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2015


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Distributed Event-based State Estimation

Trimpe, S.

Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems, November 2015 (techreport)

Abstract
An event-based state estimation approach for reducing communication in a networked control system is proposed. Multiple distributed sensor-actuator-agents observe a dynamic process and sporadically exchange their measurements and inputs over a bus network. Based on these data, each agent estimates the full state of the dynamic system, which may exhibit arbitrary inter-agent couplings. Local event-based protocols ensure that data is transmitted only when necessary to meet a desired estimation accuracy. This event-based scheme is shown to mimic a centralized Luenberger observer design up to guaranteed bounds, and stability is proven in the sense of bounded estimation errors for bounded disturbances. The stability result extends to the distributed control system that results when the local state estimates are used for distributed feedback control. Simulation results highlight the benefit of the event-based approach over classical periodic ones in reducing communication requirements.

arXiv [BibTex]

2015

arXiv [BibTex]


Sensory synergy as environmental input integration
Sensory synergy as environmental input integration

Alnajjar, F., Itkonen, M., Berenz, V., Tournier, M., Nagai, C., Shimoda, S.

Frontiers in Neuroscience, 8, pages: 436, 2015 (article)

Abstract
The development of a method to feed proper environmental inputs back to the central nervous system (CNS) remains one of the challenges in achieving natural movement when part of the body is replaced with an artificial device. Muscle synergies are widely accepted as a biologically plausible interpretation of the neural dynamics between the CNS and the muscular system. Yet the sensorineural dynamics of environmental feedback to the CNS has not been investigated in detail. In this study, we address this issue by exploring the concept of sensory synergy. In contrast to muscle synergy, we hypothesize that sensory synergy plays an essential role in integrating the overall environmental inputs to provide low-dimensional information to the CNS. We assume that sensor synergy and muscle synergy communicate using these low-dimensional signals. To examine our hypothesis, we conducted posture control experiments involving lateral disturbance with 9 healthy participants. Proprioceptive information represented by the changes on muscle lengths were estimated by using the musculoskeletal model analysis software SIMM. Changes on muscles lengths were then used to compute sensory synergies. The experimental results indicate that the environmental inputs were translated into the two dimensional signals and used to move the upper limb to the desired position immediately after the lateral disturbance. Participants who showed high skill in posture control were found to be likely to have a strong correlation between sensory and muscle signaling as well as high coordination between the utilized sensory synergies. These results suggest the importance of integrating environmental inputs into suitable low-dimensional signals before providing them to the CNS. This mechanism should be essential when designing the prosthesis’ sensory system to make the controller simpler

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Active Reward Learning with a Novel Acquisition Function

Daniel, C., Kroemer, O., Viering, M., Metz, J., Peters, J.

Autonomous Robots, 39(3):389-405, 2015 (article)

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Learning Movement Primitive Attractor Goals and Sequential Skills from Kinesthetic Demonstrations

Manschitz, S., Kober, J., Gienger, M., Peters, J.

Robotics and Autonomous Systems, 74, Part A, pages: 97-107, 2015 (article)

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Bayesian Optimization for Learning Gaits under Uncertainty

Calandra, R., Seyfarth, A., Peters, J., Deisenroth, M.

Annals of Mathematics and Artificial Intelligence, pages: 1-19, 2015 (article)

DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]

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]


Nonmyopic View Planning for Active Object Classification and Pose Estimation
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]


Data-Driven Grasp Synthesis - A Survey
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 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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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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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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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 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]

2013


3-D Object Reconstruction of Symmetric Objects by Fusing Visual and Tactile Sensing
3-D Object Reconstruction of Symmetric Objects by Fusing Visual and Tactile Sensing

Illonen, J., Bohg, J., Kyrki, V.

The International Journal of Robotics Research, 33(2):321-341, Sage, October 2013 (article)

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. A grasp is executed on the object with a robotic manipulator equipped with tactile sensors. Given the detected contacts between the fingers and the object, the initial 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.

