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2017


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On the Design of LQR Kernels for Efficient Controller Learning

Marco, A., Hennig, P., Schaal, S., Trimpe, S.

Proceedings of the 56th IEEE Annual Conference on Decision and Control (CDC), pages: 5193-5200, IEEE, IEEE Conference on Decision and Control, December 2017 (conference)

Abstract
Finding optimal feedback controllers for nonlinear dynamic systems from data is hard. Recently, Bayesian optimization (BO) has been proposed as a powerful framework for direct controller tuning from experimental trials. For selecting the next query point and finding the global optimum, BO relies on a probabilistic description of the latent objective function, typically a Gaussian process (GP). As is shown herein, GPs with a common kernel choice can, however, lead to poor learning outcomes on standard quadratic control problems. For a first-order system, we construct two kernels that specifically leverage the structure of the well-known Linear Quadratic Regulator (LQR), yet retain the flexibility of Bayesian nonparametric learning. Simulations of uncertain linear and nonlinear systems demonstrate that the LQR kernels yield superior learning performance.

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arXiv PDF On the Design of LQR Kernels for Efficient Controller Learning - CDC presentation DOI Project Page [BibTex]

2017


arXiv PDF On the Design of LQR Kernels for Efficient Controller Learning - CDC presentation DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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Synchronicity Trumps Mischief in Rhythmic Human-Robot Social-Physical Interaction

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

In Proceedings of the International Symposium on Robotics Research (ISRR), Puerto Varas, Chile, December 2017 (inproceedings) In press

Abstract
Hand-clapping games and other forms of rhythmic social-physical interaction might help foster human-robot teamwork, but the design of such interactions has scarcely been explored. We leveraged our prior work to enable the Rethink Robotics Baxter Research Robot to competently play one-handed tempo-matching hand-clapping games with a human user. To understand how such a robot’s capabilities and behaviors affect user perception, we created four versions of this interaction: the hand clapping could be initiated by either the robot or the human, and the non-initiating partner could be either cooperative, yielding synchronous motion, or mischievously uncooperative. Twenty adults tested two clapping tempos in each of these four interaction modes in a random order, rating every trial on standardized scales. The study results showed that having the robot initiate the interaction gave it a more dominant perceived personality. Despite previous results on the intrigue of misbehaving robots, we found that moving synchronously with the robot almost always made the interaction more enjoyable, less mentally taxing, less physically demanding, and lower effort for users than asynchronous interactions caused by robot or human mischief. Taken together, our results indicate that cooperative rhythmic social-physical interaction has the potential to strengthen human-robot partnerships.

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[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Optimizing Long-term Predictions for Model-based Policy Search

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

Proceedings of 1st Annual Conference on Robot Learning (CoRL), 78, pages: 227-238, (Editors: Sergey Levine and Vincent Vanhoucke and Ken Goldberg), 1st Annual Conference on Robot Learning, November 2017 (conference)

Abstract
We propose a novel long-term optimization criterion to improve the robustness of model-based reinforcement learning in real-world scenarios. Learning a dynamics model to derive a solution promises much greater data-efficiency and reusability compared to model-free alternatives. In practice, however, modelbased RL suffers from various imperfections such as noisy input and output data, delays and unmeasured (latent) states. To achieve higher resilience against such effects, we propose to optimize a generative long-term prediction model directly with respect to the likelihood of observed trajectories as opposed to the common approach of optimizing a dynamics model for one-step-ahead predictions. We evaluate the proposed method on several artificial and real-world benchmark problems and compare it to PILCO, a model-based RL framework, in experiments on a manipulation robot. The results show that the proposed method is competitive compared to state-of-the-art model learning methods. In contrast to these more involved models, our model can directly be employed for policy search and outperforms a baseline method in the robot experiment.

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PDF Project Page [BibTex]

PDF Project Page [BibTex]


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Stiffness Perception during Pinching and Dissection with Teleoperated Haptic Forceps

Ng, C., Zareinia, K., Sun, Q., Kuchenbecker, K. J.

In Proceedings of the International Symposium on Robot and Human Interactive Communication (RO-MAN), pages: 456-463, Lisbon, Portugal, August 2017 (inproceedings)

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Design of a Parallel Continuum Manipulator for 6-DOF Fingertip Haptic Display

Young, E. M., Kuchenbecker, K. J.

