical learning on artificial systems.

link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Reinforcement learning for humanoid robotics

Peters, J., Vijayakumar, S., Schaal, S.

In IEEE-RAS International Conference on Humanoid Robots (Humanoids2003), Karlsruhe, Germany, Sept.29-30, 2003, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
Reinforcement learning offers one of the most general framework to take traditional robotics towards true autonomy and versatility. However, applying reinforcement learning to high dimensional movement systems like humanoid robots remains an unsolved problem. In this paper, we discuss different approaches of reinforcement learning in terms of their applicability in humanoid robotics. Methods can be coarsely classified into three different categories, i.e., greedy methods, `vanilla' policy gradient methods, and natural gradient methods. We discuss that greedy methods are not likely to scale into the domain humanoid robotics as they are problematic when used with function approximation. `Vanilla' policy gradient methods on the other hand have been successfully applied on real-world robots including at least one humanoid robot. We demonstrate that these methods can be significantly improved using the natural policy gradient instead of the regular policy gradient. A derivation of the natural policy gradient is provided, proving that the average policy gradient of Kakade (2002) is indeed the true natural gradient. A general algorithm for estimating the natural gradient, the Natural Actor-Critic algorithm, is introduced. This algorithm converges to the nearest local minimum of the cost function with respect to the Fisher information metric under suitable conditions. The algorithm outperforms non-natural policy gradients by far in a cart-pole balancing evaluation, and for learning nonlinear dynamic motor primitives for humanoid robot control. It offers a promising route for the development of reinforcement learning for truly high dimensionally continuous state-action systems.

link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Discovering imitation strategies through categorization of multi-cimensional data

Billard, A., Epars, Y., Schaal, S., Cheng, G.

In IEEE International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS 2003), Las Vegas, NV, Oct. 27-31, 2003, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
An essential problem of imitation is that of determining Ówhat to imitateÓ, i.e. to determine which of the many features of the demonstration are relevant to the task and which should be reproduced. The strategy followed by the imitator can be modeled as a hierarchical optimization system, which minimizes the discrepancy between two multidimensional datasets. We consider imitation of a manipulation task. To classify across manipulation strategies, we apply a probabilistic analysis to data in Cartesian and joint spaces. We determine a general metric that optimizes the policy of task reproduction, following strategy determination. The model successfully discovers strategies in six different manipulation tasks and controls task reproduction by a full body humanoid robot. or the complete path followed by the demonstrator. We follow a similar taxonomy and apply it to the learning and reproduction of a manipulation task by a humanoid robot. We take the perspective that the features of the movements to imitate are those that appear most frequently, i.e. the invariants in time. The model builds upon previous work [3], [4] and is composed of a hierarchical time delay neural network that extracts invariant features from a manipulation task performed by a human demonstrator. The system analyzes the Carthesian trajectories of the objects and the joint

link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Scaling reinforcement learning paradigms for motor learning

Peters, J., Vijayakumar, S., Schaal, S.

In Proceedings of the 10th Joint Symposium on Neural Computation (JSNC 2003), Irvine, CA, May 2003, 2003, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
Reinforcement learning offers a general framework to explain reward related learning in artificial and biological motor control. However, current reinforcement learning methods rarely scale to high dimensional movement systems and mainly operate in discrete, low dimensional domains like game-playing, artificial toy problems, etc. This drawback makes them unsuitable for application to human or bio-mimetic motor control. In this poster, we look at promising approaches that can potentially scale and suggest a novel formulation of the actor-critic algorithm which takes steps towards alleviating the current shortcomings. We argue that methods based on greedy policies are not likely to scale into high-dimensional domains as they are problematic when used with function approximation Ð a must when dealing with continuous domains. We adopt the path of direct policy gradient based policy improvements since they avoid the problems of unstabilizing dynamics encountered in traditional value iteration based updates. While regular policy gradient methods have demonstrated promising results in the domain of humanoid notor control, we demonstrate that these methods can be significantly improved using the natural policy gradient instead of the regular policy gradient. Based on this, it is proved that KakadeÕs Ôaverage natural policy gradientÕ is indeed the true natural gradient. A general algorithm for estimating the natural gradient, the Natural Actor-Critic algorithm, is introduced. This algorithm converges with probability one to the nearest local minimum in Riemannian space of the cost function. The algorithm outperforms nonnatural policy gradients by far in a cart-pole balancing evaluation, and offers a promising route for the development of reinforcement learning for truly high-dimensionally continuous state-action systems.

link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Learning attractor landscapes for learning motor primitives

Ijspeert, A., Nakanishi, J., Schaal, S.

In Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 15, pages: 1547-1554, (Editors: Becker, S.;Thrun, S.;Obermayer, K.), Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2003, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
If globally high dimensional data has locally only low dimensional distributions, it is advantageous to perform a local dimensionality reduction before further processing the data. In this paper we examine several techniques for local dimensionality reduction in the context of locally weighted linear regression. As possible candidates, we derive local versions of factor analysis regression, principle component regression, principle component regression on joint distributions, and partial least squares regression. After outlining the statistical bases of these methods, we perform Monte Carlo simulations to evaluate their robustness with respect to violations of their statistical assumptions. One surprising outcome is that locally weighted partial least squares regression offers the best average results, thus outperforming even factor analysis, the theoretically most appealing of our candidate techniques.Ê

link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Learning from demonstration and adaptation of biped locomotion with dynamical movement primitives

Nakanishi, J., Morimoto, J., Endo, G., Schaal, S., Kawato, M.

In Workshop on Robot Learning by Demonstration, IEEE International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS 2003), Las Vegas, NV, Oct. 27-31, 2003, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
In this paper, we report on our research for learning biped locomotion from human demonstration. Our ultimate goal is to establish a design principle of a controller in order to achieve natural human-like locomotion. We suggest dynamical movement primitives as a CPG of a biped robot, an approach we have previously proposed for learning and encoding complex human movements. Demonstrated trajectories are learned through the movement primitives by locally weighted regression, and the frequency of the learned trajectories is adjusted automatically by a novel frequency adaptation algorithm based on phase resetting and entrainment of oscillators. Numerical simulations demonstrate the effectiveness of the proposed locomotion controller.

link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Movement planning and imitation by shaping nonlinear attractors

Schaal, S.

In Proceedings of the 12th Yale Workshop on Adaptive and Learning Systems, Yale University, New Haven, CT, 2003, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
Given the continuous stream of movements that biological systems exhibit in their daily activities, an account for such versatility and creativity has to assume that movement sequences consist of segments, executed either in sequence or with partial or complete overlap. Therefore, a fundamental question that has pervaded research in motor control both in artificial and biological systems revolves around identifying movement primitives (a.k.a. units of actions, basis behaviors, motor schemas, etc.). What are the fundamental building blocks that are strung together, adapted to, and created for ever new behaviors? This paper summarizes results that led to the hypothesis of Dynamic Movement Primitives (DMP). DMPs are units of action that are formalized as stable nonlinear attractor systems. They are useful for autonomous robotics as they are highly flexible in creating complex rhythmic (e.g., locomotion) and discrete (e.g., a tennis swing) behaviors that can quickly be adapted to the inevitable perturbations of a dy-namically changing, stochastic environment. Moreover, DMPs provide a formal framework that also lends itself to investigations in computational neuroscience. A recent finding that allows creating DMPs with the help of well-understood statistical learning methods has elevated DMPs from a more heuristic to a principled modeling approach, and, moreover, created a new foundation for imitation learning. Theoretical insights, evaluations on a humanoid robot, and behavioral and brain imaging data will serve to outline the framework of DMPs for a general approach to motor control and imitation in robotics and biology.

link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]

1996


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A kendama learning robot based on a dynamic optimiation principle

Miyamoto, H., Gandolfo, F., Gomi, H., Schaal, S., Koike, Y., Rieka, O., Nakano, E., Wada, Y., Kawato, M.

In Preceedings of the International Conference on Neural Information Processing, pages: 938-942, Hong Kong, September 1996, clmc (inproceedings)

[BibTex]

1996

[BibTex]