Web DOI Project Page [BibTex]

2013

Web DOI Project Page [BibTex]


Learning and Optimization with Submodular Functions
Learning and Optimization with Submodular Functions

Sankaran, B., Ghazvininejad, M., He, X., Kale, D., Cohen, L.

ArXiv, May 2013 (techreport)

Abstract
In many naturally occurring optimization problems one needs to ensure that the definition of the optimization problem lends itself to solutions that are tractable to compute. In cases where exact solutions cannot be computed tractably, it is beneficial to have strong guarantees on the tractable approximate solutions. In order operate under these criterion most optimization problems are cast under the umbrella of convexity or submodularity. In this report we will study design and optimization over a common class of functions called submodular functions. Set functions, and specifically submodular set functions, characterize a wide variety of naturally occurring optimization problems, and the property of submodularity of set functions has deep theoretical consequences with wide ranging applications. Informally, the property of submodularity of set functions concerns the intuitive principle of diminishing returns. This property states that adding an element to a smaller set has more value than adding it to a larger set. Common examples of submodular monotone functions are entropies, concave functions of cardinality, and matroid rank functions; non-monotone examples include graph cuts, network flows, and mutual information. In this paper we will review the formal definition of submodularity; the optimization of submodular functions, both maximization and minimization; and finally discuss some applications in relation to learning and reasoning using submodular functions.

arxiv link (url) [BibTex]

arxiv link (url) [BibTex]


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Optimal control of reaching includes kinematic constraints

Mistry, M., Theodorou, E., Schaal, S., Kawato, M.

Journal of Neurophysiology, 2013, clmc (article)

Abstract
We investigate adaptation under a reaching task with an acceleration-based force field perturbation designed to alter the nominal straight hand trajectory in a potentially benign manner:pushing the hand of course in one direction before subsequently restoring towards the target. In this particular task, an explicit strategy to reduce motor effort requires a distinct deviation from the nominal rectilinear hand trajectory. Rather, our results display a clear directional preference during learning, as subjects adapted perturbed curved trajectories towards their initial baselines. We model this behavior using the framework of stochastic optimal control theory and an objective function that trades-of the discordant requirements of 1) target accuracy, 2) motor effort, and 3) desired trajectory. Our work addresses the underlying objective of a reaching movement, and we suggest that robustness, particularly against internal model uncertainly, is as essential to the reaching task as terminal accuracy and energy effciency.

PDF [BibTex]

PDF [BibTex]


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Dynamical Movement Primitives: Learning Attractor Models for Motor Behaviors

Ijspeert, A., Nakanishi, J., Pastor, P., Hoffmann, H., Schaal, S.

Neural Computation, (25):328-373, 2013, clmc (article)

Abstract
Nonlinear dynamical systems have been used in many disciplines to model complex behaviors, including biological motor control, robotics, perception, economics, traffic prediction, and neuroscience. While often the unexpected emergent behavior of nonlinear systems is the focus of investigations, it is of equal importance to create goal-directed behavior (e.g., stable locomotion from a system of coupled oscillators under perceptual guidance). Modeling goal-directed behavior with nonlinear systems is, however, rather difficult due to the parameter sensitivity of these systems, their complex phase transitions in response to subtle parameter changes, and the difficulty of analyzing and predicting their long-term behavior; intuition and time-consuming parameter tuning play a major role. This letter presents and reviews dynamical movement primitives, a line of research for modeling attractor behaviors of autonomous nonlinear dynamical systems with the help of statistical learning techniques. The essence of our approach is to start with a simple dynamical system, such as a set of linear differential equations, and transform those into a weakly nonlinear system with prescribed attractor dynamics by meansof a learnable autonomous forcing term. Both point attractors and limit cycle attractors of almost arbitrary complexity can be generated. We explain the design principle of our approach and evaluate its properties in several example applications in motor control and robotics.

link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Optimal distribution of contact forces with inverse-dynamics control

Righetti, L., Buchli, J., Mistry, M., Kalakrishnan, M., Schaal, S.

