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2020


Learning Variable Impedance Control for Contact Sensitive Tasks
Learning Variable Impedance Control for Contact Sensitive Tasks

Bogdanovic, M., Khadiv, M., Righetti, L.

IEEE Robotics and Automation Letters ( Early Access ), IEEE, July 2020 (article)

Abstract
Reinforcement learning algorithms have shown great success in solving different problems ranging from playing video games to robotics. However, they struggle to solve delicate robotic problems, especially those involving contact interactions. Though in principle a policy outputting joint torques should be able to learn these tasks, in practice we see that they have difficulty to robustly solve the problem without any structure in the action space. In this paper, we investigate how the choice of action space can give robust performance in presence of contact uncertainties. We propose to learn a policy that outputs impedance and desired position in joint space as a function of system states without imposing any other structure to the problem. We compare the performance of this approach to torque and position control policies under different contact uncertainties. Extensive simulation results on two different systems, a hopper (floating-base) with intermittent contacts and a manipulator (fixed-base) wiping a table, show that our proposed approach outperforms policies outputting torque or position in terms of both learning rate and robustness to environment uncertainty.

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DOI [BibTex]

2020


DOI [BibTex]


Walking Control Based on Step Timing Adaptation
Walking Control Based on Step Timing Adaptation

Khadiv, M., Herzog, A., Moosavian, S. A. A., Righetti, L.

IEEE Transactions on Robotics, 36, pages: 629 - 643, IEEE, June 2020 (article)

Abstract
Step adjustment can improve the gait robustness of biped robots; however, the adaptation of step timing is often neglected as it gives rise to nonconvex problems when optimized over several footsteps. In this article, we argue that it is not necessary to optimize walking over several steps to ensure gait viability and show that it is sufficient to merely select the next step timing and location. Using this insight, we propose a novel walking pattern generator that optimally selects step location and timing at every control cycle. Our approach is computationally simple compared to standard approaches in the literature, yet guarantees that any viable state will remain viable in the future. We propose a swing foot adaptation strategy and integrate the pattern generator with an inverse dynamics controller that does not explicitly control the center of mass nor the foot center of pressure. This is particularly useful for biped robots with limited control authority over their foot center of pressure, such as robots with point feet or passive ankles. Extensive simulations on a humanoid robot with passive ankles demonstrate the capabilities of the approach in various walking situations, including external pushes and foot slippage, and emphasize the importance of step timing adaptation to stabilize walking.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


Physical Variables Underlying Tactile Stickiness during Fingerpad Detachment
Physical Variables Underlying Tactile Stickiness during Fingerpad Detachment

Nam, S., Vardar, Y., Gueorguiev, D., Kuchenbecker, K. J.

Frontiers in Neuroscience, 14(235):1-14, April 2020 (article)

Abstract
One may notice a relatively wide range of tactile sensations even when touching the same hard, flat surface in similar ways. Little is known about the reasons for this variability, so we decided to investigate how the perceptual intensity of light stickiness relates to the physical interaction between the skin and the surface. We conducted a psychophysical experiment in which nine participants actively pressed their finger on a flat glass plate with a normal force close to 1.5 N and detached it after a few seconds. A custom-designed apparatus recorded the contact force vector and the finger contact area during each interaction as well as pre- and post-trial finger moisture. After detaching their finger, participants judged the stickiness of the glass using a nine-point scale. We explored how sixteen physical variables derived from the recorded data correlate with each other and with the stickiness judgments of each participant. These analyses indicate that stickiness perception mainly depends on the pre-detachment pressing duration, the time taken for the finger to detach, and the impulse in the normal direction after the normal force changes sign; finger-surface adhesion seems to build with pressing time, causing a larger normal impulse during detachment and thus a more intense stickiness sensation. We additionally found a strong between-subjects correlation between maximum real contact area and peak pull-off force, as well as between finger moisture and impulse.

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link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]


Learning to Predict Perceptual Distributions of Haptic Adjectives
Learning to Predict Perceptual Distributions of Haptic Adjectives

Richardson, B. A., Kuchenbecker, K. J.

