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2018


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On the Integration of Optical Flow and Action Recognition

Sevilla-Lara, L., Liao, Y., Güney, F., Jampani, V., Geiger, A., Black, M. J.

In German Conference on Pattern Recognition (GCPR), LNCS 11269, pages: 281-297, Springer, Cham, October 2018 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Most of the top performing action recognition methods use optical flow as a "black box" input. Here we take a deeper look at the combination of flow and action recognition, and investigate why optical flow is helpful, what makes a flow method good for action recognition, and how we can make it better. In particular, we investigate the impact of different flow algorithms and input transformations to better understand how these affect a state-of-the-art action recognition method. Furthermore, we fine tune two neural-network flow methods end-to-end on the most widely used action recognition dataset (UCF101). Based on these experiments, we make the following five observations: 1) optical flow is useful for action recognition because it is invariant to appearance, 2) optical flow methods are optimized to minimize end-point-error (EPE), but the EPE of current methods is not well correlated with action recognition performance, 3) for the flow methods tested, accuracy at boundaries and at small displacements is most correlated with action recognition performance, 4) training optical flow to minimize classification error instead of minimizing EPE improves recognition performance, and 5) optical flow learned for the task of action recognition differs from traditional optical flow especially inside the human body and at the boundary of the body. These observations may encourage optical flow researchers to look beyond EPE as a goal and guide action recognition researchers to seek better motion cues, leading to a tighter integration of the optical flow and action recognition communities.

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arXiv DOI [BibTex]

2018


arXiv DOI [BibTex]


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Towards Robust Visual Odometry with a Multi-Camera System

Liu, P., Geppert, M., Heng, L., Sattler, T., Geiger, A., Pollefeys, M.

In International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS) 2018, International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems, October 2018 (inproceedings)

Abstract
We present a visual odometry (VO) algorithm for a multi-camera system and robust operation in challenging environments. Our algorithm consists of a pose tracker and a local mapper. The tracker estimates the current pose by minimizing photometric errors between the most recent keyframe and the current frame. The mapper initializes the depths of all sampled feature points using plane-sweeping stereo. To reduce pose drift, a sliding window optimizer is used to refine poses and structure jointly. Our formulation is flexible enough to support an arbitrary number of stereo cameras. We evaluate our algorithm thoroughly on five datasets. The datasets were captured in different conditions: daytime, night-time with near-infrared (NIR) illumination and night-time without NIR illumination. Experimental results show that a multi-camera setup makes the VO more robust to challenging environments, especially night-time conditions, in which a single stereo configuration fails easily due to the lack of features.

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pdf Project Page [BibTex]

pdf Project Page [BibTex]


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Learning Priors for Semantic 3D Reconstruction

Cherabier, I., Schönberger, J., Oswald, M., Pollefeys, M., Geiger, A.

In Computer Vision – ECCV 2018, Springer International Publishing, Cham, September 2018 (inproceedings)

Abstract
We present a novel semantic 3D reconstruction framework which embeds variational regularization into a neural network. Our network performs a fixed number of unrolled multi-scale optimization iterations with shared interaction weights. In contrast to existing variational methods for semantic 3D reconstruction, our model is end-to-end trainable and captures more complex dependencies between the semantic labels and the 3D geometry. Compared to previous learning-based approaches to 3D reconstruction, we integrate powerful long-range dependencies using variational coarse-to-fine optimization. As a result, our network architecture requires only a moderate number of parameters while keeping a high level of expressiveness which enables learning from very little data. Experiments on real and synthetic datasets demonstrate that our network achieves higher accuracy compared to a purely variational approach while at the same time requiring two orders of magnitude less iterations to converge. Moreover, our approach handles ten times more semantic class labels using the same computational resources.

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pdf suppmat Project Page Video DOI Project Page [BibTex]

pdf suppmat Project Page Video DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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Unsupervised Learning of Multi-Frame Optical Flow with Occlusions

Janai, J., Güney, F., Ranjan, A., Black, M. J., Geiger, A.

In European Conference on Computer Vision (ECCV), Lecture Notes in Computer Science, vol 11220, pages: 713-731, Springer, Cham, September 2018 (inproceedings)

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pdf suppmat Video Project Page DOI Project Page [BibTex]

pdf suppmat Video Project Page DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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Leveraging Contact Forces for Learning to Grasp

Merzic, H., Bogdanovic, M., Kappler, D., Righetti, L., Bohg, J.

