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2018


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Statistical Modelling of Fingertip Deformations and Contact Forces during Tactile Interaction

Gueorguiev, D., Tzionas, D., Pacchierotti, C., Black, M. J., Kuchenbecker, K. J.

Extended abstract presented at the 2018 CSF Hand, Brain and Technology conference (HBT), August 2018 (misc)

Abstract
Little is known about the shape and properties of the human finger during haptic interaction, even though these are essential parameters for controlling wearable finger devices and deliver realistic tactile feedback. This study explores a framework for four-dimensional scanning (3D over time) and modelling of finger-surface interactions, aiming to capture the motion and deformations of the entire finger with high resolution while simultaneously recording the interfacial forces at the contact. Preliminary results show that when the fingertip is actively pressing a rigid surface, it undergoes lateral expansion and proximal/distal bending, deformations that cannot be captured by imaging of the contact area alone. Therefore, we are currently capturing a dataset that will enable us to create a statistical model of the finger’s deformations and predict the contact forces induced by tactile interaction with objects. This technique could improve current methods for tactile rendering in wearable haptic devices, which rely on general physical modelling of the skin’s compliance, by developing an accurate model of the variations in finger properties across the human population. The availability of such a model will also enable a more realistic simulation of virtual finger behaviour in virtual reality (VR) environments, as well as the ability to accurately model a specific user’s finger from lower resolution data. It may also be relevant for inferring the physical properties of the underlying tissue from observing the surface mesh deformations, as previously shown for body tissues.

hi

[BibTex]

2018


[BibTex]


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Learning-Based Robust Model Predictive Control with State-Dependent Uncertainty

Soloperto, R., Müller, M. A., Trimpe, S., Allgöwer, F.

In IFAC Conference on Nonlinear Model Predictive Control, Madison, Wisconsin, USA, 6th IFAC Conference on Nonlinear Model Predictive Control, August 2018 (inproceedings) Accepted

ics

[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Decentralized MPC based Obstacle Avoidance for Multi-Robot Target Tracking Scenarios

Tallamraju, R., Rajappa, S., Black, M. J., Karlapalem, K., Ahmad, A.

2018 IEEE International Symposium on Safety, Security, and Rescue Robotics (SSRR), pages: 1-8, IEEE, August 2018 (conference)

Abstract
In this work, we consider the problem of decentralized multi-robot target tracking and obstacle avoidance in dynamic environments. Each robot executes a local motion planning algorithm which is based on model predictive control (MPC). The planner is designed as a quadratic program, subject to constraints on robot dynamics and obstacle avoidance. Repulsive potential field functions are employed to avoid obstacles. The novelty of our approach lies in embedding these non-linear potential field functions as constraints within a convex optimization framework. Our method convexifies nonconvex constraints and dependencies, by replacing them as pre-computed external input forces in robot dynamics. The proposed algorithm additionally incorporates different methods to avoid field local minima problems associated with using potential field functions in planning. The motion planner does not enforce predefined trajectories or any formation geometry on the robots and is a comprehensive solution for cooperative obstacle avoidance in the context of multi-robot target tracking. We perform simulation studies for different scenarios to showcase the convergence and efficacy of the proposed algorithm.

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Published Version link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]

Published Version link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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Gait learning for soft microrobots controlled by light fields

Rohr, A. V., Trimpe, S., Marco, A., Fischer, P., Palagi, S.

In Proceeding of the International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems, International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS), July 2018 (inproceedings) To be published

Abstract
Soft microrobots based on photoresponsive materials and controlled by light fields can generate a variety of different gaits. This inherent flexibility can be exploited to maximize their locomotion performance in a given environment and used to adapt them to changing environments. However, because of the lack of accurate locomotion models, and given the intrinsic variability among microrobots, analytical control design is not possible. Common data-driven approaches, on the other hand, require running prohibitive numbers of experiments and lead to very sample-specific results. Here we propose a probabilistic learning approach for light-controlled soft microrobots based on Bayesian Optimization (BO) and Gaussian Processes (GPs). The proposed approach results in a learning scheme that is highly data-efficient, enabling gait optimization with a limited experimental budget, and robust against differences among microrobot samples. These features are obtained by designing the learning scheme through the comparison of different GP priors and BO settings on a semisynthetic data set. The developed learning scheme is validated in microrobot experiments, resulting in a 115% improvement in a microrobot’s locomotion performance with an experimental budget of only 20 tests. These encouraging results lead the way toward self-adaptive microrobotic systems based on lightcontrolled soft microrobots and probabilistic learning control.

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arXiv [BibTex]

arXiv [BibTex]


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A machine from machines

Fischer, P.

Nature Physics, July 2018 (misc)

Abstract
Building spinning microrotors that self-assemble and synchronize to form a gear sounds like an impossible feat. However, it has now been achieved using only a single type of building block -- a colloid that self-propels.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Chemotaxis of Active Janus Nanoparticles

Popescu, M. N., Uspal, W. E., Bechinger, C., Fischer, P.

