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2020


AirCapRL: Autonomous Aerial Human Motion Capture Using Deep Reinforcement Learning
AirCapRL: Autonomous Aerial Human Motion Capture Using Deep Reinforcement Learning

Tallamraju, R., Saini, N., Bonetto, E., Pabst, M., Liu, Y. T., Black, M., Ahmad, A.

IEEE Robotics and Automation Letters, IEEE Robotics and Automation Letters, 5(4):6678 - 6685, IEEE, October 2020, Also accepted and presented in the 2020 IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS). (article)

Abstract
In this letter, we introduce a deep reinforcement learning (DRL) based multi-robot formation controller for the task of autonomous aerial human motion capture (MoCap). We focus on vision-based MoCap, where the objective is to estimate the trajectory of body pose, and shape of a single moving person using multiple micro aerial vehicles. State-of-the-art solutions to this problem are based on classical control methods, which depend on hand-crafted system, and observation models. Such models are difficult to derive, and generalize across different systems. Moreover, the non-linearities, and non-convexities of these models lead to sub-optimal controls. In our work, we formulate this problem as a sequential decision making task to achieve the vision-based motion capture objectives, and solve it using a deep neural network-based RL method. We leverage proximal policy optimization (PPO) to train a stochastic decentralized control policy for formation control. The neural network is trained in a parallelized setup in synthetic environments. We performed extensive simulation experiments to validate our approach. Finally, real-robot experiments demonstrate that our policies generalize to real world conditions.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

2020


link (url) DOI [BibTex]


Chiroptical spectroscopy of a freely diffusing single nanoparticle
Chiroptical spectroscopy of a freely diffusing single nanoparticle

Sachs, J., Günther, J., Mark, A. G., Fischer, P.

Nature Communications, 11(4513), September 2020 (article)

Abstract
Chiral plasmonic nanoparticles can exhibit strong chiroptical signals compared to the corresponding molecular response. Observations are, however, generally restricted to measurements on stationary single particles with a fixed orientation, which complicates the spectral analysis. Here, we report the spectroscopic observation of a freely diffusing single chiral nanoparticle in solution. By acquiring time-resolved circular differential scattering signals we show that the spectral interpretation is significantly simplified. We experimentally demonstrate the equivalence between time-averaged chiral spectra observed for an individual nanostructure and the corresponding ensemble spectra, and thereby demonstrate the ergodic principle for chiroptical spectroscopy. We also show how it is possible for an achiral particle to yield an instantaneous chiroptical response, whereas the time-averaged signals are an unequivocal measure of chirality. Time-resolved chiroptical spectroscopy on a freely moving chiral nanoparticle advances the field of single-particle spectroscopy, and is a means to obtain the true signature of the nanoparticle’s chirality.

pf

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


Microchannels with Self-Pumping Walls
Microchannels with Self-Pumping Walls

Yu, T., Athanassiadis, A., Popescu, M., Chikkadi, V., Güth, A., Singh, D., Qiu, T., Fischer, P.

ACS Nano, September 2020 (article)

Abstract
When asymmetric Janus micromotors are immobilized on a surface, they act as chemically powered micropumps, turning chemical energy from the fluid into a bulk flow. However, such pumps have previously produced only localized recirculating flows, which cannot be used to pump fluid in one direction. Here, we demonstrate that an array of three-dimensional, photochemically active Au/TiO2 Janus pillars can pump water. Upon UV illumination, a water-splitting reaction rapidly creates a directional bulk flow above the active surface. By lining a 2D microchannel with such active surfaces, various flow profiles are created within the channels. Analytical and numerical models of a channel with active surfaces predict flow profiles that agree very well with the experimental results. The light-driven active surfaces provide a way to wirelessly pump fluids at small scales and could be used for real-time, localized flow control in complex microfluidic networks.

pf

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


Scalable Fabrication of Molybdenum Disulfide Nanostructures and their Assembly
Scalable Fabrication of Molybdenum Disulfide Nanostructures and their Assembly

Huang, Y., Yu, K., Li, H., Liang, Z., Walker, D., Ferreira, P., Fischer, P., Fan, D.

Adv. Mat., (2003439), September 2020 (article)

Abstract
Molybdenum disulfide (MoS2) is a multifunctional material that can be used for various applications. In the single‐crystalline form, MoS2 shows superior electronic properties. It is also an exceptionally useful nanomaterial in its polycrystalline form with applications in catalysis, energy storage, water treatment, and gas sensing. Here, the scalable fabrication of longitudinal MoS2 nanostructures, i.e., nanoribbons, and their oxide hybrids with tunable dimensions in a rational and well‐reproducible fashion, is reported. The nanoribbons, obtained at different reaction stages, that is, MoO3, MoS2/MoO2 hybrid, and MoS2, are fully characterized. The growth method presented herein has a high yield and is particularly robust. The MoS2 nanoribbons can readily be removed from its substrate and dispersed in solution. It is shown that functionalized MoS2 nanoribbons can be manipulated in solution and assembled in controlled patterns and directly on microelectrodes with UV‐click‐chemistry. Owing to the high chemical purity and polycrystalline nature, the MoS2 nanostructures demonstrate rapid optoelectronic response to wavelengths from 450 to 750 nm, and successfully remove mercury contaminants from water. The scalable fabrication and manipulation followed by light‐directed assembly of MoS2 nanoribbons, and their unique properties, will be inspiring for device fabrication and applications of the transition metal dichalcogenides.

pf

link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


Spatial ultrasound modulation by digitally controlling microbubble arrays
Spatial ultrasound modulation by digitally controlling microbubble arrays

Ma, Z., Melde, K., Athanassiadis, A. G., Schau, M., Richter, H., Qiu, T., Fischer, P.

Nature Communications, 11(4537), September 2020 (article)

Abstract
Acoustic waves, capable of transmitting through optically opaque objects, have been widely used in biomedical imaging, industrial sensing and particle manipulation. High-fidelity wavefront shaping is essential to further improve performance in these applications. An acoustic analog to the successful spatial light modulator (SLM) in optics would be highly desirable. To date there have been no techniques shown that provide effective and dynamic modulation of a sound wave and which also support scale-up to a high number of individually addressable pixels. In the present study, we introduce a dynamic spatial ultrasound modulator (SUM),which dynamically reshapes incident plane waves into complex acoustic images. Its trans-mission function is set with a digitally generated pattern of microbubbles controlled by a complementary metal–oxide–semiconductor (CMOS) chip, which results in a binary amplitude acoustic hologram. We employ this device to project sequentially changing acoustic images and demonstrate the first dynamic parallel assembly of microparticles using a SUM.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]


Combining learned and analytical models for predicting action effects from sensory data
Combining learned and analytical models for predicting action effects from sensory data

Kloss, A., Schaal, S., Bohg, J.