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

Abstract
Grasping objects under uncertainty remains an open problem in robotics research. This uncertainty is often due to noisy or partial observations of the object pose or shape. To enable a robot to react appropriately to unforeseen effects, it is crucial that it continuously takes sensor feedback into account. While visual feedback is important for inferring a grasp pose and reaching for an object, contact feedback offers valuable information during manipulation and grasp acquisition. In this paper, we use model-free deep reinforcement learning to synthesize control policies that exploit contact sensing to generate robust grasping under uncertainty. We demonstrate our approach on a multi-fingered hand that exhibits more complex finger coordination than the commonly used two- fingered grippers. We conduct extensive experiments in order to assess the performance of the learned policies, with and without contact sensing. While it is possible to learn grasping policies without contact sensing, our results suggest that contact feedback allows for a significant improvement of grasping robustness under object pose uncertainty and for objects with a complex shape.

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video arXiv [BibTex]

video arXiv [BibTex]


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SphereNet: Learning Spherical Representations for Detection and Classification in Omnidirectional Images

Coors, B., Condurache, A. P., Geiger, A.

European Conference on Computer Vision (ECCV), September 2018 (conference)

Abstract
Omnidirectional cameras offer great benefits over classical cameras wherever a wide field of view is essential, such as in virtual reality applications or in autonomous robots. Unfortunately, standard convolutional neural networks are not well suited for this scenario as the natural projection surface is a sphere which cannot be unwrapped to a plane without introducing significant distortions, particularly in the polar regions. In this work, we present SphereNet, a novel deep learning framework which encodes invariance against such distortions explicitly into convolutional neural networks. Towards this goal, SphereNet adapts the sampling locations of the convolutional filters, effectively reversing distortions, and wraps the filters around the sphere. By building on regular convolutions, SphereNet enables the transfer of existing perspective convolutional neural network models to the omnidirectional case. We demonstrate the effectiveness of our method on the tasks of image classification and object detection, exploiting two newly created semi-synthetic and real-world omnidirectional datasets.

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pdf suppmat Project Page [BibTex]


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Robust Physics-based Motion Retargeting with Realistic Body Shapes

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

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

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

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pdf video Project Page Project Page [BibTex]

pdf video Project Page Project Page [BibTex]


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Robust Dense Mapping for Large-Scale Dynamic Environments

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

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

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

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pdf Video Project Page Project Page [BibTex]

pdf Video Project Page Project Page [BibTex]


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Learning 3D Shape Completion under Weak Supervision

Stutz, D., Geiger, A.

Arxiv, May 2018 (article)

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

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PDF Project Page Project Page [BibTex]


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RayNet: Learning Volumetric 3D Reconstruction with Ray Potentials

Paschalidou, D., Ulusoy, A. O., Schmitt, C., Gool, L., Geiger, A.

In IEEE Conference on Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition (CVPR), IEEE Computer Society, IEEE International Conference on Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition (CVPR) 2018, 2018 (inproceedings)

Abstract
In this paper, we consider the problem of reconstructing a dense 3D model using images captured from different views. Recent methods based on convolutional neural networks (CNN) allow learning the entire task from data. However, they do not incorporate the physics of image formation such as perspective geometry and occlusion. Instead, classical approaches based on Markov Random Fields (MRF) with ray-potentials explicitly model these physical processes, but they cannot cope with large surface appearance variations across different viewpoints. In this paper, we propose RayNet, which combines the strengths of both frameworks. RayNet integrates a CNN that learns view-invariant feature representations with an MRF that explicitly encodes the physics of perspective projection and occlusion. We train RayNet end-to-end using empirical risk minimization. We thoroughly evaluate our approach on challenging real-world datasets and demonstrate its benefits over a piece-wise trained baseline, hand-crafted models as well as other learning-based approaches.

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pdf suppmat Video Project Page code Poster Project Page [BibTex]

pdf suppmat Video Project Page code Poster Project Page [BibTex]


Thumb xl yiyi paper teaser
Deep Marching Cubes: Learning Explicit Surface Representations

Liao, Y., Donne, S., Geiger, A.

In IEEE Conference on Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition (CVPR), IEEE Computer Society, IEEE International Conference on Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition (CVPR) 2018, 2018 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Existing learning based solutions to 3D surface prediction cannot be trained end-to-end as they operate on intermediate representations (eg, TSDF) from which 3D surface meshes must be extracted in a post-processing step (eg, via the marching cubes algorithm). In this paper, we investigate the problem of end-to-end 3D surface prediction. We first demonstrate that the marching cubes algorithm is not differentiable and propose an alternative differentiable formulation which we insert as a final layer into a 3D convolutional neural network. We further propose a set of loss functions which allow for training our model with sparse point supervision. Our experiments demonstrate that the model allows for predicting sub-voxel accurate 3D shapes of arbitrary topology. Additionally, it learns to complete shapes and to separate an object's inside from its outside even in the presence of sparse and incomplete ground truth. We investigate the benefits of our approach on the task of inferring shapes from 3D point clouds. Our model is flexible and can be combined with a variety of shape encoder and shape inference techniques.