Frontiers in Neurorobotics, 13(116):1-16, Febuary 2020 (article)

Abstract
When humans touch an object with their fingertips, they can immediately describe its tactile properties using haptic adjectives, such as hardness and roughness; however, human perception is subjective and noisy, with significant variation across individuals and interactions. Recent research has worked to provide robots with similar haptic intelligence but was focused on identifying binary haptic adjectives, ignoring both attribute intensity and perceptual variability. Combining ordinal haptic adjective labels gathered from human subjects for a set of 60 objects with features automatically extracted from raw multi-modal tactile data collected by a robot repeatedly touching the same objects, we designed a machine-learning method that incorporates partial knowledge of the distribution of object labels into training; then, from a single interaction, it predicts a probability distribution over the set of ordinal labels. In addition to analyzing the collected labels (10 basic haptic adjectives) and demonstrating the quality of our method's predictions, we hold out specific features to determine the influence of individual sensor modalities on the predictive performance for each adjective. Our results demonstrate the feasibility of modeling both the intensity and the variation of haptic perception, two crucial yet previously neglected components of human haptic perception.

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DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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Exercising with Baxter: Preliminary Support for Assistive Social-Physical Human-Robot Interaction

Fitter, N. T., Mohan, M., Kuchenbecker, K. J., Johnson, M. J.

Journal of NeuroEngineering and Rehabilitation, 17(19), Febuary 2020 (article)

Abstract
Background: The worldwide population of older adults will soon exceed the capacity of assisted living facilities. Accordingly, we aim to understand whether appropriately designed robots could help older adults stay active at home. Methods: Building on related literature as well as guidance from experts in game design, rehabilitation, and physical and occupational therapy, we developed eight human-robot exercise games for the Baxter Research Robot, six of which involve physical human-robot contact. After extensive iteration, these games were tested in an exploratory user study including 20 younger adult and 20 older adult users. Results: Only socially and physically interactive games fell in the highest ranges for pleasantness, enjoyment, engagement, cognitive challenge, and energy level. Our games successfully spanned three different physical, cognitive, and temporal challenge levels. User trust and confidence in Baxter increased significantly between pre- and post-study assessments. Older adults experienced higher exercise, energy, and engagement levels than younger adults, and women rated the robot more highly than men on several survey questions. Conclusions: The results indicate that social-physical exercise with a robot is more pleasant, enjoyable, engaging, cognitively challenging, and energetic than similar interactions that lack physical touch. In addition to this main finding, researchers working in similar areas can build on our design practices, our open-source resources, and the age-group and gender differences that we found.

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DOI Project Page [BibTex]

DOI Project Page [BibTex]


Compensating for Fingertip Size to Render Tactile Cues More Accurately
Compensating for Fingertip Size to Render Tactile Cues More Accurately

Young, E. M., Gueorguiev, D., Kuchenbecker, K. J., Pacchierotti, C.

IEEE Transactions on Haptics, 13(1):144-151, January 2020, Katherine J. Kuchenbecker and Claudio Pacchierotti contributed equally to this publication. (article)

Abstract
Fingertip haptic feedback offers advantages in many applications, including robotic teleoperation, gaming, and training. However, fingertip size and shape vary significantly across humans, making it difficult to design fingertip interfaces and rendering techniques suitable for everyone. This article starts with an existing data-driven haptic rendering algorithm that ignores fingertip size, and it then develops two software-based approaches to personalize this algorithm for fingertips of different sizes using either additional data or geometry. We evaluate our algorithms in the rendering of pre-recorded tactile sensations onto rubber casts of six different fingertips as well as onto the real fingertips of 13 human participants. Results on the casts show that both approaches significantly improve performance, reducing force error magnitudes by an average of 78% with respect to the standard non-personalized rendering technique. Congruent results were obtained for real fingertips, with subjects rating each of the two personalized rendering techniques significantly better than the standard non-personalized method.

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


Self-supervised motion deblurring
Self-supervised motion deblurring

Liu, P., Janai, J., Pollefeys, M., Sattler, T., Geiger, A.

IEEE Robotics and Automation Letters, 2020 (article)

Abstract
Motion blurry images challenge many computer vision algorithms, e.g., feature detection, motion estimation, or object recognition. Deep convolutional neural networks are state-of-the-art for image deblurring. However, obtaining training data with corresponding sharp and blurry image pairs can be difficult. In this paper, we present a differentiable reblur model for self-supervised motion deblurring, which enables the network to learn from real-world blurry image sequences without relying on sharp images for supervision. Our key insight is that motion cues obtained from consecutive images yield sufficient information to inform the deblurring task. We therefore formulate deblurring as an inverse rendering problem, taking into account the physical image formation process: we first predict two deblurred images from which we estimate the corresponding optical flow. Using these predictions, we re-render the blurred images and minimize the difference with respect to the original blurry inputs. We use both synthetic and real dataset for experimental evaluations. Our experiments demonstrate that self-supervised single image deblurring is really feasible and leads to visually compelling results.