International Journal of Robotics Research, September 2020 (article)

Abstract
One of the most basic skills a robot should possess is predicting the effect of physical interactions with objects in the environment. This enables optimal action selection to reach a certain goal state. Traditionally, dynamics are approximated by physics-based analytical models. These models rely on specific state representations that may be hard to obtain from raw sensory data, especially if no knowledge of the object shape is assumed. More recently, we have seen learning approaches that can predict the effect of complex physical interactions directly from sensory input. It is however an open question how far these models generalize beyond their training data. In this work, we investigate the advantages and limitations of neural network based learning approaches for predicting the effects of actions based on sensory input and show how analytical and learned models can be combined to leverage the best of both worlds. As physical interaction task, we use planar pushing, for which there exists a well-known analytical model and a large real-world dataset. We propose to use a convolutional neural network to convert raw depth images or organized point clouds into a suitable representation for the analytical model and compare this approach to using neural networks for both, perception and prediction. A systematic evaluation of the proposed approach on a very large real-world dataset shows two main advantages of the hybrid architecture. Compared to a pure neural network, it significantly (i) reduces required training data and (ii) improves generalization to novel physical interaction.

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arXiv pdf link (url) DOI [BibTex]


Characterization of active matter in dense suspensions with heterodyne laser Doppler velocimetry
Characterization of active matter in dense suspensions with heterodyne laser Doppler velocimetry

Sachs, J., Kottapalli, S. N., Fischer, P., Botin, D., Palberg, T.

Colloid and Polymer Science, August 2020 (article)

Abstract
We present a novel approach for characterizing the properties and performance of active matter in dilute suspension as well as in crowded environments. We use Super-Heterodyne Laser-Doppler-Velocimetry (SH-LDV) to study large ensembles of catalytically active Janus particles moving under UV illumination. SH-LDV facilitates a model-free determination of the swimming speed and direction, with excellent ensemble averaging. In addition, we obtain information on the distribution of the catalytic activity. Moreover, SH-LDV operates away from walls and permits a facile correction for multiple scattering contributions. It thus allows for studies of concentrated suspensions of swimmers or of systems where swimmers propel actively in an environment crowded by passive particles. We demonstrate the versatility and the scope of the method with a few selected examples. We anticipate that SH-LDV complements established methods and paves the way for systematic measurements at previously inaccessible boundary conditions.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


3D Morphable Face Models - Past, Present and Future
3D Morphable Face Models - Past, Present and Future

Egger, B., Smith, W. A. P., Tewari, A., Wuhrer, S., Zollhoefer, M., Beeler, T., Bernard, F., Bolkart, T., Kortylewski, A., Romdhani, S., Theobalt, C., Blanz, V., Vetter, T.

ACM Transactions on Graphics, 39(5), August 2020 (article)

Abstract
In this paper, we provide a detailed survey of 3D Morphable Face Models over the 20 years since they were first proposed. The challenges in building and applying these models, namely capture, modeling, image formation, and image analysis, are still active research topics, and we review the state-of-the-art in each of these areas. We also look ahead, identifying unsolved challenges, proposing directions for future research and highlighting the broad range of current and future applications.

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project page pdf preprint DOI [BibTex]

project page pdf preprint DOI [BibTex]


Analysis of motor development within the first year of life: 3-{D} motion tracking without markers for early detection of developmental disorders
Analysis of motor development within the first year of life: 3-D motion tracking without markers for early detection of developmental disorders

Parisi, C., Hesse, N., Tacke, U., Rocamora, S. P., Blaschek, A., Hadders-Algra, M., Black, M. J., Heinen, F., Müller-Felber, W., Schroeder, A. S.

Bundesgesundheitsblatt - Gesundheitsforschung - Gesundheitsschutz, 63, pages: 881–890, July 2020 (article)

Abstract
Children with motor development disorders benefit greatly from early interventions. An early diagnosis in pediatric preventive care (U2–U5) can be improved by automated screening. Current approaches to automated motion analysis, however, are expensive, require lots of technical support, and cannot be used in broad clinical application. Here we present an inexpensive, marker-free video analysis tool (KineMAT) for infants, which digitizes 3‑D movements of the entire body over time allowing automated analysis in the future. Three-minute video sequences of spontaneously moving infants were recorded with a commercially available depth-imaging camera and aligned with a virtual infant body model (SMIL model). The virtual image generated allows any measurements to be carried out in 3‑D with high precision. We demonstrate seven infants with different diagnoses. A selection of possible movement parameters was quantified and aligned with diagnosis-specific movement characteristics. KineMAT and the SMIL model allow reliable, three-dimensional measurements of spontaneous activity in infants with a very low error rate. Based on machine-learning algorithms, KineMAT can be trained to automatically recognize pathological spontaneous motor skills. It is inexpensive and easy to use and can be developed into a screening tool for preventive care for children.

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pdf on-line w/ sup mat DOI [BibTex]

pdf on-line w/ sup mat DOI [BibTex]


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Phenomenal Causality and Sensory Realism

Meding, K., Bruijns, S. A., Schölkopf, B., Berens, P., Wichmann, F. A.

i-Perception, 11(3):1-16, June 2020 (article)

ei

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


Learning and Tracking the {3D} Body Shape of Freely Moving Infants from {RGB-D} sequences
Learning and Tracking the 3D Body Shape of Freely Moving Infants from RGB-D sequences

Hesse, N., Pujades, S., Black, M., Arens, M., Hofmann, U., Schroeder, S.

IEEE Transactions on Pattern Analysis and Machine Intelligence (TPAMI), 42(10):2540-2551, 2020 (article)

Abstract
Statistical models of the human body surface are generally learned from thousands of high-quality 3D scans in predefined poses to cover the wide variety of human body shapes and articulations. Acquisition of such data requires expensive equipment, calibration procedures, and is limited to cooperative subjects who can understand and follow instructions, such as adults. We present a method for learning a statistical 3D Skinned Multi-Infant Linear body model (SMIL) from incomplete, low-quality RGB-D sequences of freely moving infants. Quantitative experiments show that SMIL faithfully represents the RGB-D data and properly factorizes the shape and pose of the infants. To demonstrate the applicability of SMIL, we fit the model to RGB-D sequences of freely moving infants and show, with a case study, that our method captures enough motion detail for General Movements Assessment (GMA), a method used in clinical practice for early detection of neurodevelopmental disorders in infants. SMIL provides a new tool for analyzing infant shape and movement and is a step towards an automated system for GMA.

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pdf Journal DOI [BibTex]

pdf Journal DOI [BibTex]


Biocompatible magnetic micro‐ and nanodevices: Fabrication of FePt nanopropellers and cell transfection
Biocompatible magnetic micro‐ and nanodevices: Fabrication of FePt nanopropellers and cell transfection

Kadiri, V. M., Bussi, C., Holle, A. W., Son, K., Kwon, H., Schütz, G., Gutierrez, M. G., Fischer, P.