The International Journal of Robotics Research, 32(3):280-298, March 2013 (article)

Abstract
The development of legged robots for complex environments requires controllers that guarantee both high tracking performance and compliance with the environment. More specifically the control of the contact interaction with the environment is of crucial importance to ensure stable, robust and safe motions. In this contribution we develop an inverse-dynamics controller for floating-base robots under contact constraints that can minimize any combination of linear and quadratic costs in the contact constraints and the commands. Our main result is the exact analytical derivation of the controller. Such a result is particularly relevant for legged robots as it allows us to use torque redundancy to directly optimize contact interactions. For example, given a desired locomotion behavior, we can guarantee the minimization of contact forces to reduce slipping on difficult terrains while ensuring high tracking performance of the desired motion. The main advantages of the controller are its simplicity, computational efficiency and robustness to model inaccuracies. We present detailed experimental results on simulated humanoid and quadruped robots as well as a real quadruped robot. The experiments demonstrate that the controller can greatly improve the robustness of locomotion of the robots.1

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

2012


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The Balancing Cube: A Dynamic Sculpture as Test Bed for Distributed Estimation and Control

Trimpe, S., D’Andrea, R.

IEEE Control Systems Magazine, 32(6):48-75, December 2012 (article)

DOI [BibTex]

2012

DOI [BibTex]


Visual Servoing on Unknown Objects
Visual Servoing on Unknown Objects

Gratal, X., Romero, J., Bohg, J., Kragic, D.

Mechatronics, 22(4):423-435, Elsevier, June 2012, Visual Servoing \{SI\} (article)

Abstract
We study visual servoing in a framework of detection and grasping of unknown objects. Classically, visual servoing has been used for applications where the object to be servoed on is known to the robot prior to the task execution. In addition, most of the methods concentrate on aligning the robot hand with the object without grasping it. In our work, visual servoing techniques are used as building blocks in a system capable of detecting and grasping unknown objects in natural scenes. We show how different visual servoing techniques facilitate a complete grasping cycle.

Grasping sequence video Offline calibration video Pdf DOI [BibTex]

Grasping sequence video Offline calibration video Pdf DOI [BibTex]


Emotionally Assisted Human-Robot Interaction Using a Wearable Device for Reading Facial Expressions
Emotionally Assisted Human-Robot Interaction Using a Wearable Device for Reading Facial Expressions

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

Advanced Robotics, 26(10):1143-1159, 2012 (article)

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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From Dynamic Movement Primitives to Associative Skill Memories

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

Robotics and Autonomous Systems, 2012 (article)

Project Page [BibTex]

Project Page [BibTex]


Autonomous battery management for mobile robots based on risk and gain assessment
Autonomous battery management for mobile robots based on risk and gain assessment

Berenz, V., Tanaka, F., Suzuki, K.

Artif. Intell. Rev., 37(3):217-237, 2012 (article)

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Model-free reinforcement learning of impedance control in stochastic environments

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

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

[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Reinforcement Learning with Sequences of Motion Primitives for Robust Manipulation

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

IEEE Transactions on Robotics, 2012 (article)

[BibTex]

[BibTex]

2010


Learning Grasping Points with Shape Context
Learning Grasping Points with Shape Context

Bohg, J., Kragic, D.

Robotics and Autonomous Systems, 58(4):362-377, North-Holland Publishing Co., Amsterdam, The Netherlands, The Netherlands, April 2010 (article)

Abstract
This paper presents work on vision based robotic grasping. The proposed method adopts a learning framework where prototypical grasping points are learnt 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 labelled synthetic images. We evaluate and compare the performance of linear and non-linear classifiers. 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.

pdf link (url) DOI [BibTex]

2010

pdf link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Policy learning algorithmis for motor learning (Algorithmen zum automatischen Erlernen von Motorfähigkigkeiten)

Peters, J., Kober, J., Schaal, S.

Automatisierungstechnik, 58(12):688-694, 2010, clmc (article)

Abstract
Robot learning methods which allow au- tonomous robots to adapt to novel situations have been a long standing vision of robotics, artificial intelligence, and cognitive sciences. However, to date, learning techniques have yet to ful- fill 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. If possible, scaling was usually only achieved in precisely pre-structured domains. In this paper, we investigate the ingredients for a general ap- proach 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 algo- rithms 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 structu- res for task representation and execution.

link (url) [BibTex]


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A Bayesian approach to nonlinear parameter identification for rigid-body dynamics

Ting, J., DSouza, A., Schaal, S.