Nano Letters, July 2018, PMID: 30047271 (article)

Abstract
While colloids and molecules in solution exhibit passive Brownian motion, particles that are partially covered with a catalyst, which promotes the transformation of a fuel dissolved in the solution, can actively move. These active Janus particles are known as “chemical nanomotors” or self-propelling “swimmers” and have been realized with a range of catalysts, sizes, and particle geometries. Because their active translation depends on the fuel concentration, one expects that active colloidal particles should also be able to swim toward a fuel source. Synthesizing and engineering nanoparticles with distinct chemotactic properties may enable important developments, such as particles that can autonomously swim along a pH gradient toward a tumor. Chemotaxis requires that the particles possess an active coupling of their orientation to a chemical gradient. In this Perspective we provide a simple, intuitive description of the underlying mechanisms for chemotaxis, as well as the means to analyze and classify active particles that can show positive or negative chemotaxis. The classification provides guidance for engineering a specific response and is a useful organizing framework for the quantitative analysis and modeling of chemotactic behaviors. Chemotaxis is emerging as an important focus area in the field of active colloids and promises a number of fascinating applications for nanoparticles and particle-based delivery.

pf

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Kernel Recursive ABC: Point Estimation with Intractable Likelihood

Kajihara, T., Kanagawa, M., Yamazaki, K., Fukumizu, K.

Proceedings of the 35th International Conference on Machine Learning, pages: 2405-2414, PMLR, July 2018 (proceedings)

Abstract
We propose a novel approach to parameter estimation for simulator-based statistical models with intractable likelihood. Our proposed method involves recursive application of kernel ABC and kernel herding to the same observed data. We provide a theoretical explanation regarding why the approach works, showing (for the population setting) that, under a certain assumption, point estimates obtained with this method converge to the true parameter, as recursion proceeds. We have conducted a variety of numerical experiments, including parameter estimation for a real-world pedestrian flow simulator, and show that in most cases our method outperforms existing approaches.

pn

Paper [BibTex]

Paper [BibTex]


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Programmable collective behavior in dynamically self-assembled mobile microrobotic swarms

B Yigit, , Y Alapan, , Sitti, M.

arXiv, July 2018 (article)

Abstract
Collective control of mobile microrobotic swarms is indispensable for their potential high-impact applications in targeted drug delivery, medical diagnostics, parallel micromanipulation, and environmental sensing and remediation. Lack of on-board computational and sensing capabilities in current microrobotic systems necessitates use of physical interactions among individual microrobots for local physical communication and cooperation. Here, we show that mobile microrobotic swarms with well-defined collective behavior can be designed by engineering magnetic interactions among individual units. Microrobots, consisting of a linear chain of self-assembled magnetic microparticles, locomote on surfaces in response to a precessing magnetic field. Control over the direction of precessing magnetic field allows engineering attractive and repulsive interactions among microrobots and, thus, collective order with well-defined spatial organization and parallel operation over macroscale distances (~ 1 cm). These microrobotic swarms can be guided through confined spaces, while preserving microrobot morphology and function. These swarms can further achieve directional transport of large cargoes on surfaces and small cargoes in bulk fluids. Described design approach, exploiting physical interactions among individual robots, enables facile and rapid formation of self-organized and reconfigurable microrobotic swarms with programmable collective order.

pi

link (url) [BibTex]


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3D-Printed Biodegradable Microswimmer for Drug Delivery and Targeted Cell Labeling

Hakan Ceylan, , I. Ceren Yasa, , Oncay Yasa, , Ahmet Fatih Tabak, , Joshua Giltinan, , Sitti, M.

bioRxiv, pages: 379024, July 2018 (article)

Abstract
Miniaturization of interventional medical devices can leverage minimally invasive technologies by enabling operational resolution at cellular length scales with high precision and repeatability. Untethered micron-scale mobile robots can realize this by navigating and performing in hard-to-reach, confined and delicate inner body sites. However, such a complex task requires an integrated design and engineering strategy, where powering, control, environmental sensing, medical functionality and biodegradability need to be considered altogether. The present study reports a hydrogel-based, biodegradable microrobotic swimmer, which is responsive to the changes in its microenvironment for theranostic cargo delivery and release tasks. We design a double-helical magnetic microswimmer of 20 micrometers length, which is 3D-printed with complex geometrical and compositional features. At normal physiological concentrations, matrix metalloproteinase-2 (MMP-2) enzyme can entirely degrade the microswimmer body in 118 h to solubilized non-toxic products. The microswimmer can respond to the pathological concentrations of MMP-2 by swelling and thereby accelerating the release kinetics of the drug payload. Anti-ErbB 2 antibody-tagged magnetic nanoparticles released from the degraded microswimmers serve for targeted labeling of SKBR3 breast cancer cells to realize the potential of medical imaging of local tissue sites following the therapeutic intervention. These results represent a leap forward toward clinical medical microrobots that are capable of sensing, responding to the local pathological information, and performing specific therapeutic and diagnostic tasks as orderly executed operations using their smart composite material architectures.

pi

DOI [BibTex]


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Learning-based solution to phase error correction in T2*-weighted GRE scans

Loktyushin, A., Ehses, P., Schölkopf, B., Scheffler, K.

1st International conference on Medical Imaging with Deep Learning (MIDL), July 2018 (conference)

ei

link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Intrinsic disentanglement: an invariance view for deep generative models

Besserve, M., Sun, R., Schölkopf, B.

Workshop on Theoretical Foundations and Applications of Deep Generative Models at ICML, July 2018 (conference)

ei

PDF [BibTex]

PDF [BibTex]


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Robust Visual Augmented Reality in Robot-Assisted Surgery

Forte, M. P.