Adv. Mat., 32(2001114), May 2020 (article)

Abstract
The application of nanoparticles for drug or gene delivery promises benefits in the form of single‐cell‐specific therapeutic and diagnostic capabilities. Many methods of cell transfection rely on unspecific means to increase the transport of genetic material into cells. Targeted transport is in principle possible with magnetically propelled micromotors, which allow responsive nanoscale actuation and delivery. However, many commonly used magnetic materials (e.g., Ni and Co) are not biocompatible, possess weak magnetic remanence (Fe3O4), or cannot be implemented in nanofabrication schemes (NdFeB). Here, it is demonstrated that co‐depositing iron (Fe) and platinum (Pt) followed by one single annealing step, without the need for solution processing, yields ferromagnetic FePt nanomotors that are noncytotoxic, biocompatible, and possess a remanence and magnetization that rival those of permanent NdFeB micromagnets. Active cell targeting and magnetic transfection of lung carcinoma cells are demonstrated using gradient‐free rotating millitesla fields to drive the FePt nanopropellers. The carcinoma cells express enhanced green fluorescent protein after internalization and cell viability is unaffected by the presence of the FePt nanopropellers. The results establish FePt, prepared in the L10 phase, as a promising magnetic material for biomedical applications with superior magnetic performance, especially for micro‐ and nanodevices.

pf mms

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


Interface-mediated spontaneous symmetry breaking and mutual communication between drops containing chemically active particles
Interface-mediated spontaneous symmetry breaking and mutual communication between drops containing chemically active particles

Singh, D., Domínguez, A., Choudhury, U., Kottapalli, S., Popescu, M., Dietrich, S., Fischer, P.

Nature Communications, 11(2210), May 2020 (article)

Abstract
Symmetry breaking and the emergence of self-organized patterns is the hallmark of com- plexity. Here, we demonstrate that a sessile drop, containing titania powder particles with negligible self-propulsion, exhibits a transition to collective motion leading to self-organized flow patterns. This phenomenology emerges through a novel mechanism involving the interplay between the chemical activity of the photocatalytic particles, which induces Mar- angoni stresses at the liquid–liquid interface, and the geometrical confinement provided by the drop. The response of the interface to the chemical activity of the particles is the source of a significantly amplified hydrodynamic flow within the drop, which moves the particles. Furthermore, in ensembles of such active drops long-ranged ordering of the flow patterns within the drops is observed. We show that the ordering is dictated by a chemical com- munication between drops, i.e., an alignment of the flow patterns is induced by the gradients of the chemicals emanating from the active particles, rather than by hydrodynamic interactions.

pf icm

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


General Movement Assessment from videos of computed {3D} infant body models is equally effective compared to conventional {RGB} Video rating
General Movement Assessment from videos of computed 3D infant body models is equally effective compared to conventional RGB Video rating

Schroeder, S., Hesse, N., Weinberger, R., Tacke, U., Gerstl, L., Hilgendorff, A., Heinen, F., Arens, M., Bodensteiner, C., Dijkstra, L. J., Pujades, S., Black, M., Hadders-Algra, M.

Early Human Development, 144, May 2020 (article)

Abstract
Background: General Movement Assessment (GMA) is a powerful tool to predict Cerebral Palsy (CP). Yet, GMA requires substantial training hampering its implementation in clinical routine. This inspired a world-wide quest for automated GMA. Aim: To test whether a low-cost, marker-less system for three-dimensional motion capture from RGB depth sequences using a whole body infant model may serve as the basis for automated GMA. Study design: Clinical case study at an academic neurodevelopmental outpatient clinic. Subjects: Twenty-nine high-risk infants were recruited and assessed at their clinical follow-up at 2-4 month corrected age (CA). Their neurodevelopmental outcome was assessed regularly up to 12-31 months CA. Outcome measures: GMA according to Hadders-Algra by a masked GMA-expert of conventional and computed 3D body model (“SMIL motion”) videos of the same GMs. Agreement between both GMAs was assessed, and sensitivity and specificity of both methods to predict CP at ≥12 months CA. Results: The agreement of the two GMA ratings was substantial, with κ=0.66 for the classification of definitely abnormal (DA) GMs and an ICC of 0.887 (95% CI 0.762;0.947) for a more detailed GM-scoring. Five children were diagnosed with CP (four bilateral, one unilateral CP). The GMs of the child with unilateral CP were twice rated as mildly abnormal. DA-ratings of both videos predicted bilateral CP well: sensitivity 75% and 100%, specificity 88% and 92% for conventional and SMIL motion videos, respectively. Conclusions: Our computed infant 3D full body model is an attractive starting point for automated GMA in infants at risk of CP.

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


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Automatic Discovery of Interpretable Planning Strategies

Skirzyński, J., Becker, F., Lieder, F.

Machine Learning Journal, May 2020 (article) Submitted

Abstract
When making decisions, people often overlook critical information or are overly swayed by irrelevant information. A common approach to mitigate these biases is to provide decisionmakers, especially professionals such as medical doctors, with decision aids, such as decision trees and flowcharts. Designing effective decision aids is a difficult problem. We propose that recently developed reinforcement learning methods for discovering clever heuristics for good decision-making can be partially leveraged to assist human experts in this design process. One of the biggest remaining obstacles to leveraging the aforementioned methods for improving human decision-making is that the policies they learn are opaque to people. To solve this problem, we introduce AI-Interpret: a general method for transforming idiosyncratic policies into simple and interpretable descriptions. Our algorithm combines recent advances in imitation learning and program induction with a new clustering method for identifying a large subset of demonstrations that can be accurately described by a simple, high-performing decision rule. We evaluate our new AI-Interpret algorithm and employ it to translate information-acquisition policies discovered through metalevel reinforcement learning. The results of three large behavioral experiments showed that the provision of decision rules as flowcharts significantly improved people’s planning strategies and decisions across three different classes of sequential decision problems. Furthermore, a series of ablation studies confirmed that our AI-Interpret algorithm was critical to the discovery of interpretable decision rules and that it is ready to be applied to other reinforcement learning problems. We conclude that the methods and findings presented in this article are an important step towards leveraging automatic strategy discovery to improve human decision-making.

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Automatic Discovery of Interpretable Planning Strategies The code for our algorithm and the experiments is available Project Page [BibTex]


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Variational Bayes In Private Settings (VIPS)

Park, M., Foulds, J., Chaudhuri, K., Welling, M.

Journal of Artificial Intelligence Research, 68, pages: 109-157, May 2020 (article)

ei

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


Learning Multi-Human Optical Flow
Learning Multi-Human Optical Flow

Ranjan, A., Hoffmann, D. T., Tzionas, D., Tang, S., Romero, J., Black, M. J.