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pdf Project Page Blog [BibTex]

pdf Project Page Blog [BibTex]


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Analytical classical density functionals from an equation learning network

Lin, S., Martius, G., Oettel, M.

The Journal of Chemical Physics, 152(2):021102, 2020, arXiv preprint \url{https://arxiv.org/abs/1910.12752} (article)

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Preprint_PDF DOI [BibTex]

Preprint_PDF DOI [BibTex]


Learning Neural Light Transport
Learning Neural Light Transport

Sanzenbacher, P., Mescheder, L., Geiger, A.

Arxiv, 2020 (article)

Abstract
In recent years, deep generative models have gained significance due to their ability to synthesize natural-looking images with applications ranging from virtual reality to data augmentation for training computer vision models. While existing models are able to faithfully learn the image distribution of the training set, they often lack controllability as they operate in 2D pixel space and do not model the physical image formation process. In this work, we investigate the importance of 3D reasoning for photorealistic rendering. We present an approach for learning light transport in static and dynamic 3D scenes using a neural network with the goal of predicting photorealistic images. In contrast to existing approaches that operate in the 2D image domain, our approach reasons in both 3D and 2D space, thus enabling global illumination effects and manipulation of 3D scene geometry. Experimentally, we find that our model is able to produce photorealistic renderings of static and dynamic scenes. Moreover, it compares favorably to baselines which combine path tracing and image denoising at the same computational budget.

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arxiv [BibTex]


Getting in Touch with Children with Autism: Specialist Guidelines for a Touch-Perceiving Robot
Getting in Touch with Children with Autism: Specialist Guidelines for a Touch-Perceiving Robot

Burns, R. B., Seifi, H., Lee, H., Kuchenbecker, K. J.

Paladyn. Journal of Behavioral Robotics, 2020 (article) Accepted

Abstract
Children with autism need innovative solutions that help them learn to master everyday experiences and cope with stressful situations. We propose that socially assistive robot companions could better understand and react to a child’s needs if they utilized tactile sensing. We examined the existing relevant literature to create an initial set of six tactile-perception requirements, and we then evaluated these requirements through interviews with 11 experienced autism specialists from a variety of backgrounds. Thematic analysis of the comments shared by the specialists revealed three overarching themes: the touch-seeking and touch-avoiding behavior of autistic children, their individual differences and customization needs, and the roles that a touch-perceiving robot could play in such interactions. Using the interview study feedback, we refined our initial list into seven qualitative requirements that describe robustness and maintainability, sensing range, feel, gesture identification, spatial, temporal, and adaptation attributes for the touch-perception system of a robot companion for children with autism. Lastly, by utilizing the literature and current best practices in tactile sensor development and signal processing, we transformed these qualitative requirements into quantitative specifications. We discuss the implications of these requirements for future HRI research in the sensing, computing, and user research communities.

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Project Page [BibTex]


HOTA: A Higher Order Metric for Evaluating Multi-Object Tracking
HOTA: A Higher Order Metric for Evaluating Multi-Object Tracking

Luiten, J., Osep, A., Dendorfer, P., Torr, P., Geiger, A., Leal-Taixe, L., Leibe, B.

International Journal of Computer Vision (IJCV), 2020 (article)

Abstract
Multi-Object Tracking (MOT) has been notoriously difficult to evaluate. Previous metrics overemphasize the importance of either detection or association. To address this, we present a novel MOT evaluation metric, HOTA (Higher Order Tracking Accuracy), which explicitly balances the effect of performing accurate detection, association and localization into a single unified metric for comparing trackers. HOTA decomposes into a family of sub-metrics which are able to evaluate each of five basic error types separately, which enables clear analysis of tracking performance. We evaluate the effectiveness of HOTA on the MOTChallenge benchmark, and show that it is able to capture important aspects of MOT performance not previously taken into account by established metrics. Furthermore, we show HOTA scores better align with human visual evaluation of tracking performance.

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pdf [BibTex]

pdf [BibTex]

2017


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Evaluation of High-Fidelity Simulation as a Training Tool in Transoral Robotic Surgery

Bur, A. M., Gomez, E. D., Newman, J. G., Weinstein, G. S., Bert W. O’Malley, J., Rassekh, C. H., Kuchenbecker, K. J.