Neural Networks, 2010, clmc (article)

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

link (url) [BibTex]


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A first optimal control solution for a complex, nonlinear, tendon driven neuromuscular finger model

Theodorou, E. A., Todorov, E., Valero-Cuevas, F.

Proceedings of the ASME 2010 Summer Bioengineering Conference August 30-September 2, 2010, Naples, Florida, USA, 2010, clmc (article)

Abstract
In this work we present the first constrained stochastic op- timal feedback controller applied to a fully nonlinear, tendon driven index finger model. Our model also takes into account an extensor mechanism, and muscle force-length and force-velocity properties. We show this feedback controller is robust to noise and perturbations to the dynamics, while successfully handling the nonlinearities and high dimensionality of the system. By ex- tending prior methods, we are able to approximate physiological realism by ensuring positivity of neural commands and tendon tensions at all timesthus can, for the first time, use the optimal control framework to predict biologically plausible tendon tensions for a nonlinear neuromuscular finger model. METHODS 1 Muscle Model The rigid-body triple pendulum finger model with slightly viscous joints is actuated by Hill-type muscle models. Joint torques are generated by the seven muscles of the index fin-

PDF [BibTex]

PDF [BibTex]


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Efficient learning and feature detection in high dimensional regression

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

Neural Computation, 22, pages: 831-886, 2010, clmc (article)

Abstract
We present a novel algorithm for efficient learning and feature selection in high- dimensional regression problems. We arrive at this model through a modification of the standard regression model, enabling us to derive a probabilistic version of the well-known statistical regression technique of backfitting. Using the Expectation- Maximization algorithm, along with variational approximation methods to overcome intractability, we extend our algorithm to include automatic relevance detection of the input features. This Variational Bayesian Least Squares (VBLS) approach retains its simplicity as a linear model, but offers a novel statistically robust â??black- boxâ? approach to generalized linear regression with high-dimensional inputs. It can be easily extended to nonlinear regression and classification problems. In particular, we derive the framework of sparse Bayesian learning, e.g., the Relevance Vector Machine, with VBLS at its core, offering significant computational and robustness advantages for this class of methods. We evaluate our algorithm on synthetic and neurophysiological data sets, as well as on standard regression and classification benchmark data sets, comparing it with other competitive statistical approaches and demonstrating its suitability as a drop-in replacement for other generalized linear regression techniques.

link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Stochastic Differential Dynamic Programming

Theodorou, E., Tassa, Y., Todorov, E.

In the proceedings of American Control Conference (ACC 2010) , 2010, clmc (article)

Abstract
We present a generalization of the classic Differential Dynamic Programming algorithm. We assume the existence of state- and control-dependent process noise, and proceed to derive the second-order expansion of the cost-to-go. Despite having quartic and cubic terms in the initial expression, we show that these vanish, leaving us with the same quadratic structure as standard DDP.

PDF [BibTex]

PDF [BibTex]


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Learning control in robotics – trajectory-based opitimal control techniques

Schaal, S., Atkeson, C. G.

Robotics and Automation Magazine, 17(2):20-29, 2010, clmc (article)