International Journal of Computer Vision (IJCV), (128):873-890, April 2020 (article)

Abstract
The optical flow of humans is well known to be useful for the analysis of human action. Recent optical flow methods focus on training deep networks to approach the problem. However, the training data used by them does not cover the domain of human motion. Therefore, we develop a dataset of multi-human optical flow and train optical flow networks on this dataset. We use a 3D model of the human body and motion capture data to synthesize realistic flow fields in both single-and multi-person images. We then train optical flow networks to estimate human flow fields from pairs of images. We demonstrate that our trained networks are more accurate than a wide range of top methods on held-out test data and that they can generalize well to real image sequences. The code, trained models and the dataset are available for research.

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pdf DOI poster link (url) DOI [BibTex]

pdf DOI poster link (url) DOI [BibTex]


Spectrally selective and highly-sensitive UV photodetection with UV-A, C band specific polarity switching in silver plasmonic nanoparticle enhanced gallium oxide thin-film
Spectrally selective and highly-sensitive UV photodetection with UV-A, C band specific polarity switching in silver plasmonic nanoparticle enhanced gallium oxide thin-film

Arora, K., Singh, D., Fischer, P., Kumar, M.

Adv. Opt. Mat., March 2020 (article)

Abstract
Traditional photodetectors generally show a unipolar photocurrent response when illuminated with light of wavelength equal or shorter than the optical bandgap. Here, we report that a thin film of gallium oxide (GO) decorated with plasmonic nanoparticles, surprisingly, exhibits a change in the polarity of the photocurrent for different UV bands. Silver (Ag) nanoparticles are vacuum-deposited onto β-Ga2O3 and the AgNP@GO thin films show a record responsivity of 250 A/W, which significantly outperforms bare GO planar photodetectors. The photoresponsivity reverses sign from +157 µA/W in the UV-C band under unbiased operation to -353 µA/W in the UV-A band. The current reversal is rationalized by considering the charge dynamics stemming from hot electrons generated when the incident light excites a local surface plasmon resonance (LSPR) in the Ag nanoparticles. The Ag nanoparticles improve the external quantum efficiency and detectivity by nearly one order of magnitude with high values of 1.2×105 and 3.4×1014 Jones, respectively. This plasmon-enhanced solar blind GO detector allows UV regions to be spectrally distinguished, which is useful for the development of sensitive dynamic imaging photodetectors.

pf

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Adaptation and Robust Learning of Probabilistic Movement Primitives

Gomez-Gonzalez, S., Neumann, G., Schölkopf, B., Peters, J.

IEEE Transactions on Robotics, 36(2):366-379, IEEE, March 2020 (article)

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arXiv DOI Project Page [BibTex]

arXiv DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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Advancing Rational Analysis to the Algorithmic Level

Lieder, F., Griffiths, T. L.

Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 43, E27, March 2020 (article)

Abstract
The commentaries raised questions about normativity, human rationality, cognitive architectures, cognitive constraints, and the scope or resource rational analysis (RRA). We respond to these questions and clarify that RRA is a methodological advance that extends the scope of rational modeling to understanding cognitive processes, why they differ between people, why they change over time, and how they could be improved.

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Advancing rational analysis to the algorithmic level DOI [BibTex]

Advancing rational analysis to the algorithmic level DOI [BibTex]


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Learning to Overexert Cognitive Control in a Stroop Task

Bustamante, L., Lieder, F., Musslick, S., Shenhav, A., Cohen, J.

Febuary 2020, Laura Bustamante and Falk Lieder contributed equally to this publication. (article) In revision

Abstract
How do people learn when to allocate how much cognitive control to which task? According to the Learned Value of Control (LVOC) model, people learn to predict the value of alternative control allocations from features of a given situation. This suggests that people may generalize the value of control learned in one situation to other situations with shared features, even when the demands for cognitive control are different. This makes the intriguing prediction that what a person learned in one setting could, under some circumstances, cause them to misestimate the need for, and potentially over-exert control in another setting, even if this harms their performance. To test this prediction, we had participants perform a novel variant of the Stroop task in which, on each trial, they could choose to either name the color (more control-demanding) or read the word (more automatic). However only one of these tasks was rewarded, it changed from trial to trial, and could be predicted by one or more of the stimulus features (the color and/or the word). Participants first learned colors that predicted the rewarded task. Then they learned words that predicted the rewarded task. In the third part of the experiment, we tested how these learned feature associations transferred to novel stimuli with some overlapping features. The stimulus-task-reward associations were designed so that for certain combinations of stimuli the transfer of learned feature associations would incorrectly predict that more highly rewarded task would be color naming, which would require the exertion of control, even though the actually rewarded task was word reading and therefore did not require the engagement of control. Our results demonstrated that participants over-exerted control for these stimuli, providing support for the feature-based learning mechanism described by the LVOC model.

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Learning to Overexert Cognitive Control in a Stroop Task DOI [BibTex]

Learning to Overexert Cognitive Control in a Stroop Task DOI [BibTex]


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DeepMAsED: evaluating the quality of metagenomic assemblies

Mineeva*, O., Rojas-Carulla*, M., Ley, R. E., Schölkopf, B. Y. N. D.

Bioinformatics, 36(10):3011-3017, Febuary 2020, *equal contribution (article)

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


Investigating photoresponsivity of graphene-silver hybrid nanomaterials in the ultraviolet
Investigating photoresponsivity of graphene-silver hybrid nanomaterials in the ultraviolet

Deshpande, P., Suri, P., Jeong, H., Fischer, P., Ghosh, A., Ghosh, G.

J. Chem. Phys., 152, pages: 044709, January 2020 (article)

Abstract
There have been several reports of plasmonically enhanced graphene photodetectors in the visible and the near infrared regime but rarely in the ultraviolet. In a previous work, we have reported that a graphene-silver hybrid structure shows a high photoresponsivity of 13 A/W at 270 nm. Here, we consider the likely mechanisms that underlie this strong photoresponse. We investigate the role of the plasmonic layer and examine the response using silver and gold nanoparticles of similar dimensions and spatial arrangement. The effect on local doping, strain, and absorption properties of the hybrid is also probed by photocurrent measurements and Raman and UV-visible spectroscopy. We find that the local doping from the silver nanoparticles is stronger than that from gold and correlates with a measured photosensitivity that is larger in devices with a higher contact area between the plasmonic nanomaterials and the graphene layer.

pf

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


A High-Fidelity Phantom for the Simulation and Quantitative Evaluation of Transurethral Resection of the Prostate
A High-Fidelity Phantom for the Simulation and Quantitative Evaluation of Transurethral Resection of the Prostate

Choi, E., Adams, F., Gengenbacher, A., Schlager, D., Palagi, S., Müller, P., Wetterauer, U., Miernik, A., Fischer, P., Qiu, T.