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pdf suppmat Video Project Page Poster Project Page [BibTex]

pdf suppmat Video Project Page Poster Project Page [BibTex]


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Semantic Visual Localization

Schönberger, J., Pollefeys, M., Geiger, A., Sattler, T.

In IEEE Conference on Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition (CVPR), IEEE Computer Society, IEEE International Conference on Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition (CVPR) 2018, 2018 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Robust visual localization under a wide range of viewing conditions is a fundamental problem in computer vision. Handling the difficult cases of this problem is not only very challenging but also of high practical relevance, eg, in the context of life-long localization for augmented reality or autonomous robots. In this paper, we propose a novel approach based on a joint 3D geometric and semantic understanding of the world, enabling it to succeed under conditions where previous approaches failed. Our method leverages a novel generative model for descriptor learning, trained on semantic scene completion as an auxiliary task. The resulting 3D descriptors are robust to missing observations by encoding high-level 3D geometric and semantic information. Experiments on several challenging large-scale localization datasets demonstrate reliable localization under extreme viewpoint, illumination, and geometry changes.

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pdf suppmat Poster Project Page [BibTex]

pdf suppmat Poster Project Page [BibTex]


Thumb xl hassan teaser paper
Augmented Reality Meets Computer Vision: Efficient Data Generation for Urban Driving Scenes

Alhaija, H., Mustikovela, S., Mescheder, L., Geiger, A., Rother, C.

International Journal of Computer Vision (IJCV), 2018, 2018 (article)

Abstract
The success of deep learning in computer vision is based on the availability of large annotated datasets. To lower the need for hand labeled images, virtually rendered 3D worlds have recently gained popularity. Unfortunately, creating realistic 3D content is challenging on its own and requires significant human effort. In this work, we propose an alternative paradigm which combines real and synthetic data for learning semantic instance segmentation and object detection models. Exploiting the fact that not all aspects of the scene are equally important for this task, we propose to augment real-world imagery with virtual objects of the target category. Capturing real-world images at large scale is easy and cheap, and directly provides real background appearances without the need for creating complex 3D models of the environment. We present an efficient procedure to augment these images with virtual objects. In contrast to modeling complete 3D environments, our data augmentation approach requires only a few user interactions in combination with 3D models of the target object category. Leveraging our approach, we introduce a novel dataset of augmented urban driving scenes with 360 degree images that are used as environment maps to create realistic lighting and reflections on rendered objects. We analyze the significance of realistic object placement by comparing manual placement by humans to automatic methods based on semantic scene analysis. This allows us to create composite images which exhibit both realistic background appearance as well as a large number of complex object arrangements. Through an extensive set of experiments, we conclude the right set of parameters to produce augmented data which can maximally enhance the performance of instance segmentation models. Further, we demonstrate the utility of the proposed approach on training standard deep models for semantic instance segmentation and object detection of cars in outdoor driving scenarios. We test the models trained on our augmented data on the KITTI 2015 dataset, which we have annotated with pixel-accurate ground truth, and on the Cityscapes dataset. Our experiments demonstrate that the models trained on augmented imagery generalize better than those trained on fully synthetic data or models trained on limited amounts of annotated real data.

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pdf Project Page [BibTex]

pdf Project Page [BibTex]


Thumb xl eigval gradpen
Which Training Methods for GANs do actually Converge?

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

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

Abstract
Recent work has shown local convergence of GAN training for absolutely continuous data and generator distributions. In this paper, we show that the requirement of absolute continuity is necessary: we describe a simple yet prototypical counterexample showing that in the more realistic case of distributions that are not absolutely continuous, unregularized GAN training is not always convergent. Furthermore, we discuss regularization strategies that were recently proposed to stabilize GAN training. Our analysis shows that GAN training with instance noise or zero-centered gradient penalties converges. On the other hand, we show that Wasserstein-GANs and WGAN-GP with a finite number of discriminator updates per generator update do not always converge to the equilibrium point. We discuss these results, leading us to a new explanation for the stability problems of GAN training. Based on our analysis, we extend our convergence results to more general GANs and prove local convergence for simplified gradient penalties even if the generator and data distributions lie on lower dimensional manifolds. We find these penalties to work well in practice and use them to learn high-resolution generative image models for a variety of datasets with little hyperparameter tuning.