Politecnico di Milano, July 2018 (mastersthesis)

Abstract
The broader research objective of this line of research is to test the hypothesis that real-time stereo video analysis and augmented reality can increase safety and task efficiency in robot-assisted surgery. This master’s thesis aims to solve the first step needed to achieve this goal: the creation of a robust system that delivers the envisioned feedback to a surgeon while he or she controls a surgical robot that is identical to those used on human patients. Several approaches for applying augmented reality to da Vinci Surgical Systems have been proposed, but none of them entirely rely on a clinical robot; specifically, they require additional sensors, depend on access to the da Vinci API, are designed for a very specific task, or were tested on systems that are starkly different from those in clinical use. There has also been prior work that presents the real-world camera view and the computer graphics on separate screens, or not in real time. In other scenarios, the digital information is overlaid manually by the surgeons themselves or by computer scientists, rather than being generated automatically in response to the surgeon’s actions. We attempted to overcome the aforementioned constraints by acquiring input signals from the da Vinci stereo endoscope and providing augmented reality to the console in real time (less than 150 ms delay, including the 62 ms of inherent latency of the da Vinci). The potential benefits of the resulting system are broad because it was built to be general, rather than customized for any specific task. The entire platform is compatible with any generation of the da Vinci System and does not require a dVRK (da Vinci Research Kit) or access to the API. Thus, it can be applied to existing da Vinci Systems in operating rooms around the world.

hi

[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Learning an Approximate Model Predictive Controller with Guarantees

Hertneck, M., Koehler, J., Trimpe, S., Allgöwer, F.

IEEE Control Systems Letters, 2(3):543-548, July 2018 (article)

Abstract
A supervised learning framework is proposed to approximate a model predictive controller (MPC) with reduced computational complexity and guarantees on stability and constraint satisfaction. The framework can be used for a wide class of nonlinear systems. Any standard supervised learning technique (e.g. neural networks) can be employed to approximate the MPC from samples. In order to obtain closed-loop guarantees for the learned MPC, a robust MPC design is combined with statistical learning bounds. The MPC design ensures robustness to inaccurate inputs within given bounds, and Hoeffding’s Inequality is used to validate that the learned MPC satisfies these bounds with high confidence. The result is a closed-loop statistical guarantee on stability and constraint satisfaction for the learned MPC. The proposed learning-based MPC framework is illustrated on a nonlinear benchmark problem, for which we learn a neural network controller with guarantees.

ics

arXiv PDF DOI [BibTex]

arXiv PDF DOI [BibTex]


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Robust Physics-based Motion Retargeting with Realistic Body Shapes

Borno, M. A., Righetti, L., Black, M. J., Delp, S. L., Fiume, E., Romero, J.

Computer Graphics Forum, 37, pages: 6:1-12, July 2018 (article)

Abstract
Motion capture is often retargeted to new, and sometimes drastically different, characters. When the characters take on realistic human shapes, however, we become more sensitive to the motion looking right. This means adapting it to be consistent with the physical constraints imposed by different body shapes. We show how to take realistic 3D human shapes, approximate them using a simplified representation, and animate them so that they move realistically using physically-based retargeting. We develop a novel spacetime optimization approach that learns and robustly adapts physical controllers to new bodies and constraints. The approach automatically adapts the motion of the mocap subject to the body shape of a target subject. This motion respects the physical properties of the new body and every body shape results in a different and appropriate movement. This makes it easy to create a varied set of motions from a single mocap sequence by simply varying the characters. In an interactive environment, successful retargeting requires adapting the motion to unexpected external forces. We achieve robustness to such forces using a novel LQR-tree formulation. We show that the simulated motions look appropriate to each character’s anatomy and their actions are robust to perturbations.

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pdf video [BibTex]

pdf video [BibTex]


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Comparison-Based Random Forests

Haghiri, S., Garreau, D., Luxburg, U. V.

International Conference on Machine learning (ICML), 2018 (conference)

slt

link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Probabilistic Recurrent State-Space Models

Doerr, A., Daniel, C., Schiegg, M., Nguyen-Tuong, D., Schaal, S., Toussaint, M., Trimpe, S.

In Proceedings of the International Conference on Machine Learning, International Conference on Machine Learning (ICML), July 2018 (inproceedings) Accepted

Abstract
State-space models (SSMs) are a highly expressive model class for learning patterns in time series data and for system identification. Deterministic versions of SSMs (e.g., LSTMs) proved extremely successful in modeling complex time-series data. Fully probabilistic SSMs, however, unfortunately often prove hard to train, even for smaller problems. To overcome this limitation, we propose a scalable initialization and training algorithm based on doubly stochastic variational inference and Gaussian processes. In the variational approximation we propose in contrast to related approaches to fully capture the latent state temporal correlations to allow for robust training.

am ics

arXiv pdf Project Page [BibTex]

arXiv pdf Project Page [BibTex]


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Convergence Rates of Gaussian ODE Filters

Kersting, H., Sullivan, T. J., Hennig, P.

arXiv preprint 2018, arXiv:1807.09737 [math.NA], July 2018 (article) In revision

Abstract
A recently-introduced class of probabilistic (uncertainty-aware) solvers for ordinary differential equations (ODEs) applies Gaussian (Kalman) filtering to initial value problems. These methods model the true solution $x$ and its first $q$ derivatives a priori as a Gauss--Markov process $\boldsymbol{X}$, which is then iteratively conditioned on information about $\dot{x}$. We prove worst-case local convergence rates of order $h^{q+1}$ for a wide range of versions of this Gaussian ODE filter, as well as global convergence rates of order $h^q$ in the case of $q=1$ and an integrated Brownian motion prior, and analyse how inaccurate information on $\dot{x}$ coming from approximate evaluations of $f$ affects these rates. Moreover, we present explicit formulas for the steady states and show that the posterior confidence intervals are well calibrated in all considered cases that exhibit global convergence---in the sense that they globally contract at the same rate as the truncation error.

pn

link (url) Project Page [BibTex]

link (url) Project Page [BibTex]


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Teaching a Robot Bimanual Hand-Clapping Games via Wrist-Worn IMUs

Fitter, N. T., Kuchenbecker, K. J.