Annals of Biomed. Eng., 48, pages: 437-446, January 2020 (article)

Abstract
Transurethral resection of the prostate (TURP) is a minimally invasive endoscopic procedure that requires experience and skill of the surgeon. To permit surgical training under realistic conditions we report a novel phantom of the human prostate that can be resected with TURP. The phantom mirrors the anatomy and haptic properties of the gland and permits quantitative evaluation of important surgical performance indicators. Mixtures of soft materials are engineered to mimic the physical properties of the human tissue, including the mechanical strength, the electrical and thermal conductivity, and the appearance under an endoscope. Electrocautery resection of the phantom closely resembles the procedure on human tissue. Ultrasound contrast agent was applied to the central zone, which was not detectable by the surgeon during the surgery but showed high contrast when imaged after the surgery, to serve as a label for the quantitative evaluation of the surgery. Quantitative criteria for performance assessment are established and evaluated by automated image analysis. We present the workflow of a surgical simulation on a prostate phantom followed by quantitative evaluation of the surgical performance. Surgery on the phantom is useful for medical training, and enables the development and testing of endoscopic and minimally invasive surgical instruments.

pf

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


Interactive Materials – Drivers of Future Robotic Systems
Interactive Materials – Drivers of Future Robotic Systems

Fischer, P.

Adv. Mat., January 2020 (article)

Abstract
A robot senses its environment, processes the sensory information, acts in response to these inputs, and possibly communicates with the outside world. Robots generally achieve these tasks with electronics-based hardware or by receiving inputs from some external hardware. In contrast, simple microorganisms can autonomously perceive, act, and communicate via purely physicochemical processes in soft material systems. A key property of biological systems is that they are built from energy-consuming ‘active’ units. Exciting developments in material science show that even very simple artificial active building blocks can show surprisingly rich emergent behaviors. Active non-equilibrium systems are therefore predicted to play an essential role to realize interactive materials. A major challenge is to find robust ways to couple and integrate the energy-consuming building blocks to the mechanical structure of the material. However, success in this endeavor will lead to a new generation of sophisticated micro- and soft-robotic systems that can operate autonomously.

pf

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


Real Time Trajectory Prediction Using Deep Conditional Generative Models
Real Time Trajectory Prediction Using Deep Conditional Generative Models

Gomez-Gonzalez, S., Prokudin, S., Schölkopf, B., Peters, J.

IEEE Robotics and Automation Letters, 5(2):970-976, IEEE, January 2020 (article)

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arXiv DOI [BibTex]

arXiv DOI [BibTex]


Toward a Formal Theory of Proactivity
Toward a Formal Theory of Proactivity

Lieder, F., Iwama, G.

January 2020 (article) Submitted

Abstract
Beyond merely reacting to their environment and impulses, people have the remarkable capacity to proactively set and pursue their own goals. But the extent to which they leverage this capacity varies widely across people and situations. The goal of this article is to make the mechanisms and variability of proactivity more amenable to rigorous experiments and computational modeling. We proceed in three steps. First, we develop and validate a mathematically precise behavioral measure of proactivity and reactivity that can be applied across a wide range of experimental paradigms. Second, we propose a formal definition of proactivity and reactivity, and develop a computational model of proactivity in the AX Continuous Performance Task (AX-CPT). Third, we develop and test a computational-level theory of meta-control over proactivity in the AX-CPT that identifies three distinct meta-decision-making problems: intention setting, resolving response conflict between intentions and automaticity, and deciding whether to recall context and intentions into working memory. People's response frequencies in the AX-CPT were remarkably well captured by a mixture between the predictions of our models of proactive and reactive control. Empirical data from an experiment varying the incentives and contextual load of an AX-CPT confirmed the predictions of our meta-control model of individual differences in proactivity. Our results suggest that proactivity can be understood in terms of computational models of meta-control. Our model makes additional empirically testable predictions. Future work will extend our models from proactive control in the AX-CPT to proactive goal creation and goal pursuit in the real world.

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Toward a formal theory of proactivity DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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An Adaptive Optimizer for Measurement-Frugal Variational Algorithms

Kübler, J. M., Arrasmith, A., Cincio, L., Coles, P. J.

Quantum, 4, pages: 263, 2020 (article)

ei

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


no image
Counterfactual Mean Embedding

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

Journal of Machine Learning Research, 2020 (article) Accepted

ei

[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Causal Discovery from Heterogeneous/Nonstationary Data

Huang, B., Zhang, K., J., Z., Ramsey, J., Sanchez-Romero, R., Glymour, C., Schölkopf, B.

Journal of Machine Learning Research, 21(89):1-53, 2020 (article)

ei

link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


Safe and Fast Tracking on a Robot Manipulator: Robust MPC and Neural Network Control
Safe and Fast Tracking on a Robot Manipulator: Robust MPC and Neural Network Control

Nubert, J., Koehler, J., Berenz, V., Allgower, F., Trimpe, S.

IEEE Robotics and Automation Letters, 2020 (article) Accepted

Abstract
Fast feedback control and safety guarantees are essential in modern robotics. We present an approach that achieves both by combining novel robust model predictive control (MPC) with function approximation via (deep) neural networks (NNs). The result is a new approach for complex tasks with nonlinear, uncertain, and constrained dynamics as are common in robotics. Specifically, we leverage recent results in MPC research to propose a new robust setpoint tracking MPC algorithm, which achieves reliable and safe tracking of a dynamic setpoint while guaranteeing stability and constraint satisfaction. The presented robust MPC scheme constitutes a one-layer approach that unifies the often separated planning and control layers, by directly computing the control command based on a reference and possibly obstacle positions. As a separate contribution, we show how the computation time of the MPC can be drastically reduced by approximating the MPC law with a NN controller. The NN is trained and validated from offline samples of the MPC, yielding statistical guarantees, and used in lieu thereof at run time. Our experiments on a state-of-the-art robot manipulator are the first to show that both the proposed robust and approximate MPC schemes scale to real-world robotic systems.

am ics

arXiv PDF DOI [BibTex]

arXiv PDF DOI [BibTex]

2018


Role of symmetry in driven propulsion at low Reynolds number
Role of symmetry in driven propulsion at low Reynolds number

Sachs, J., Morozov, K. I., Kenneth, O., Qiu, T., Segreto, N., Fischer, P., Leshansky, A. M.