Laryngoscope, 127(12):2790-2795, December 2017 (article)

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DOI [BibTex]

2017


DOI [BibTex]


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Using Contact Forces and Robot Arm Accelerations to Automatically Rate Surgeon Skill at Peg Transfer

Brown, J. D., O’Brien, C. E., Leung, S. C., Dumon, K. R., Lee, D. I., Kuchenbecker, K. J.

IEEE Transactions on Biomedical Engineering, 64(9):2263-2275, September 2017 (article)

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Ungrounded Haptic Augmented Reality System for Displaying Texture and Friction

Culbertson, H., Kuchenbecker, K. J.

IEEE/ASME Transactions on Mechatronics, 22(4):1839-1849, August 2017 (article)

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Perception of Force and Stiffness in the Presence of Low-Frequency Haptic Noise

Gurari, N., Okamura, A. M., Kuchenbecker, K. J.

PLoS ONE, 12(6):e0178605, June 2017 (article)

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Evaluation of a Vibrotactile Simulator for Dental Caries Detection

Kuchenbecker, K. J., Parajon, R., Maggio, M. P.

Simulation in Healthcare, 12(3):148-156, June 2017 (article)

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


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Importance of Matching Physical Friction, Hardness, and Texture in Creating Realistic Haptic Virtual Surfaces

Culbertson, H., Kuchenbecker, K. J.

IEEE Transactions on Haptics, 10(1):63-74, January 2017 (article)

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[BibTex]


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Effects of Grip-Force, Contact, and Acceleration Feedback on a Teleoperated Pick-and-Place Task

Khurshid, R. P., Fitter, N. T., Fedalei, E. A., Kuchenbecker, K. J.

IEEE Transactions on Haptics, 10(1):40-53, January 2017 (article)

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[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Self-Organized Behavior Generation for Musculoskeletal Robots

Der, R., Martius, G.

Frontiers in Neurorobotics, 11, pages: 8, 2017 (article)

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

2016


Probabilistic Duality for Parallel Gibbs Sampling without Graph Coloring
Probabilistic Duality for Parallel Gibbs Sampling without Graph Coloring

Mescheder, L., Nowozin, S., Geiger, A.

Arxiv, 2016 (article)

Abstract
We present a new notion of probabilistic duality for random variables involving mixture distributions. Using this notion, we show how to implement a highly-parallelizable Gibbs sampler for weakly coupled discrete pairwise graphical models with strictly positive factors that requires almost no preprocessing and is easy to implement. Moreover, we show how our method can be combined with blocking to improve mixing. Even though our method leads to inferior mixing times compared to a sequential Gibbs sampler, we argue that our method is still very useful for large dynamic networks, where factors are added and removed on a continuous basis, as it is hard to maintain a graph coloring in this setup. Similarly, our method is useful for parallelizing Gibbs sampling in graphical models that do not allow for graph colorings with a small number of colors such as densely connected graphs.

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pdf [BibTex]


Map-Based Probabilistic Visual Self-Localization
Map-Based Probabilistic Visual Self-Localization

Brubaker, M. A., Geiger, A., Urtasun, R.

IEEE Trans. on Pattern Analysis and Machine Intelligence (PAMI), 2016 (article)

Abstract
Accurate and efficient self-localization is a critical problem for autonomous systems. This paper describes an affordable solution to vehicle self-localization which uses odometry computed from two video cameras and road maps as the sole inputs. The core of the method is a probabilistic model for which an efficient approximate inference algorithm is derived. The inference algorithm is able to utilize distributed computation in order to meet the real-time requirements of autonomous systems in some instances. Because of the probabilistic nature of the model the method is capable of coping with various sources of uncertainty including noise in the visual odometry and inherent ambiguities in the map (e.g., in a Manhattan world). By exploiting freely available, community developed maps and visual odometry measurements, the proposed method is able to localize a vehicle to 4m on average after 52 seconds of driving on maps which contain more than 2,150km of drivable roads.

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pdf Project Page [BibTex]

pdf Project Page [BibTex]


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Momentum Control with Hierarchical Inverse Dynamics on a Torque-Controlled Humanoid

Herzog, A., Rotella, N., Mason, S., Grimminger, F., Schaal, S., Righetti, L.