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code video paper supplement slides poster Project Page [BibTex]


Thumb xl david paper teaser
Learning 3D Shape Completion from Laser Scan Data with Weak Supervision

Stutz, D., Geiger, A.

In IEEE Conference on Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition (CVPR), IEEE Computer Society, IEEE International Conference on Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition (CVPR) 2018, 2018 (inproceedings)

Abstract
3D shape completion from partial point clouds is a fundamental problem in computer vision and computer graphics. Recent approaches can be characterized as either data-driven or learning-based. Data-driven approaches rely on a shape model whose parameters are optimized to fit the observations. Learning-based approaches, in contrast, avoid the expensive optimization step and instead directly predict the complete shape from the incomplete observations using deep neural networks. However, full supervision is required which is often not available in practice. In this work, we propose a weakly-supervised learning-based approach to 3D shape completion which neither requires slow optimization nor direct supervision. While we also learn a shape prior on synthetic data, we amortize, ie, learn, maximum likelihood fitting using deep neural networks resulting in efficient shape completion without sacrificing accuracy. Tackling 3D shape completion of cars on ShapeNet and KITTI, we demonstrate that the proposed amortized maximum likelihood approach is able to compete with a fully supervised baseline and a state-of-the-art data-driven approach while being significantly faster. On ModelNet, we additionally show that the approach is able to generalize to other object categories as well.

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pdf suppmat Project Page Poster Project Page [BibTex]

pdf suppmat Project Page Poster Project Page [BibTex]


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Learning 3D Shape Completion under Weak Supervision

Stutz, D., Geiger, A.

International Journal of Computer Vision (IJCV), 2018, 2018 (article)

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

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pdf Project Page [BibTex]

pdf Project Page [BibTex]


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Learning Transformation Invariant Representations with Weak Supervision

Coors, B., Condurache, A., Mertins, A., Geiger, A.

In International Conference on Computer Vision Theory and Applications, International Conference on Computer Vision Theory and Applications, 2018 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Deep convolutional neural networks are the current state-of-the-art solution to many computer vision tasks. However, their ability to handle large global and local image transformations is limited. Consequently, extensive data augmentation is often utilized to incorporate prior knowledge about desired invariances to geometric transformations such as rotations or scale changes. In this work, we combine data augmentation with an unsupervised loss which enforces similarity between the predictions of augmented copies of an input sample. Our loss acts as an effective regularizer which facilitates the learning of transformation invariant representations. We investigate the effectiveness of the proposed similarity loss on rotated MNIST and the German Traffic Sign Recognition Benchmark (GTSRB) in the context of different classification models including ladder networks. Our experiments demonstrate improvements with respect to the standard data augmentation approach for supervised and semi-supervised learning tasks, in particular in the presence of little annotated data. In addition, we analyze the performance of the proposed approach with respect to its hyperparameters, including the strength of the regularization as well as the layer where representation similarity is enforced.

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pdf [BibTex]

pdf [BibTex]


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Object Scene Flow

Menze, M., Heipke, C., Geiger, A.

ISPRS Journal of Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing, 2018 (article)

Abstract
This work investigates the estimation of dense three-dimensional motion fields, commonly referred to as scene flow. While great progress has been made in recent years, large displacements and adverse imaging conditions as observed in natural outdoor environments are still very challenging for current approaches to reconstruction and motion estimation. In this paper, we propose a unified random field model which reasons jointly about 3D scene flow as well as the location, shape and motion of vehicles in the observed scene. We formulate the problem as the task of decomposing the scene into a small number of rigidly moving objects sharing the same motion parameters. Thus, our formulation effectively introduces long-range spatial dependencies which commonly employed local rigidity priors are lacking. Our inference algorithm then estimates the association of image segments and object hypotheses together with their three-dimensional shape and motion. We demonstrate the potential of the proposed approach by introducing a novel challenging scene flow benchmark which allows for a thorough comparison of the proposed scene flow approach with respect to various baseline models. In contrast to previous benchmarks, our evaluation is the first to provide stereo and optical flow ground truth for dynamic real-world urban scenes at large scale. Our experiments reveal that rigid motion segmentation can be utilized as an effective regularizer for the scene flow problem, improving upon existing two-frame scene flow methods. At the same time, our method yields plausible object segmentations without requiring an explicitly trained recognition model for a specific object class.

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Project Page [BibTex]

Project Page [BibTex]


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Learning a Structured Neural Network Policy for a Hopping Task.

Viereck, J., Kozolinsky, J., Herzog, A., Righetti, L.