Abstract
In a not too distant future, robots will be a natural part of daily life in human society, providing assistance in many areas ranging from clinical applications, education and care giving, to normal household environments [1]. It is hard to imagine that all possible tasks can be preprogrammed in such robots. Robots need to be able to learn, either by themselves or with the help of human supervision. Additionally, wear and tear on robots in daily use needs to be automatically compensated for, which requires a form of continuous self-calibration, another form of learning. Finally, robots need to react to stochastic and dynamic environments, i.e., they need to learn how to optimally adapt to uncertainty and unforeseen changes. Robot learning is going to be a key ingredient for the future of autonomous robots. While robot learning covers a rather large field, from learning to perceive, to plan, to make decisions, etc., we will focus this review on topics of learning control, in particular, as it is concerned with learning control in simulated or actual physical robots. In general, learning control refers to the process of acquiring a control strategy for a particular control system and a particular task by trial and error. Learning control is usually distinguished from adaptive control [2] in that the learning system can have rather general optimization objectivesâ??not just, e.g., minimal tracking errorâ??and is permitted to fail during the process of learning, while adaptive control emphasizes fast convergence without failure. Thus, learning control resembles the way that humans and animals acquire new movement strategies, while adaptive control is a special case of learning control that fulfills stringent performance constraints, e.g., as needed in life-critical systems like airplanes. Learning control has been an active topic of research for at least three decades. However, given the lack of working robots that actually use learning components, more work needs to be done before robot learning will make it beyond the laboratory environment. This article will survey some ongoing and past activities in robot learning to assess where the field stands and where it is going. We will largely focus on nonwheeled robots and less on topics of state estimation, as typically explored in wheeled robots [3]â??6], and we emphasize learning in continuous state-action spaces rather than discrete state-action spaces [7], [8]. We will illustrate the different topics of robot learning with examples from our own research with anthropomorphic and humanoid robots.

link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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

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

International Journal of Robotics Research, 30(2):236-258, 2010, clmc (article)

Abstract
We present a control architecture for fast quadruped locomotion over rough terrain. We approach the problem by decomposing it into many sub-systems, in which we apply state-of-the-art learning, planning, optimization, and control techniques to achieve robust, fast locomotion. Unique features of our control strategy include: (1) a system that learns optimal foothold choices from expert demonstration using terrain templates, (2) a body trajectory optimizer based on the Zero- Moment Point (ZMP) stability criterion, and (3) a floating-base inverse dynamics controller that, in conjunction with force control, allows for robust, compliant locomotion over unperceived obstacles. We evaluate the performance of our controller by testing it on the LittleDog quadruped robot, over a wide variety of rough terrains of varying difficulty levels. The terrain that the robot was tested on includes rocks, logs, steps, barriers, and gaps, with obstacle sizes up to the leg length of the robot. We demonstrate the generalization ability of this controller by presenting results from testing performed by an independent external test team on terrain that has never been shown to us.

link (url) Project Page [BibTex]

link (url) Project Page [BibTex]

2009


Towards Grasp-Oriented Visual Perception of Humanoid Robots
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]

2009

pdf DOI [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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Adaptive compliance control of a multi-legged stair-climbing robot based on proprioceptive data

Waldron, K. J., Eich, M., Grimminger, F., Kirchner, F.

Industrial Robot: An International Journal, 36, pages: 331-339, Emerald Group Publishing Limited, June 2009 (article)

DOI [BibTex]

DOI [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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The SL simulation and real-time control software package

Schaal, S.

University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA, 2009, clmc (techreport)

Abstract
SL was originally developed as a Simulation Laboratory software package to allow creating complex rigid-body dynamics simulations with minimal development times. It was meant to complement a real-time robotics setup such that robot programs could first be debugged in simulation before trying them on the actual robot. For this purpose, the motor control setup of SL was copied from our experience with real-time robot setups with vxWorks (Windriver Systems, Inc.)Ñindeed, more than 90% of the code is identical to the actual robot software, as will be explained later in detail. As a result, SL is divided into three software components: 1) the generic code that is shared by the actual robot and the simulation, 2) the robot specific code, and 3) the simulation specific code. The robot specific code is tailored to the robotic environments that we have experienced over the years, in particular towards VME-based multi-processor real-time operating systems. The simulation specific code has all the components for OpenGL graphics simulations and mimics the robot multi-processor environment in simple C-code. Importantly, SL can be used stand-alone for creating graphics an-imationsÑthe heritage from real-time robotics does not restrict the complexity of possible simulations. This technical report describes SL in detail and can serve as a manual for new users of SL.

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]


no image
The SL simulation and real-time control software package

Schaal, S.