Phys. Rev. E, 98(6):063105, American Physical Society, December 2018 (article)

Abstract
We theoretically and experimentally investigate low-Reynolds-number propulsion of geometrically achiral planar objects that possess a dipole moment and that are driven by a rotating magnetic field. Symmetry considerations (involving parity, $\widehat{P}$, and charge conjugation, $\widehat{C}$) establish correspondence between propulsive states depending on orientation of the dipolar moment. Although basic symmetry arguments do not forbid individual symmetric objects to efficiently propel due to spontaneous symmetry breaking, they suggest that the average ensemble velocity vanishes. Some additional arguments show, however, that highly symmetrical ($\widehat{P}$-even) objects exhibit no net propulsion while individual less symmetrical ($\widehat{C}\widehat{P}$-even) propellers do propel. Particular magnetization orientation, rendering the shape $\widehat{C}\widehat{P}$-odd, yields unidirectional motion typically associated with chiral structures, such as helices. If instead of a structure with a permanent dipole we consider a polarizable object, some of the arguments have to be modified. For instance, we demonstrate a truly achiral ($\widehat{P}$- and $\widehat{C}\widehat{P}$-even) planar shape with an induced electric dipole that can propel by electro-rotation. We thereby show that chirality is not essential for propulsion due to rotation-translation coupling at low Reynolds number.

pf

link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]

2018


link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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Parallel and functionally segregated processing of task phase and conscious content in the prefrontal cortex

Kapoor, V., Besserve, M., Logothetis, N. K., Panagiotaropoulos, T. I.

Communications Biology, 1(215):1-12, December 2018 (article)

ei

link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]

link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]


Optical and Thermophoretic Control of Janus Nanopen Injection into Living Cells
Optical and Thermophoretic Control of Janus Nanopen Injection into Living Cells

Maier, C. M., Huergo, M. A., Milosevic, S., Pernpeintner, C., Li, M., Singh, D. P., Walker, D., Fischer, P., Feldmann, J., Lohmüller, T.

Nano Letters, 18, pages: 7935–7941, November 2018 (article) Accepted

Abstract
Devising strategies for the controlled injection of functional nanoparticles and reagents into living cells paves the way for novel applications in nanosurgery, sensing, and drug delivery. Here, we demonstrate the light-controlled guiding and injection of plasmonic Janus nanopens into living cells. The pens are made of a gold nanoparticle attached to a dielectric alumina shaft. Balancing optical and thermophoretic forces in an optical tweezer allows single Janus nanopens to be trapped and positioned on the surface of living cells. While the optical injection process involves strong heating of the plasmonic side, the temperature of the alumina stays significantly lower, thus allowing the functionalization with fluorescently labeled, single-stranded DNA and, hence, the spatially controlled injection of genetic material with an untethered nanocarrier.

pf

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


A swarm of slippery micropropellers penetrates the vitreous body of the eye
A swarm of slippery micropropellers penetrates the vitreous body of the eye

Wu, Z., Troll, J., Jeong, H. H., Wei, Q., Stang, M., Ziemssen, F., Wang, Z., Dong, M., Schnichels, S., Qiu, T., Fischer, P.

Science Advances, 4(11):eaat4388, November 2018 (article)

Abstract
The intravitreal delivery of therapeutic agents promises major benefits in the field of ocular medicine. Traditional delivery methods rely on the random, passive diffusion of molecules, which do not allow for the rapid delivery of a concentrated cargo to a defined region at the posterior pole of the eye. The use of particles promises targeted delivery but faces the challenge that most tissues including the vitreous have a tight macromolecular matrix that acts as a barrier and prevents its penetration. Here, we demonstrate novel intravitreal delivery microvehicles slippery micropropellers that can be actively propelled through the vitreous humor to reach the retina. The propulsion is achieved by helical magnetic micropropellers that have a liquid layer coating to minimize adhesion to the surrounding biopolymeric network. The submicrometer diameter of the propellers enables the penetration of the biopolymeric network and the propulsion through the porcine vitreous body of the eye over centimeter distances. Clinical optical coherence tomography is used to monitor the movement of the propellers and confirm their arrival on the retina near the optic disc. Overcoming the adhesion forces and actively navigating a swarm of micropropellers in the dense vitreous humor promise practical applications in ophthalmology.

pf

Video: Nanorobots propel through the eye link (url) DOI [BibTex]

Video: Nanorobots propel through the eye link (url) DOI [BibTex]


Deep Inertial Poser: Learning to Reconstruct Human Pose from Sparse Inertial Measurements in Real Time
Deep Inertial Poser: Learning to Reconstruct Human Pose from Sparse Inertial Measurements in Real Time

Huang, Y., Kaufmann, M., Aksan, E., Black, M. J., Hilliges, O., Pons-Moll, G.

ACM Transactions on Graphics, (Proc. SIGGRAPH Asia), 37, pages: 185:1-185:15, ACM, November 2018, Two first authors contributed equally (article)

Abstract
We demonstrate a novel deep neural network capable of reconstructing human full body pose in real-time from 6 Inertial Measurement Units (IMUs) worn on the user's body. In doing so, we address several difficult challenges. First, the problem is severely under-constrained as multiple pose parameters produce the same IMU orientations. Second, capturing IMU data in conjunction with ground-truth poses is expensive and difficult to do in many target application scenarios (e.g., outdoors). Third, modeling temporal dependencies through non-linear optimization has proven effective in prior work but makes real-time prediction infeasible. To address this important limitation, we learn the temporal pose priors using deep learning. To learn from sufficient data, we synthesize IMU data from motion capture datasets. A bi-directional RNN architecture leverages past and future information that is available at training time. At test time, we deploy the network in a sliding window fashion, retaining real time capabilities. To evaluate our method, we recorded DIP-IMU, a dataset consisting of 10 subjects wearing 17 IMUs for validation in 64 sequences with 330,000 time instants; this constitutes the largest IMU dataset publicly available. We quantitatively evaluate our approach on multiple datasets and show results from a real-time implementation. DIP-IMU and the code are available for research purposes.

ps

data code pdf preprint errata video DOI Project Page [BibTex]

data code pdf preprint errata video DOI Project Page [BibTex]


A Value-Driven Eldercare Robot: Virtual and Physical Instantiations of a Case-Supported Principle-Based Behavior Paradigm
A Value-Driven Eldercare Robot: Virtual and Physical Instantiations of a Case-Supported Principle-Based Behavior Paradigm

Anderson, M., Anderson, S., Berenz, V.

Proceedings of the IEEE, pages: 1,15, October 2018 (article)

Abstract
In this paper, a case-supported principle-based behavior paradigm is proposed to help ensure ethical behavior of autonomous machines. We argue that ethically significant behavior of autonomous systems should be guided by explicit ethical principles determined through a consensus of ethicists. Such a consensus is likely to emerge in many areas in which autonomous systems are apt to be deployed and for the actions they are liable to undertake. We believe that this is the case since we are more likely to agree on how machines ought to treat us than on how human beings ought to treat one another. Given such a consensus, particular cases of ethical dilemmas where ethicists agree on the ethically relevant features and the right course of action can be used to help discover principles that balance these features when they are in conflict. Such principles not only help ensure ethical behavior of complex and dynamic systems but also can serve as a basis for justification of this behavior. The requirements, methods, implementation, and evaluation components of the paradigm are detailed as well as its instantiation in both a simulated and real robot functioning in the domain of eldercare.

am

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


Deep Neural Network-based Cooperative Visual Tracking through Multiple Micro Aerial Vehicles
Deep Neural Network-based Cooperative Visual Tracking through Multiple Micro Aerial Vehicles

Price, E., Lawless, G., Ludwig, R., Martinovic, I., Buelthoff, H. H., Black, M. J., Ahmad, A.