IEEE Robotics and Automation Letters, 3(4):4092-4099, October 2018 (article)

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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On Time Optimization of Centroidal Momentum Dynamics

Ponton, B., Herzog, A., Del Prete, A., Schaal, S., Righetti, L.

In 2018 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA), pages: 5776-5782, IEEE, Brisbane, Australia, May 2018 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Recently, the centroidal momentum dynamics has received substantial attention to plan dynamically consistent motions for robots with arms and legs in multi-contact scenarios. However, it is also non convex which renders any optimization approach difficult and timing is usually kept fixed in most trajectory optimization techniques to not introduce additional non convexities to the problem. But this can limit the versatility of the algorithms. In our previous work, we proposed a convex relaxation of the problem that allowed to efficiently compute momentum trajectories and contact forces. However, our approach could not minimize a desired angular momentum objective which seriously limited its applicability. Noticing that the non-convexity introduced by the time variables is of similar nature as the centroidal dynamics one, we propose two convex relaxations to the problem based on trust regions and soft constraints. The resulting approaches can compute time-optimized dynamically consistent trajectories sufficiently fast to make the approach realtime capable. The performance of the algorithm is demonstrated in several multi-contact scenarios for a humanoid robot. In particular, we show that the proposed convex relaxation of the original problem finds solutions that are consistent with the original non-convex problem and illustrate how timing optimization allows to find motion plans that would be difficult to plan with fixed timing † †Implementation details and demos can be found in the source code available at https://git-amd.tuebingen.mpg.de/bponton/timeoptimization.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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The Impact of Robotics and Automation on Working Conditions and Employment [Ethical, Legal, and Societal Issues]

Pham, Q., Madhavan, R., Righetti, L., Smart, W., Chatila, R.

IEEE Robotics and Automation Magazine, 25(2):126-128, June 2018 (article)

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Unsupervised Contact Learning for Humanoid Estimation and Control

Rotella, N., Schaal, S., Righetti, L.

In 2018 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA), pages: 411-417, IEEE, Brisbane, Australia, 2018 (inproceedings)

Abstract
This work presents a method for contact state estimation using fuzzy clustering to learn contact probability for full, six-dimensional humanoid contacts. The data required for training is solely from proprioceptive sensors - endeffector contact wrench sensors and inertial measurement units (IMUs) - and the method is completely unsupervised. The resulting cluster means are used to efficiently compute the probability of contact in each of the six endeffector degrees of freedom (DoFs) independently. This clustering-based contact probability estimator is validated in a kinematics-based base state estimator in a simulation environment with realistic added sensor noise for locomotion over rough, low-friction terrain on which the robot is subject to foot slip and rotation. The proposed base state estimator which utilizes these six DoF contact probability estimates is shown to perform considerably better than that which determines kinematic contact constraints purely based on measured normal force.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Learning Task-Specific Dynamics to Improve Whole-Body Control

Gams, A., Mason, S., Ude, A., Schaal, S., Righetti, L.

In Hua, IEEE, Beijing, China, November 2018 (inproceedings)

Abstract
In task-based inverse dynamics control, reference accelerations used to follow a desired plan can be broken down into feedforward and feedback trajectories. The feedback term accounts for tracking errors that are caused from inaccurate dynamic models or external disturbances. On underactuated, free-floating robots, such as humanoids, high feedback terms can be used to improve tracking accuracy; however, this can lead to very stiff behavior or poor tracking accuracy due to limited control bandwidth. In this paper, we show how to reduce the required contribution of the feedback controller by incorporating learned task-space reference accelerations. Thus, we i) improve the execution of the given specific task, and ii) offer the means to reduce feedback gains, providing for greater compliance of the system. With a systematic approach we also reduce heuristic tuning of the model parameters and feedback gains, often present in real-world experiments. In contrast to learning task-specific joint-torques, which might produce a similar effect but can lead to poor generalization, our approach directly learns the task-space dynamics of the center of mass of a humanoid robot. Simulated and real-world results on the lower part of the Sarcos Hermes humanoid robot demonstrate the applicability of the approach.

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link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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An MPC Walking Framework With External Contact Forces

Mason, S., Rotella, N., Schaal, S., Righetti, L.