University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA, 2009, clmc (techreport)

Abstract
SL was originally developed as a Simulation Laboratory software package to allow creating complex rigid-body dynamics simulations with minimal development times. It was meant to complement a real-time robotics setup such that robot programs could first be debugged in simulation before trying them on the actual robot. For this purpose, the motor control setup of SL was copied from our experience with real-time robot setups with vxWorks (Windriver Systems, Inc.)â??indeed, more than 90% of the code is identical to the actual robot software, as will be explained later in detail. As a result, SL is divided into three software components: 1) the generic code that is shared by the actual robot and the simulation, 2) the robot specific code, and 3) the simulation specific code. The robot specific code is tailored to the robotic environments that we have experienced over the years, in particular towards VME-based multi-processor real-time operating systems. The simulation specific code has all the components for OpenGL graphics simulations and mimics the robot multi-processor environment in simple C-code. Importantly, SL can be used stand-alone for creating graphics an-imationsâ??the heritage from real-time robotics does not restrict the complexity of possible simulations. This technical report describes SL in detail and can serve as a manual for new users of SL.

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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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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Relative Entropy Policy Search

Peters, J.

CLMC Technical Report: TR-CLMC-2007-2, Computational Learning and Motor Control Lab, Los Angeles, CA, 2007, clmc (techreport)

Abstract
This technical report describes a cute idea of how to create new policy search approaches. It directly relates to the Natural Actor-Critic methods but allows the derivation of one shot solutions. Future work may include the application to interesting problems.

PDF link (url) [BibTex]

2007

PDF 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]


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Learning an Outlier-Robust Kalman Filter

Ting, J., Theodorou, E., Schaal, S.

CLMC Technical Report: TR-CLMC-2007-1, Los Angeles, CA, 2007, clmc (techreport)

Abstract
We introduce a modified Kalman filter that performs robust, real-time outlier detection, without the need for manual parameter tuning by the user. Systems that rely on high quality sensory data (for instance, robotic systems) can be sensitive to data containing outliers. The standard Kalman filter is not robust to outliers, and other variations of the Kalman filter have been proposed to overcome this issue. However, these methods may require manual parameter tuning, use of heuristics or complicated parameter estimation procedures. Our Kalman filter uses a weighted least squares-like approach by introducing weights for each data sample. A data sample with a smaller weight has a weaker contribution when estimating the current time step?s state. Using an incremental variational Expectation-Maximization framework, we learn the weights and system dynamics. We evaluate our Kalman filter algorithm on data from a robotic dog.

PDF [BibTex]

PDF [BibTex]

2004


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Discovering optimal imitation strategies

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

Robotics and Autonomous Systems, 47(2-3):68-77, 2004, clmc (article)

Abstract
This paper develops a general policy for learning relevant features of an imitation task. We restrict our study to imitation of manipulative tasks or of gestures. The imitation process is modeled as a hierarchical optimization system, which minimizes the discrepancy between two multi-dimensional datasets. 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 imitative tasks and controls task reproduction by a full body humanoid robot.

[BibTex]

2004

[BibTex]


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Rhythmic movement is not discrete

Schaal, S., Sternad, D., Osu, R., Kawato, M.

Nature Neuroscience, 7(10):1137-1144, 2004, clmc (article)

Abstract
Rhythmic movements, like walking, chewing, or scratching, are phylogenetically old mo-tor behaviors found in many organisms, ranging from insects to primates. In contrast, discrete movements, like reaching, grasping, or kicking, are behaviors that have reached sophistication primarily in younger species, particularly in primates. Neurophysiological and computational research on arm motor control has focused almost exclusively on dis-crete movements, essentially assuming similar neural circuitry for rhythmic tasks. In con-trast, many behavioral studies focused on rhythmic models, subsuming discrete move-ment as a special case. Here, using a human functional neuroimaging experiment, we show that in addition to areas activated in rhythmic movement, discrete movement in-volves several higher cortical planning areas, despite both movement conditions were confined to the same single wrist joint. These results provide the first neuroscientific evi-dence that rhythmic arm movement cannot be part of a more general discrete movement system, and may require separate neurophysiological and theoretical treatment.

link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]