IEEE Robotics and Automation Letters, Robotics and Automation Letters, 3(4):3193-3200, IEEE, October 2018, Also accepted and presented in the 2018 IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS). (article)

Abstract
Multi-camera tracking of humans and animals in outdoor environments is a relevant and challenging problem. Our approach to it involves a team of cooperating micro aerial vehicles (MAVs) with on-board cameras only. DNNs often fail at objects with small scale or far away from the camera, which are typical characteristics of a scenario with aerial robots. Thus, the core problem addressed in this paper is how to achieve on-board, online, continuous and accurate vision-based detections using DNNs for visual person tracking through MAVs. Our solution leverages cooperation among multiple MAVs and active selection of most informative regions of image. We demonstrate the efficiency of our approach through simulations with up to 16 robots and real robot experiments involving two aerial robots tracking a person, while maintaining an active perception-driven formation. ROS-based source code is provided for the benefit of the community.

ps

Published Version link (url) DOI [BibTex]

Published Version link (url) DOI [BibTex]


Control of Musculoskeletal Systems using Learned Dynamics Models
Control of Musculoskeletal Systems using Learned Dynamics Models

Büchler, D., Calandra, R., Schölkopf, B., Peters, J.

IEEE Robotics and Automation Letters, Robotics and Automation Letters, 3(4):3161-3168, IEEE, 2018 (article)

Abstract
Controlling musculoskeletal systems, especially robots actuated by pneumatic artificial muscles, is a challenging task due to nonlinearities, hysteresis effects, massive actuator de- lay and unobservable dependencies such as temperature. Despite such difficulties, muscular systems offer many beneficial prop- erties to achieve human-comparable performance in uncertain and fast-changing tasks. For example, muscles are backdrivable and provide variable stiffness while offering high forces to reach high accelerations. In addition, the embodied intelligence deriving from the compliance might reduce the control demands for specific tasks. In this paper, we address the problem of how to accurately control musculoskeletal robots. To address this issue, we propose to learn probabilistic forward dynamics models using Gaussian processes and, subsequently, to employ these models for control. However, Gaussian processes dynamics models cannot be set-up for our musculoskeletal robot as for traditional motor- driven robots because of unclear state composition etc. We hence empirically study and discuss in detail how to tune these approaches to complex musculoskeletal robots and their specific challenges. Moreover, we show that our model can be used to accurately control an antagonistic pair of pneumatic artificial muscles for a trajectory tracking task while considering only one- step-ahead predictions of the forward model and incorporating model uncertainty.

ei

RAL18final link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]

RAL18final link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]


First Impressions of Personality Traits From Body Shapes
First Impressions of Personality Traits From Body Shapes

Hu, Y., Parde, C. J., Hill, M. Q., Mahmood, N., O’Toole, A. J.

Psychological Science, 29(12):1969-–1983, October 2018 (article)

Abstract
People infer the personalities of others from their facial appearance. Whether they do so from body shapes is less studied. We explored personality inferences made from body shapes. Participants rated personality traits for male and female bodies generated with a three-dimensional body model. Multivariate spaces created from these ratings indicated that people evaluate bodies on valence and agency in ways that directly contrast positive and negative traits from the Big Five domains. Body-trait stereotypes based on the trait ratings revealed a myriad of diverse body shapes that typify individual traits. Personality-trait profiles were predicted reliably from a subset of the body-shape features used to specify the three-dimensional bodies. Body features related to extraversion and conscientiousness were predicted with the highest consensus, followed by openness traits. This study provides the first comprehensive look at the range, diversity, and reliability of personality inferences that people make from body shapes.

ps

publisher site pdf DOI [BibTex]

publisher site pdf DOI [BibTex]


Fast spatial scanning of 3D ultrasound fields via thermography
Fast spatial scanning of 3D ultrasound fields via thermography

Melde, K., Qiu, T., Fischer, P.

Applied Physics Letters, 113(13):133503, September 2018 (article)

Abstract
We propose and demonstrate a thermographic method that allows rapid scanning of ultrasound fields in a volume to yield 3D maps of the sound intensity. A thin sound-absorbing membrane is continuously translated through a volume of interest while a thermal camera records the evolution of its surface temperature. The temperature rise is a function of the absorbed sound intensity, such that the thermal image sequence can be combined to reveal the sound intensity distribution in the traversed volume. We demonstrate the mapping of ultrasound fields, which is several orders of magnitude faster than scanning with a hydrophone. Our results are in very good agreement with theoretical simulations.

pf

link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]


Playful: Reactive Programming for Orchestrating Robotic Behavior
Playful: Reactive Programming for Orchestrating Robotic Behavior

Berenz, V., Schaal, S.

IEEE Robotics Automation Magazine, 25(3):49-60, September 2018 (article) In press

Abstract
For many service robots, reactivity to changes in their surroundings is a must. However, developing software suitable for dynamic environments is difficult. Existing robotic middleware allows engineers to design behavior graphs by organizing communication between components. But because these graphs are structurally inflexible, they hardly support the development of complex reactive behavior. To address this limitation, we propose Playful, a software platform that applies reactive programming to the specification of robotic behavior.

am

playful website playful_IEEE_RAM link (url) DOI [BibTex]


ClusterNet: Instance Segmentation in RGB-D Images
ClusterNet: Instance Segmentation in RGB-D Images

Shao, L., Tian, Y., Bohg, J.

arXiv, September 2018, Submitted to ICRA'19 (article) Submitted

Abstract
We propose a method for instance-level segmentation that uses RGB-D data as input and provides detailed information about the location, geometry and number of {\em individual\/} objects in the scene. This level of understanding is fundamental for autonomous robots. It enables safe and robust decision-making under the large uncertainty of the real-world. In our model, we propose to use the first and second order moments of the object occupancy function to represent an object instance. We train an hourglass Deep Neural Network (DNN) where each pixel in the output votes for the 3D position of the corresponding object center and for the object's size and pose. The final instance segmentation is achieved through clustering in the space of moments. The object-centric training loss is defined on the output of the clustering. Our method outperforms the state-of-the-art instance segmentation method on our synthesized dataset. We show that our method generalizes well on real-world data achieving visually better segmentation results.

am

link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


Visual Perception and Evaluation of Photo-Realistic Self-Avatars From {3D} Body Scans in Males and Females
Visual Perception and Evaluation of Photo-Realistic Self-Avatars From 3D Body Scans in Males and Females

Thaler, A., Piryankova, I., Stefanucci, J. K., Pujades, S., de la Rosa, S., Streuber, S., Romero, J., Black, M. J., Mohler, B. J.