In 2018 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA), pages: 1785-1790, IEEE, Brisbane, Australia, May 2018 (inproceedings)

Abstract
In this work, we present an extension to a linear Model Predictive Control (MPC) scheme that plans external contact forces for the robot when given multiple contact locations and their corresponding friction cone. To this end, we set up a two-step optimization problem. In the first optimization, we compute the Center of Mass (CoM) trajectory, foot step locations, and introduce slack variables to account for violating the imposed constraints on the Zero Moment Point (ZMP). We then use the slack variables to trigger the second optimization, in which we calculate the optimal external force that compensates for the ZMP tracking error. This optimization considers multiple contacts positions within the environment by formulating the problem as a Mixed Integer Quadratic Program (MIQP) that can be solved at a speed between 100-300 Hz. Once contact is created, the MIQP reduces to a single Quadratic Program (QP) that can be solved in real-time ({\textless}; 1kHz). Simulations show that the presented walking control scheme can withstand disturbances 2-3× larger with the additional force provided by a hand contact.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Lethal Autonomous Weapon Systems [Ethical, Legal, and Societal Issues]

Righetti, L., Pham, Q., Madhavan, R., Chatila, R.

IEEE Robotics \& Automation Magazine, 25(1):123-126, March 2018 (article)

Abstract
The topic of lethal autonomous weapon systems has recently caught public attention due to extensive news coverage and apocalyptic declarations from famous scientists and technologists. Weapon systems with increasing autonomy are being developed due to fast improvements in machine learning, robotics, and automation in general. These developments raise important and complex security, legal, ethical, societal, and technological issues that are being extensively discussed by scholars, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), militaries, governments, and the international community. Unfortunately, the robotics community has stayed out of the debate, for the most part, despite being the main provider of autonomous technologies. In this column, we review the main issues raised by the increase of autonomy in weapon systems and the state of the international discussion. We argue that the robotics community has a fundamental role to play in these discussions, for its own sake, to provide the often-missing technical expertise necessary to frame the debate and promote technological development in line with the IEEE Robotics and Automation Society (RAS) objective of advancing technology to benefit humanity.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

2014


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Omnidirectional 3D Reconstruction in Augmented Manhattan Worlds

Schoenbein, M., Geiger, A.

International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems, pages: 716 - 723, IEEE, Chicago, IL, USA, IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and System, October 2014 (conference)

Abstract
This paper proposes a method for high-quality omnidirectional 3D reconstruction of augmented Manhattan worlds from catadioptric stereo video sequences. In contrast to existing works we do not rely on constructing virtual perspective views, but instead propose to optimize depth jointly in a unified omnidirectional space. Furthermore, we show that plane-based prior models can be applied even though planes in 3D do not project to planes in the omnidirectional domain. Towards this goal, we propose an omnidirectional slanted-plane Markov random field model which relies on plane hypotheses extracted using a novel voting scheme for 3D planes in omnidirectional space. To quantitatively evaluate our method we introduce a dataset which we have captured using our autonomous driving platform AnnieWAY which we equipped with two horizontally aligned catadioptric cameras and a Velodyne HDL-64E laser scanner for precise ground truth depth measurements. As evidenced by our experiments, the proposed method clearly benefits from the unified view and significantly outperforms existing stereo matching techniques both quantitatively and qualitatively. Furthermore, our method is able to reduce noise and the obtained depth maps can be represented very compactly by a small number of image segments and plane parameters.

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pdf DOI [BibTex]

2014


pdf DOI [BibTex]


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Simultaneous Underwater Visibility Assessment, Enhancement and Improved Stereo

Roser, M., Dunbabin, M., Geiger, A.

IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation, pages: 3840 - 3847 , Hong Kong, China, IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation, June 2014 (conference)

Abstract
Vision-based underwater navigation and obstacle avoidance demands robust computer vision algorithms, particularly for operation in turbid water with reduced visibility. This paper describes a novel method for the simultaneous underwater image quality assessment, visibility enhancement and disparity computation to increase stereo range resolution under dynamic, natural lighting and turbid conditions. The technique estimates the visibility properties from a sparse 3D map of the original degraded image using a physical underwater light attenuation model. Firstly, an iterated distance-adaptive image contrast enhancement enables a dense disparity computation and visibility estimation. Secondly, using a light attenuation model for ocean water, a color corrected stereo underwater image is obtained along with a visibility distance estimate. Experimental results in shallow, naturally lit, high-turbidity coastal environments show the proposed technique improves range estimation over the original images as well as image quality and color for habitat classification. Furthermore, the recursiveness and robustness of the technique allows real-time implementation onboard an Autonomous Underwater Vehicles for improved navigation and obstacle avoidance performance.

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pdf DOI [BibTex]

pdf DOI [BibTex]


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Calibrating and Centering Quasi-Central Catadioptric Cameras

Schoenbein, M., Strauss, T., Geiger, A.

IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation, pages: 4443 - 4450, Hong Kong, China, IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation, June 2014 (conference)

Abstract
Non-central catadioptric models are able to cope with irregular camera setups and inaccuracies in the manufacturing process but are computationally demanding and thus not suitable for robotic applications. On the other hand, calibrating a quasi-central (almost central) system with a central model introduces errors due to a wrong relationship between the viewing ray orientations and the pixels on the image sensor. In this paper, we propose a central approximation to quasi-central catadioptric camera systems that is both accurate and efficient. We observe that the distance to points in 3D is typically large compared to deviations from the single viewpoint. Thus, we first calibrate the system using a state-of-the-art non-central camera model. Next, we show that by remapping the observations we are able to match the orientation of the viewing rays of a much simpler single viewpoint model with the true ray orientations. While our approximation is general and applicable to all quasi-central camera systems, we focus on one of the most common cases in practice: hypercatadioptric cameras. We compare our model to a variety of baselines in synthetic and real localization and motion estimation experiments. We show that by using the proposed model we are able to achieve near non-central accuracy while obtaining speed-ups of more than three orders of magnitude compared to state-of-the-art non-central models.

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pdf DOI [BibTex]

pdf DOI [BibTex]


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3D Traffic Scene Understanding from Movable Platforms

Geiger, A., Lauer, M., Wojek, C., Stiller, C., Urtasun, R.

IEEE Transactions on Pattern Analysis and Machine Intelligence (PAMI), 36(5):1012-1025, published, IEEE, Los Alamitos, CA, May 2014 (article)

Abstract
In this paper, we present a novel probabilistic generative model for multi-object traffic scene understanding from movable platforms which reasons jointly about the 3D scene layout as well as the location and orientation of objects in the scene. In particular, the scene topology, geometry and traffic activities are inferred from short video sequences. Inspired by the impressive driving capabilities of humans, our model does not rely on GPS, lidar or map knowledge. Instead, it takes advantage of a diverse set of visual cues in the form of vehicle tracklets, vanishing points, semantic scene labels, scene flow and occupancy grids. For each of these cues we propose likelihood functions that are integrated into a probabilistic generative model. We learn all model parameters from training data using contrastive divergence. Experiments conducted on videos of 113 representative intersections show that our approach successfully infers the correct layout in a variety of very challenging scenarios. To evaluate the importance of each feature cue, experiments using different feature combinations are conducted. Furthermore, we show how by employing context derived from the proposed method we are able to improve over the state-of-the-art in terms of object detection and object orientation estimation in challenging and cluttered urban environments.

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pdf link (url) [BibTex]

pdf link (url) [BibTex]


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Dual Execution of Optimized Contact Interaction Trajectories

Toussaint, M., Ratliff, N., Bohg, J., Righetti, L., Englert, P., Schaal, S.

In 2014 IEEE/RSJ Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems, pages: 47-54, IEEE, Chicago, USA, 2014 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Efficient manipulation requires contact to reduce uncertainty. The manipulation literature refers to this as funneling: a methodology for increasing reliability and robustness by leveraging haptic feedback and control of environmental interaction. However, there is a fundamental gap between traditional approaches to trajectory optimization and this concept of robustness by funneling: traditional trajectory optimizers do not discover force feedback strategies. From a POMDP perspective, these behaviors could be regarded as explicit observation actions planned to sufficiently reduce uncertainty thereby enabling a task. While we are sympathetic to the full POMDP view, solving full continuous-space POMDPs in high-dimensions is hard. In this paper, we propose an alternative approach in which trajectory optimization objectives are augmented with new terms that reward uncertainty reduction through contacts, explicitly promoting funneling. This augmentation shifts the responsibility of robustness toward the actual execution of the optimized trajectories. Directly tracing trajectories through configuration space would lose all robustness-dual execution achieves robustness by devising force controllers to reproduce the temporal interaction profile encoded in the dual solution of the optimization problem. This work introduces dual execution in depth and analyze its performance through robustness experiments in both simulation and on a real-world robotic platform.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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An autonomous manipulation system based on force control and optimization

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

Autonomous Robots, 36(1-2):11-30, January 2014 (article)

Abstract
In this paper we present an architecture for autonomous manipulation. Our approach is based on the belief that contact interactions during manipulation should be exploited to improve dexterity and that optimizing motion plans is useful to create more robust and repeatable manipulation behaviors. We therefore propose an architecture where state of the art force/torque control and optimization-based motion planning are the core components of the system. We give a detailed description of the modules that constitute the complete system and discuss the challenges inherent to creating such a system. We present experimental results for several grasping and manipulation tasks to demonstrate the performance and robustness of our approach.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Learning of grasp selection based on shape-templates

Herzog, A., Pastor, P., Kalakrishnan, M., Righetti, L., Bohg, J., Asfour, T., Schaal, S.