Frontiers in Robotics and Artificial Intelligence, 5(85), July 2018 (article)

Abstract
Colleagues often shake hands in greeting, friends connect through high fives, and children around the world rejoice in hand-clapping games. As robots become more common in everyday human life, they will have the opportunity to join in these social-physical interactions, but few current robots are intended to touch people in friendly ways. This article describes how we enabled a Baxter Research Robot to both teach and learn bimanual hand-clapping games with a human partner. Our system monitors the user's motions via a pair of inertial measurement units (IMUs) worn on the wrists. We recorded a labeled library of 10 common hand-clapping movements from 10 participants; this dataset was used to train an SVM classifier to automatically identify hand-clapping motions from previously unseen participants with a test-set classification accuracy of 97.0%. Baxter uses these sensors and this classifier to quickly identify the motions of its human gameplay partner, so that it can join in hand-clapping games. This system was evaluated by N = 24 naïve users in an experiment that involved learning sequences of eight motions from Baxter, teaching Baxter eight-motion game patterns, and completing a free interaction period. The motion classification accuracy in this less structured setting was 85.9%, primarily due to unexpected variations in motion timing. The quantitative task performance results and qualitative participant survey responses showed that learning games from Baxter was significantly easier than teaching games to Baxter, and that the teaching role caused users to consider more teamwork aspects of the gameplay. Over the course of the experiment, people felt more understood by Baxter and became more willing to follow the example of the robot. Users felt uniformly safe interacting with Baxter, and they expressed positive opinions of Baxter and reported fun interacting with the robot. Taken together, the results indicate that this robot achieved credible social-physical interaction with humans and that its ability to both lead and follow systematically changed the human partner's experience.

hi

DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


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Real-time Perception meets Reactive Motion Generation

(Best Systems Paper Finalists - Amazon Robotics Best Paper Awards in Manipulation)

Kappler, D., Meier, F., Issac, J., Mainprice, J., Garcia Cifuentes, C., Wüthrich, M., Berenz, V., Schaal, S., Ratliff, N., Bohg, J.

IEEE Robotics and Automation Letters, 3(3):1864-1871, July 2018 (article)

Abstract
We address the challenging problem of robotic grasping and manipulation in the presence of uncertainty. This uncertainty is due to noisy sensing, inaccurate models and hard-to-predict environment dynamics. Our approach emphasizes the importance of continuous, real-time perception and its tight integration with reactive motion generation methods. We present a fully integrated system where real-time object and robot tracking as well as ambient world modeling provides the necessary input to feedback controllers and continuous motion optimizers. Specifically, they provide attractive and repulsive potentials based on which the controllers and motion optimizer can online compute movement policies at different time intervals. We extensively evaluate the proposed system on a real robotic platform in four scenarios that exhibit either challenging workspace geometry or a dynamic environment. We compare the proposed integrated system with a more traditional sense-plan-act approach that is still widely used. In 333 experiments, we show the robustness and accuracy of the proposed system.

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arxiv video video link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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Counterfactual Mean Embedding: A Kernel Method for Nonparametric Causal Inference

Muandet, K., Kanagawa, M., Saengkyongam, S., Marukata, S.

Workshop on Machine Learning for Causal Inference, Counterfactual Prediction, and Autonomous Action (CausalML) at ICML, July 2018 (conference)

ei

[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Innate turning preference of leaf-cutting ants in the absence of external orientation cues

Endlein, T., Sitti, M.

Journal of Experimental Biology, The Company of Biologists Ltd, June 2018 (article)

Abstract
Many ants use a combination of cues for orientation but how do ants find their way when all external cues are suppressed? Do they walk in a random way or are their movements spatially oriented? Here we show for the first time that leaf-cutting ants (Acromyrmex lundii) have an innate preference of turning counter-clockwise (left) when external cues are precluded. We demonstrated this by allowing individual ants to run freely on the water surface of a newly-developed treadmill. The surface tension supported medium-sized workers but effectively prevented ants from reaching the wall of the vessel, important to avoid wall-following behaviour (thigmotaxis). Most ants ran for minutes on the spot but also slowly turned counter-clockwise in the absence of visual cues. Reconstructing the effectively walked path revealed a looping pattern which could be interpreted as a search strategy. A similar turning bias was shown for groups of ants in a symmetrical Y-maze where twice as many ants chose the left branch in the absence of optical cues. Wall-following behaviour was tested by inserting a coiled tube before the Y-fork. When ants traversed a left-coiled tube, more ants chose the left box and vice versa. Adding visual cues in form of vertical black strips either outside the treadmill or on one branch of the Y-maze led to oriented walks towards the strips. It is suggested that both, the turning bias and the wall-following are employed as search strategies for an unknown environment which can be overridden by visual cues.

pi

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Motility and chemotaxis of bacteria-driven microswimmers fabricated using antigen 43-mediated biotin display

Schauer, O., Mostaghaci, B., Colin, R., Hürtgen, D., Kraus, D., Sitti, M., Sourjik, V.