Frontiers in ICT, 5, pages: 1-14, September 2018 (article)

Abstract
The creation or streaming of photo-realistic self-avatars is important for virtual reality applications that aim for perception and action to replicate real world experience. The appearance and recognition of a digital self-avatar may be especially important for applications related to telepresence, embodied virtual reality, or immersive games. We investigated gender differences in the use of visual cues (shape, texture) of a self-avatar for estimating body weight and evaluating avatar appearance. A full-body scanner was used to capture each participant's body geometry and color information and a set of 3D virtual avatars with realistic weight variations was created based on a statistical body model. Additionally, a second set of avatars was created with an average underlying body shape matched to each participant’s height and weight. In four sets of psychophysical experiments, the influence of visual cues on the accuracy of body weight estimation and the sensitivity to weight changes was assessed by manipulating body shape (own, average) and texture (own photo-realistic, checkerboard). The avatars were presented on a large-screen display, and participants responded to whether the avatar's weight corresponded to their own weight. Participants also adjusted the avatar's weight to their desired weight and evaluated the avatar's appearance with regard to similarity to their own body, uncanniness, and their willingness to accept it as a digital representation of the self. The results of the psychophysical experiments revealed no gender difference in the accuracy of estimating body weight in avatars. However, males accepted a larger weight range of the avatars as corresponding to their own. In terms of the ideal body weight, females but not males desired a thinner body. With regard to the evaluation of avatar appearance, the questionnaire responses suggest that own photo-realistic texture was more important to males for higher similarity ratings, while own body shape seemed to be more important to females. These results argue for gender-specific considerations when creating self-avatars.

ps

pdf DOI [BibTex]

pdf DOI [BibTex]


Diffusion Measurements of Swimming Enzymes with Fluorescence Correlation Spectroscopy
Diffusion Measurements of Swimming Enzymes with Fluorescence Correlation Spectroscopy

Günther, J., Börsch, M., Fischer, P.

Accounts of Chemical Research, 51(9):1911-1920, August 2018 (article)

Abstract
Self-propelled chemical motors are chemically powered micro- or nanosized swimmers. The energy required for these motors’ active motion derives from catalytic chemical reactions and the transformation of a fuel dissolved in the solution. While self-propulsion is now well established for larger particles, it is still unclear if enzymes, nature’s nanometer-sized catalysts, are potentially also self-powered nanomotors. Because of its small size, any increase in an enzyme’s diffusion due to active self-propulsion must be observed on top of the enzyme’s passive Brownian motion, which dominates at this scale. Fluorescence correlation spectroscopy (FCS) is a sensitive method to quantify the diffusion properties of single fluorescently labeled molecules in solution. FCS experiments have shown a general increase in the diffusion constant of a number of enzymes when the enzyme is catalytically active. Diffusion enhancements after addition of the enzyme’s substrate (and sometimes its inhibitor) of up to 80\% have been reported, which is at least 1 order of magnitude higher than what theory would predict. However, many factors contribute to the FCS signal and in particular the shape of the autocorrelation function, which underlies diffusion measurements by fluorescence correlation spectroscopy. These effects need to be considered to establish if and by how much the catalytic activity changes an enzyme’s diffusion.We carefully review phenomena that can play a role in FCS experiments and the determination of enzyme diffusion, including the dissociation of enzyme oligomers upon interaction with the substrate, surface binding of the enzyme to glass during the experiment, conformational changes upon binding, and quenching of the fluorophore. We show that these effects can cause changes in the FCS signal that behave similar to an increase in diffusion. However, in the case of the enzymes F1-ATPase and alkaline phosphatase, we demonstrate that there is no measurable increase in enzyme diffusion. Rather, dissociation and conformational changes account for the changes in the FCS signal in the former and fluorophore quenching in the latter. Within the experimental accuracy of our FCS measurements, we do not observe any change in diffusion due to activity for the enzymes we have investigated.We suggest useful control experiments and additional tests for future FCS experiments that should help establish if the observed diffusion enhancement is real or if it is due to an experimental or data analysis artifact. We show that fluorescence lifetime and mean intensity measurements are essential in order to identify the nature of the observed changes in the autocorrelation function. While it is clear from theory that chemically active enzymes should also act as self-propelled nanomotors, our FCS measurements show that the associated increase in diffusion is much smaller than previously reported. Further experiments are needed to quantify the contribution of the enzymes’ catalytic activity to their self-propulsion. We hope that our findings help to establish a useful protocol for future FCS studies in this field and help establish by how much the diffusion of an enzyme is enhanced through catalytic activity.

pf

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


Uphill production of dihydrogen by enzymatic oxidation of glucose without an external energy source
Uphill production of dihydrogen by enzymatic oxidation of glucose without an external energy source

Suraniti, E., Merzeau, P., Roche, J., Gounel, S., Mark, A. G., Fischer, P., Mano, N., Kuhn, A.

Nature Communications, 9(1):3229, August 2018 (article)

Abstract
Chemical systems do not allow the coupling of energy from several simple reactions to drive a subsequent reaction, which takes place in the same medium and leads to a product with a higher energy than the one released during the first reaction. Gibbs energy considerations thus are not favorable to drive e.g., water splitting by the direct oxidation of glucose as a model reaction. Here, we show that it is nevertheless possible to carry out such an energetically uphill reaction, if the electrons released in the oxidation reaction are temporarily stored in an electromagnetic system, which is then used to raise the electrons' potential energy so that they can power the electrolysis of water in a second step. We thereby demonstrate the general concept that lower energy delivering chemical reactions can be used to enable the formation of higher energy consuming reaction products in a closed system.

pf

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


Chemical micromotors self-assemble and self-propel by spontaneous symmetry breaking
Chemical micromotors self-assemble and self-propel by spontaneous symmetry breaking

Yu, T., Chuphal, P., Thakur, S., Reigh, S. Y., Singh, D. P., Fischer, P.

Chem. Comm., 54, pages: 11933-11936, August 2018 (article)

Abstract
Self-propelling chemical motors have thus far required the fabrication of Janus particles with an asymmetric catalyst distribution. Here, we demonstrate that simple, isotropic colloids can spontaneously assemble to yield dimer motors that self-propel. In a mixture of isotropic titanium dioxide colloids with photo-chemical catalytic activity and passive silica colloids, light illumination causes diffusiophoretic attractions between the active and passive particles and leads to the formation of dimers. The dimers constitute a symmetry-broken motor, whose dynamics can be fully controlled by the illumination conditions. Computer simulations reproduce the dynamics of the colloids and are in good agreement with experiments. The current work presents a simple route to obtain large numbers of self-propelling chemical motors from a dispersion of spherically symmetric colloids through spontaneous symmetry breaking.

pf

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]