Autonomous Robots, 36(1-2):51-65, January 2014 (article)

Abstract
The ability to grasp unknown objects still remains an unsolved problem in the robotics community. One of the challenges is to choose an appropriate grasp configuration, i.e., the 6D pose of the hand relative to the object and its finger configuration. In this paper, we introduce an algorithm that is based on the assumption that similarly shaped objects can be grasped in a similar way. It is able to synthesize good grasp poses for unknown objects by finding the best matching object shape templates associated with previously demonstrated grasps. The grasp selection algorithm is able to improve over time by using the information of previous grasp attempts to adapt the ranking of the templates to new situations. We tested our approach on two different platforms, the Willow Garage PR2 and the Barrett WAM robot, which have very different hand kinematics. Furthermore, we compared our algorithm with other grasp planners and demonstrated its superior performance. The results presented in this paper show that the algorithm is able to find good grasp configurations for a large set of unknown objects from a relatively small set of demonstrations, and does improve its performance over time.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Balancing experiments on a torque-controlled humanoid with hierarchical inverse dynamics

Herzog, A., Righetti, L., Grimminger, F., Pastor, P., Schaal, S.

In 2014 IEEE/RSJ Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems, pages: 981-988, IEEE, Chicago, USA, 2014 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Recently several hierarchical inverse dynamics controllers based on cascades of quadratic programs have been proposed for application on torque controlled robots. They have important theoretical benefits but have never been implemented on a torque controlled robot where model inaccuracies and real-time computation requirements can be problematic. In this contribution we present an experimental evaluation of these algorithms in the context of balance control for a humanoid robot. The presented experiments demonstrate the applicability of the approach under real robot conditions (i.e. model uncertainty, estimation errors, etc). We propose a simplification of the optimization problem that allows us to decrease computation time enough to implement it in a fast torque control loop. We implement a momentum-based balance controller which shows robust performance in face of unknown disturbances, even when the robot is standing on only one foot. In a second experiment, a tracking task is evaluated to demonstrate the performance of the controller with more complicated hierarchies. Our results show that hierarchical inverse dynamics controllers can be used for feedback control of humanoid robots and that momentum-based balance control can be efficiently implemented on a real robot.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Full Dynamics LQR Control of a Humanoid Robot: An Experimental Study on Balancing and Squatting

Mason, S., Righetti, L., Schaal, S.

In 2014 IEEE-RAS International Conference on Humanoid Robots, pages: 374-379, IEEE, Madrid, Spain, 2014 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Humanoid robots operating in human environments require whole-body controllers that can offer precise tracking and well-defined disturbance rejection behavior. In this contribution, we propose an experimental evaluation of a linear quadratic regulator (LQR) using a linearization of the full robot dynamics together with the contact constraints. The advantage of the controller is that it explicitly takes into account the coupling between the different joints to create optimal feedback controllers for whole-body control. We also propose a method to explicitly regulate other tasks of interest, such as the regulation of the center of mass of the robot or its angular momentum. In order to evaluate the performance of linear optimal control designs in a real-world scenario (model uncertainty, sensor noise, imperfect state estimation, etc), we test the controllers in a variety of tracking and balancing experiments on a torque controlled humanoid (e.g. balancing, split plane balancing, squatting, pushes while squatting, and balancing on a wheeled platform). The proposed control framework shows a reliable push recovery behavior competitive with more sophisticated balance controllers, rejecting impulses up to 11.7 Ns with peak forces of 650 N, with the added advantage of great computational simplicity. Furthermore, the controller is able to track squatting trajectories up to 1 Hz without relinearization, suggesting that the linearized dynamics is sufficient for significant ranges of motion.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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State Estimation for a Humanoid Robot

Rotella, N., Bloesch, M., Righetti, L., Schaal, S.

In 2014 IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems, pages: 952-958, IEEE, Chicago, USA, 2014 (inproceedings)

Abstract
This paper introduces a framework for state estimation on a humanoid robot platform using only common proprioceptive sensors and knowledge of leg kinematics. The presented approach extends that detailed in prior work on a point-foot quadruped platform by adding the rotational constraints imposed by the humanoid's flat feet. As in previous work, the proposed Extended Kalman Filter accommodates contact switching and makes no assumptions about gait or terrain, making it applicable on any humanoid platform for use in any task. A nonlinear observability analysis is performed on both the point-foot and flat-foot filters and it is concluded that the addition of rotational constraints significantly simplifies singular cases and improves the observability characteristics of the system. Results on a simulated walking dataset demonstrate the performance gain of the flat-foot filter as well as confirm the results of the presented observability analysis.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]