Scientific Reports, 8(1):9801, Nature Publishing Group, June 2018 (article)

Abstract
Bacteria-driven biohybrid microswimmers (bacteriabots) combine synthetic cargo with motile living bacteria that enable propulsion and steering. Although fabrication and potential use of such bacteriabots have attracted much attention, existing methods of fabrication require an extensive sample preparation that can drastically decrease the viability and motility of bacteria. Moreover, chemotactic behavior of bacteriabots in a liquid medium with chemical gradients has remained largely unclear. To overcome these shortcomings, we designed Escherichia coli to autonomously display biotin on its cell surface via the engineered autotransporter antigen 43 and thus to bind streptavidin-coated cargo. We show that the cargo attachment to these bacteria is greatly enhanced by motility and occurs predominantly at the cell poles, which is greatly beneficial for the fabrication of motile bacteriabots. We further performed a systemic study to understand and optimize the ability of these bacteriabots to follow chemical gradients. We demonstrate that the chemotaxis of bacteriabots is primarily limited by the cargo-dependent reduction of swimming speed and show that the fabrication of bacteriabots using elongated E. coli cells can be used to overcome this limitation.

pi

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Event-triggered Learning for Resource-efficient Networked Control

Solowjow, F., Baumann, D., Garcke, J., Trimpe, S.

In Proceedings of the 2018 American Control Conference (ACC), pages: 6506 - 6512, American Control Conference, June 2018 (inproceedings)

ics

arXiv PDF DOI Project Page [BibTex]

arXiv PDF DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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Multifunctional ferrofluid-infused surfaces with reconfigurable multiscale topography

Wang, W., Timonen, J. V. I., Carlson, A., Drotlef, D., Zhang, C. T., Kolle, S., Grinthal, A., Wong, T., Hatton, B., Kang, S. H., Kennedy, S., Chi, J., Blough, R. T., Sitti, M., Mahadevan, L., Aizenberg, J.

Nature, June 2018 (article)

Abstract
Developing adaptive materials with geometries that change in response to external stimuli provides fundamental insights into the links between the physical forces involved and the resultant morphologies and creates a foundation for technologically relevant dynamic systems1,2. In particular, reconfigurable surface topography as a means to control interfacial properties 3 has recently been explored using responsive gels 4 , shape-memory polymers 5 , liquid crystals6-8 and hybrid composites9-14, including magnetically active slippery surfaces12-14. However, these designs exhibit a limited range of topographical changes and thus a restricted scope of function. Here we introduce a hierarchical magneto-responsive composite surface, made by infiltrating a ferrofluid into a microstructured matrix (termed ferrofluid-containing liquid-infused porous surfaces, or FLIPS). We demonstrate various topographical reconfigurations at multiple length scales and a broad range of associated emergent behaviours. An applied magnetic-field gradient induces the movement of magnetic nanoparticles suspended in the ferrofluid, which leads to microscale flow of the ferrofluid first above and then within the microstructured surface. This redistribution changes the initially smooth surface of the ferrofluid (which is immobilized by the porous matrix through capillary forces) into various multiscale hierarchical topographies shaped by the size, arrangement and orientation of the confining microstructures in the magnetic field. We analyse the spatial and temporal dynamics of these reconfigurations theoretically and experimentally as a function of the balance between capillary and magnetic pressures15-19 and of the geometric anisotropy of the FLIPS system. Several interesting functions at three different length scales are demonstrated: self-assembly of colloidal particles at the micrometre scale; regulated flow of liquid droplets at the millimetre scale; and switchable adhesion and friction, liquid pumping and removal of biofilms at the centimetre scale. We envision that FLIPS could be used as part of integrated control systems for the manipulation and transport of matter, thermal management, microfluidics and fouling-release materials.

pi

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Reducing 3D Vibrations to 1D in Real Time

Park, G., Kuchenbecker, K. J.

Pisa, Italy, June 2018, Hands-on demonstration presented at EuroHaptics (misc)

Abstract
In this demonstration, you will hold two pen-shaped modules: an in-pen and an out-pen. The in-pen is instrumented with a high-bandwidth three-axis accelerometer, and the out-pen contains a one-axis voice coil actuator. Use the in-pen to interact with different surfaces; the measured 3D accelerations are continually converted into 1D vibrations and rendered with the out-pen for you to feel. You can test conversion methods that range from simply selecting a single axis to applying a discrete Fourier transform or principal component analysis for realistic and brisk real-time conversion.

hi

[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Conditional Affordance Learning for Driving in Urban Environments
Conference on Robot Learning 2018, 2018 (conference)

avg

pdf suppmat Video [BibTex]


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Infinite Factorial Finite State Machine for Blind Multiuser Channel Estimation

Ruiz, F. J. R., Valera, I., Svensson, L., Perez-Cruz, F.

IEEE Transactions on Cognitive Communications and Networking, 4(2):177-191, June 2018 (article)

ei

DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


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Oncilla robot: a versatile open-source quadruped research robot with compliant pantograph legs

Spröwitz, A., Tuleu, A., Ajallooeian, M., Vespignani, M., Moeckel, R., Eckert, P., D’Haene, M., Degrave, J., Nordmann, A., Schrauwen, B., Steil, J., Ijspeert, A. J.

Frontiers in Robotics and AI, 5(67), June 2018, arXiv: 1803.06259 (article)

Abstract
We present Oncilla robot, a novel mobile, quadruped legged locomotion machine. This large-cat sized, 5.1 robot is one of a kind of a recent, bioinspired legged robot class designed with the capability of model-free locomotion control. Animal legged locomotion in rough terrain is clearly shaped by sensor feedback systems. Results with Oncilla robot show that agile and versatile locomotion is possible without sensory signals to some extend, and tracking becomes robust when feedback control is added (Ajaoolleian 2015). By incorporating mechanical and control blueprints inspired from animals, and by observing the resulting robot locomotion characteristics, we aim to understand the contribution of individual components. Legged robots have a wide mechanical and control design parameter space, and a unique potential as research tools to investigate principles of biomechanics and legged locomotion control. But the hardware and controller design can be a steep initial hurdle for academic research. To facilitate the easy start and development of legged robots, Oncilla-robot's blueprints are available through open-source. [...]

dlg

link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]

link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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Haptipedia: Exploring Haptic Device Design Through Interactive Visualizations

Seifi, H., Fazlollahi, F., Park, G., Kuchenbecker, K. J., MacLean, K. E.