Autonomous Robots, 40(3):473-491, 2016 (article)

Abstract
Hierarchical inverse dynamics based on cascades of quadratic programs have been proposed for the control of legged robots. They have important benefits but to the best of our knowledge have never been implemented on a torque controlled humanoid where model inaccuracies, sensor noise and real-time computation requirements can be problematic. Using a reformulation of existing algorithms, we propose a simplification of the problem that allows to achieve real-time control. Momentum-based control is integrated in the task hierarchy and a LQR design approach is used to compute the desired associated closed-loop behavior and improve performance. Extensive experiments on various balancing and tracking tasks show very robust performance in the face of unknown disturbances, even when the humanoid is standing on one foot. Our results demonstrate that hierarchical inverse dynamics together with momentum control can be efficiently used for feedback control under real robot conditions.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

2013


Vision meets Robotics: The {KITTI} Dataset
Vision meets Robotics: The KITTI Dataset

Geiger, A., Lenz, P., Stiller, C., Urtasun, R.

International Journal of Robotics Research, 32(11):1231 - 1237 , Sage Publishing, September 2013 (article)

Abstract
We present a novel dataset captured from a VW station wagon for use in mobile robotics and autonomous driving research. In total, we recorded 6 hours of traffic scenarios at 10-100 Hz using a variety of sensor modalities such as high-resolution color and grayscale stereo cameras, a Velodyne 3D laser scanner and a high-precision GPS/IMU inertial navigation system. The scenarios are diverse, capturing real-world traffic situations and range from freeways over rural areas to inner-city scenes with many static and dynamic objects. Our data is calibrated, synchronized and timestamped, and we provide the rectified and raw image sequences. Our dataset also contains object labels in the form of 3D tracklets and we provide online benchmarks for stereo, optical flow, object detection and other tasks. This paper describes our recording platform, the data format and the utilities that we provide.

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pdf DOI [BibTex]

2013


pdf DOI [BibTex]


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Information Driven Self-Organization of Complex Robotic Behaviors

Martius, G., Der, R., Ay, N.

PLoS ONE, 8(5):e63400, Public Library of Science, 2013 (article)

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [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

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Linear combination of one-step predictive information with an external reward in an episodic policy gradient setting: a critical analysis

Zahedi, K., Martius, G., Ay, N.

Frontiers in Psychology, 4(801), 2013 (article)

Abstract
One of the main challenges in the field of embodied artificial intelligence is the open-ended autonomous learning of complex behaviours. Our approach is to use task-independent, information-driven intrinsic motivation(s) to support task-dependent learning. The work presented here is a preliminary step in which we investigate the predictive information (the mutual information of the past and future of the sensor stream) as an intrinsic drive, ideally supporting any kind of task acquisition. Previous experiments have shown that the predictive information (PI) is a good candidate to support autonomous, open-ended learning of complex behaviours, because a maximisation of the PI corresponds to an exploration of morphology- and environment-dependent behavioural regularities. The idea is that these regularities can then be exploited in order to solve any given task. Three different experiments are presented and their results lead to the conclusion that the linear combination of the one-step PI with an external reward function is not generally recommended in an episodic policy gradient setting. Only for hard tasks a great speed-up can be achieved at the cost of an asymptotic performance lost.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Robustness of guided self-organization against sensorimotor disruptions

Martius, G.

Advances in Complex Systems, 16(02n03):1350001, 2013 (article)

Abstract
Self-organizing processes are crucial for the development of living beings. Practical applications in robots may benefit from the self-organization of behavior, e.g.~to increase fault tolerance and enhance flexibility, provided that external goals can also be achieved. We present results on the guidance of self-organizing control by visual target stimuli and show a remarkable robustness to sensorimotor disruptions. In a proof of concept study an autonomous wheeled robot is learning an object finding and ball-pushing task from scratch within a few minutes in continuous domains. The robustness is demonstrated by the rapid recovery of the performance after severe changes of the sensor configuration.

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


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Controlled Reduction with Unactuated Cyclic Variables: Application to 3D Bipedal Walking with Passive Yaw Rotation

Gregg, R., Righetti, L.

IEEE Transactions on Automatic Control, 58(10):2679-2685, October 2013 (article)

Abstract
This technical note shows that viscous damping can shape momentum conservation laws in a manner that stabilizes yaw rotation and enables steering for underactuated 3D walking. We first show that unactuated cyclic variables can be controlled by passively shaped conservation laws given a stabilizing controller in the actuated coordinates. We then exploit this result to realize controlled geometric reduction with multiple unactuated cyclic variables. We apply this underactuated control strategy to a five-link 3D biped to produce exponentially stable straight-ahead walking and steering in the presence of passive yawing.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

2012


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Variants of guided self-organization for robot control

Martius, G., Herrmann, J.

Theory in Biosci., 131(3):129-137, Springer Berlin / Heidelberg, 2012 (article)

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

2012


link (url) DOI [BibTex]