Hands-on demonstration presented at the EuroHaptics Conference, June 2018 (misc)

Abstract
How many haptic devices have been proposed in the last 30 years? How can we leverage this rich source of design knowledge to inspire future innovations? Our goal is to make historical haptic invention accessible through interactive visualization of a comprehensive library – a Haptipedia – of devices that have been annotated with designer-relevant metadata. In this demonstration, participants can explore Haptipedia’s growing library of grounded force feedback devices through several prototype visualizations, interact with 3D simulations of the device mechanisms and movements, and tell us about the attributes and devices that could make Haptipedia a useful resource for the haptic design community.

hi

[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Designing a Haptic Empathetic Robot Animal for Children with Autism

Burns, R., Kuchenbecker, K. J.

Workshop paper (4 pages) at the RSS Workshop on Robot-Mediated Autism Intervention: Hardware, Software and Curriculum, June 2018 (misc)

Abstract
Children with autism often endure sensory overload, may be nonverbal, and have difficulty understanding and relaying emotions. These experiences result in heightened stress during social interaction. Animal-assisted intervention has been found to improve the behavior of children with autism during social interaction, but live animal companions are not always feasible. We are thus in the process of designing a robotic animal to mimic some successful characteristics of animal-assisted intervention while trying to improve on others. The over-arching hypothesis of this research is that an appropriately designed robot animal can reduce stress in children with autism and empower them to engage in social interaction.

hi

link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Soft Multi-Axis Boundary-Electrode Tactile Sensors for Whole-Body Robotic Skin

Lee, H., Kim, J., Kuchenbecker, K. J.

Workshop paper (2 pages) at the RSS Pioneers Workshop, June 2018 (misc)

hi

[BibTex]

[BibTex]


Thumb xl screen shot 2018 04 18 at 11.01.27 am
Learning from Outside the Viability Kernel: Why we Should Build Robots that can Fail with Grace

Heim, S., Spröwitz, A.

Proceedings of SIMPAR 2018, pages: 55-61, IEEE, 2018 IEEE International Conference on Simulation, Modeling, and Programming for Autonomous Robots (SIMPAR), May 2018 (conference)

dlg

link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]

link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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Self-Sensing Paper Actuators Based on Graphite–Carbon Nanotube Hybrid Films

Morteza, A., Metin, S.

Advanced Science, pages: 1800239, May 2018 (article)

Abstract
Abstract Soft actuators have demonstrated potential in a range of applications, including soft robotics, artificial muscles, and biomimetic devices. However, the majority of current soft actuators suffer from the lack of real-time sensory feedback, prohibiting their effective sensing and multitask function. Here, a promising strategy is reported to design bilayer electrothermal actuators capable of simultaneous actuation and sensation (i.e., self-sensing actuators), merely through two input electric terminals. Decoupled electrothermal stimulation and strain sensation is achieved by the optimal combination of graphite microparticles and carbon nanotubes (CNTs) in the form of hybrid films. By finely tuning the charge transport properties of hybrid films, the signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) of self-sensing actuators is remarkably enhanced to over 66. As a result, self-sensing actuators can actively track their displacement and distinguish the touch of soft and hard objects.

pi

link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]

link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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Bioinspired microrobots

Palagi, S., Fischer, P.

Nature Reviews Materials, 3, pages: 113–124, May 2018 (article)

Abstract
Microorganisms can move in complex media, respond to the environment and self-organize. The field of microrobotics strives to achieve these functions in mobile robotic systems of sub-millimetre size. However, miniaturization of traditional robots and their control systems to the microscale is not a viable approach. A promising alternative strategy in developing microrobots is to implement sensing, actuation and control directly in the materials, thereby mimicking biological matter. In this Review, we discuss design principles and materials for the implementation of robotic functionalities in microrobots. We examine different biological locomotion strategies, and we discuss how they can be artificially recreated in magnetic microrobots and how soft materials improve control and performance. We show that smart, stimuli-responsive materials can act as on-board sensors and actuators and that ‘active matter’ enables autonomous motion, navigation and collective behaviours. Finally, we provide a critical outlook for the field of microrobotics and highlight the challenges that need to be overcome to realize sophisticated microrobots, which one day might rival biological machines.

pf

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Adversarial Collaboration: Joint Unsupervised Learning of Depth, Camera Motion, Optical Flow and Motion Segmentation

Ranjan, A., Jampani, V., Kim, K., Sun, D., Wulff, J., Black, M. J.

May 2018 (article)

Abstract
We address the unsupervised learning of several interconnected problems in low-level vision: single view depth prediction, camera motion estimation, optical flow and segmentation of a video into the static scene and moving regions. Our key insight is that these four fundamental vision problems are coupled and, consequently, learning to solve them together simplifies the problem because the solutions can reinforce each other by exploiting known geometric constraints. In order to model geometric constraints, we introduce Adversarial Collaboration, a framework that facilitates competition and collaboration between neural networks. We go beyond previous work by exploiting geometry more explicitly and segmenting the scene into static and moving regions. Adversarial Collaboration works much like expectation-maximization but with neural networks that act as adversaries, competing to explain pixels that correspond to static or moving regions, and as collaborators through a moderator that assigns pixels to be either static or independently moving. Our novel method integrates all these problems in a common framework and simultaneously reasons about the segmentation of the scene into moving objects and the static background, the camera motion, depth of the static scene structure, and the optical flow of moving objects. Our model is trained without any supervision and achieves state of the art results amongst unsupervised methods.

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pdf link (url) [BibTex]


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Inducing Probabilistic Context-Free Grammars for the Sequencing of Movement Primitives

Lioutikov, R., Maeda, G., Veiga, F., Kersting, K., Peters, J.

IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation, (ICRA), pages: 1-8, IEEE, May 2018 (conference)

ei

DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


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Assisting Movement Training and Execution With Visual and Haptic Feedback

Ewerton, M., Rother, D., Weimar, J., Kollegger, G., Wiemeyer, J., Peters, J., Maeda, G.

Frontiers in Neurorobotics, 12, May 2018 (article)

ei

DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


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Robust Dense Mapping for Large-Scale Dynamic Environments

Barsan, I. A., Liu, P., Pollefeys, M., Geiger, A.

In Proceedings of the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA) 2018, IEEE, International Conference on Robotics and Automation, May 2018 (inproceedings)

Abstract
We present a stereo-based dense mapping algorithm for large-scale dynamic urban environments. In contrast to other existing methods, we simultaneously reconstruct the static background, the moving objects, and the potentially moving but currently stationary objects separately, which is desirable for high-level mobile robotic tasks such as path planning in crowded environments. We use both instance-aware semantic segmentation and sparse scene flow to classify objects as either background, moving, or potentially moving, thereby ensuring that the system is able to model objects with the potential to transition from static to dynamic, such as parked cars. Given camera poses estimated from visual odometry, both the background and the (potentially) moving objects are reconstructed separately by fusing the depth maps computed from the stereo input. In addition to visual odometry, sparse scene flow is also used to estimate the 3D motions of the detected moving objects, in order to reconstruct them accurately. A map pruning technique is further developed to improve reconstruction accuracy and reduce memory consumption, leading to increased scalability. We evaluate our system thoroughly on the well-known KITTI dataset. Our system is capable of running on a PC at approximately 2.5Hz, with the primary bottleneck being the instance-aware semantic segmentation, which is a limitation we hope to address in future work.

avg

pdf Video Project Page [BibTex]

pdf Video Project Page [BibTex]


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Impact of Trunk Orientation for Dynamic Bipedal Locomotion

Drama, O.

Dynamic Walking Conference, May 2018 (talk)

Abstract
Impact of trunk orientation for dynamic bipedal locomotion My research revolves around investigating the functional demands of bipedal running, with focus on stabilizing trunk orientation. When we think about postural stability, there are two critical questions we need to answer: What are the necessary and sufficient conditions to achieve and maintain trunk stability? I am concentrating on how morphology affects control strategies in achieving trunk stability. In particular, I denote the trunk pitch as the predominant morphology parameter and explore the requirements it imposes on a chosen control strategy. To analyze this, I use a spring loaded inverted pendulum model extended with a rigid trunk, which is actuated by a hip motor. The challenge for the controller design here is to have a single hip actuator to achieve two coupled tasks of moving the legs to generate motion and stabilizing the trunk. I enforce orthograde and pronograde postures and aim to identify the effect of these trunk orientations on the hip torque and ground reaction profiles for different control strategies.

dlg

Impact of trunk orientation for dynamic bipedal locomotion [DW 2018] link (url) Project Page [BibTex]


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Online Learning of a Memory for Learning Rates

(nominated for best paper award)

Meier, F., Kappler, D., Schaal, S.

In Proceedings of the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA) 2018, IEEE, International Conference on Robotics and Automation, May 2018, accepted (inproceedings)

Abstract
The promise of learning to learn for robotics rests on the hope that by extracting some information about the learning process itself we can speed up subsequent similar learning tasks. Here, we introduce a computationally efficient online meta-learning algorithm that builds and optimizes a memory model of the optimal learning rate landscape from previously observed gradient behaviors. While performing task specific optimization, this memory of learning rates predicts how to scale currently observed gradients. After applying the gradient scaling our meta-learner updates its internal memory based on the observed effect its prediction had. Our meta-learner can be combined with any gradient-based optimizer, learns on the fly and can be transferred to new optimization tasks. In our evaluations we show that our meta-learning algorithm speeds up learning of MNIST classification and a variety of learning control tasks, either in batch or online learning settings.

am

pdf video code [BibTex]

pdf video code [BibTex]


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Learning 3D Shape Completion under Weak Supervision

Stutz, D., Geiger, A.

Arxiv, May 2018 (article)

Abstract
We address the problem of 3D shape completion from sparse and noisy point clouds, a fundamental problem in computer vision and robotics. Recent approaches are either data-driven or learning-based: Data-driven approaches rely on a shape model whose parameters are optimized to fit the observations; Learning-based approaches, in contrast, avoid the expensive optimization step by learning to directly predict complete shapes from incomplete observations in a fully-supervised setting. However, full supervision is often not available in practice. In this work, we propose a weakly-supervised learning-based approach to 3D shape completion which neither requires slow optimization nor direct supervision. While we also learn a shape prior on synthetic data, we amortize, i.e., learn, maximum likelihood fitting using deep neural networks resulting in efficient shape completion without sacrificing accuracy. On synthetic benchmarks based on ShapeNet and ModelNet as well as on real robotics data from KITTI and Kinect, we demonstrate that the proposed amortized maximum likelihood approach is able to compete with fully supervised baselines and outperforms data-driven approaches, while requiring less supervision and being significantly faster.

avg

PDF Project Page Project Page [BibTex]


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Learning Coupled Forward-Inverse Models with Combined Prediction Errors

Koert, D., Maeda, G., Neumann, G., Peters, J.

IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation, (ICRA), pages: 2433-2439, IEEE, May 2018 (conference)

ei

DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


Thumb xl screen shot 2018 02 03 at 9.09.06 am
Shaping in Practice: Training Wheels to Learn Fast Hopping Directly in Hardware

Heim, S., Ruppert, F., Sarvestani, A., Spröwitz, A.

In Proceedings of the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA) 2018, pages: 5076-5081, IEEE, International Conference on Robotics and Automation, May 2018 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Learning instead of designing robot controllers can greatly reduce engineering effort required, while also emphasizing robustness. Despite considerable progress in simulation, applying learning directly in hardware is still challenging, in part due to the necessity to explore potentially unstable parameters. We explore the of concept shaping the reward landscape with training wheels; temporary modifications of the physical hardware that facilitate learning. We demonstrate the concept with a robot leg mounted on a boom learning to hop fast. This proof of concept embodies typical challenges such as instability and contact, while being simple enough to empirically map out and visualize the reward landscape. Based on our results we propose three criteria for designing effective training wheels for learning in robotics.

dlg

Video Youtube link (url) Project Page [BibTex]

Video Youtube link (url) Project Page [BibTex]


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Automatic Estimation of Modulation Transfer Functions

Bauer, M., Volchkov, V., Hirsch, M., Schölkopf, B.

IEEE International Conference on Computational Photography (ICCP), May 2018 (conference)

ei sf

DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


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Learning Sensor Feedback Models from Demonstrations via Phase-Modulated Neural Networks

Sutanto, G., Su, Z., Schaal, S., Meier, F.

In Proceedings of the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA) 2018, IEEE, International Conference on Robotics and Automation, May 2018 (inproceedings)

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pdf video [BibTex]

pdf video [BibTex]


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Nonlinear decoding of a complex movie from the mammalian retina

Botella-Soler, V., Deny, S., Martius, G., Marre, O., Tkačik, G.

PLOS Computational Biology, 14(5):1-27, Public Library of Science, May 2018 (article)

Abstract
Author summary Neurons in the retina transform patterns of incoming light into sequences of neural spikes. We recorded from ∼100 neurons in the rat retina while it was stimulated with a complex movie. Using machine learning regression methods, we fit decoders to reconstruct the movie shown from the retinal output. We demonstrated that retinal code can only be read out with a low error if decoders make use of correlations between successive spikes emitted by individual neurons. These correlations can be used to ignore spontaneous spiking that would, otherwise, cause even the best linear decoders to “hallucinate” nonexistent stimuli. This work represents the first high resolution single-trial full movie reconstruction and suggests a new paradigm for separating spontaneous from stimulus-driven neural activity.

al

DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


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Sample and Feedback Efficient Hierarchical Reinforcement Learning from Human Preferences

Pinsler, R., Akrour, R., Osa, T., Peters, J., Neumann, G.

IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation, (ICRA), pages: 596-601, IEEE, May 2018 (conference)

ei

DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


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Graphene-silver hybrid devices for sensitive photodetection in the ultraviolet

Paria, D., Jeong, H., Vadakkumbatt, V., Deshpande, P., Fischer, P., Ghosh, A., Ghosh, A.

Nanoscale, 10, pages: 7685-7693, The Royal Society of Chemistry, April 2018 (article)

Abstract
The weak light-matter interaction in graphene can be enhanced with a number of strategies{,} among which sensitization with plasmonic nanostructures is particularly attractive. This has resulted in the development of graphene-plasmonic hybrid systems with strongly enhanced photodetection efficiencies in the visible and the IR{,} but none in the UV. Here{,} we describe a silver nanoparticle-graphene stacked optoelectronic device that shows strong enhancement of its photoresponse across the entire UV spectrum. The device fabrication strategy is scalable and modular. Self-assembly techniques are combined with physical shadow growth techniques to fabricate a regular large-area array of 50 nm silver nanoparticles onto which CVD graphene is transferred. The presence of the silver nanoparticles resulted in a plasmonically enhanced photoresponse as high as 3.2 A W-1 in the wavelength range from 330 nm to 450 nm. At lower wavelengths{,} close to the Van Hove singularity of the density of states in graphene{,} we measured an even higher responsivity of 14.5 A W-1 at 280 nm{,} which corresponds to a more than 10 000-fold enhancement over the photoresponse of native graphene.

pf

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Nanoparticles on the move for medicine

Fischer, P.

Physics World Focus on Nanotechnology, pages: 26028, (Editors: Margaret Harris), IOP Publishing Ltd and individual contributors, April 2018 (article)

Abstract
Peer Fischer outlines the prospects for creating “nanoswimmers” that can be steered through the body to deliver drugs directly to their targets Molecules don’t move very fast on their own. If they had to rely solely on diffusion – a slow and inefficient process linked to the Brownian motion of small particles and molecules in solution – then a protein mole­cule, for instance, would take around three weeks to travel a single centimetre down a nerve fibre. This is why active transport mechanisms exist in cells and in the human body: without them, all the processes of life would happen at a pace that would make snails look speedy.

pf

link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Poster Abstract: Toward Fast Closed-loop Control over Multi-hop Low-power Wireless Networks

Mager, F., Baumann, D., Trimpe, S., Zimmerling, M.

Proceedings of the 17th ACM/IEEE Conference on Information Processing in Sensor Networks (IPSN), pages: 158-159, Porto, Portugal, April 2018 (poster)

ics

DOI Project Page [BibTex]

DOI Project Page [BibTex]