In Proceedings of the IEEE World Haptics Conference (WHC), pages: 599-604, Munich, Germany, June 2017, Finalist for best poster paper (inproceedings)

Abstract
Despite rapid advancements in the field of fingertip haptics, rendering tactile cues with six degrees of freedom (6 DOF) remains an elusive challenge. In this paper, we investigate the potential of displaying fingertip haptic sensations with a 6-DOF parallel continuum manipulator (PCM) that mounts to the user's index finger and moves a contact platform around the fingertip. Compared to traditional mechanisms composed of rigid links and discrete joints, PCMs have the potential to be strong, dexterous, and compact, but they are also more complicated to design. We define the design space of 6-DOF parallel continuum manipulators and outline a process for refining such a device for fingertip haptic applications. Following extensive simulation, we obtain 12 designs that meet our specifications, construct a manually actuated prototype of one such design, and evaluate the simulation's ability to accurately predict the prototype's motion. Finally, we demonstrate the range of deliverable fingertip tactile cues, including a normal force into the finger and shear forces tangent to the finger at three extreme points on the boundary of the fingertip.

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DOI Project Page [BibTex]

DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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High Magnitude Unidirectional Haptic Force Display Using a Motor/Brake Pair and a Cable

Hu, S., Kuchenbecker, K. J.

In Proceedings of the IEEE World Haptics Conference (WHC), pages: 394-399, Munich, Germany, June 2017 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Clever electromechanical design is required to make the force feedback delivered by a kinesthetic haptic interface both strong and safe. This paper explores a onedimensional haptic force display that combines a DC motor and a magnetic particle brake on the same shaft. Rather than a rigid linkage, a spooled cable connects the user to the actuators to enable a large workspace, reduce the moving mass, and eliminate the sticky residual force from the brake. This design combines the high torque/power ratio of the brake and the active output capabilities of the motor to provide a wider range of forces than can be achieved with either actuator alone. A prototype of this device was built, its performance was characterized, and it was used to simulate constant force sources and virtual springs and dampers. Compared to the conventional design of using only a motor, the hybrid device can output higher unidirectional forces at the expense of free space feeling less free.

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DOI Project Page [BibTex]

DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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A Wrist-Squeezing Force-Feedback System for Robotic Surgery Training

Brown, J. D., Fernandez, J. N., Cohen, S. P., Kuchenbecker, K. J.

In Proceedings of the IEEE World Haptics Conference (WHC), pages: 107-112, Munich, Germany, June 2017 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Over time, surgical trainees learn to compensate for the lack of haptic feedback in commercial robotic minimally invasive surgical systems. Incorporating touch cues into robotic surgery training could potentially shorten this learning process if the benefits of haptic feedback were sustained after it is removed. In this paper, we develop a wrist-squeezing haptic feedback system and evaluate whether it holds the potential to train novice da Vinci users to reduce the force they exert on a bimanual inanimate training task. Subjects were randomly divided into two groups according to a multiple baseline experimental design. Each of the ten participants moved a ring along a curved wire nine times while the haptic feedback was conditionally withheld, provided, and withheld again. The realtime tactile feedback of applied force magnitude significantly reduced the integral of the force produced by the da Vinci tools on the task materials, and this result remained even when the haptic feedback was removed. Overall, our findings suggest that wrist-squeezing force feedback can play an essential role in helping novice trainees learn to minimize the force they exert with a surgical robot.

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


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Handling Scan-Time Parameters in Haptic Surface Classification

Burka, A., Kuchenbecker, K. J.

In Proceedings of the IEEE World Haptics Conference (WHC), pages: 424-429, Munich, Germany, June 2017 (inproceedings)

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DOI Project Page [BibTex]

DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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Model-Based Policy Search for Automatic Tuning of Multivariate PID Controllers

Doerr, A., Nguyen-Tuong, D., Marco, A., Schaal, S., Trimpe, S.

In Proceedings of the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA), pages: 5295-5301, IEEE, Piscataway, NJ, USA, IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA), May 2017 (inproceedings)

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PDF arXiv DOI Project Page [BibTex]

PDF arXiv DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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Virtual vs. Real: Trading Off Simulations and Physical Experiments in Reinforcement Learning with Bayesian Optimization

Marco, A., Berkenkamp, F., Hennig, P., Schoellig, A. P., Krause, A., Schaal, S., Trimpe, S.

In Proceedings of the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA), pages: 1557-1563, IEEE, Piscataway, NJ, USA, IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA), May 2017 (inproceedings)

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PDF arXiv ICRA 2017 Spotlight presentation Virtual vs. Real - Video explanation DOI Project Page [BibTex]

PDF arXiv ICRA 2017 Spotlight presentation Virtual vs. Real - Video explanation DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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Proton 2: Increasing the Sensitivity and Portability of a Visuo-haptic Surface Interaction Recorder

Burka, A., Rajvanshi, A., Allen, S., Kuchenbecker, K. J.

In Proceedings of the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA), pages: 439-445, Singapore, May 2017 (inproceedings)

Abstract
The Portable Robotic Optical/Tactile ObservatioN PACKage (PROTONPACK, or Proton for short) is a new handheld visuo-haptic sensing system that records surface interactions. We previously demonstrated system calibration and a classification task using external motion tracking. This paper details improvements in surface classification performance and removal of the dependence on external motion tracking, necessary before embarking on our goal of gathering a vast surface interaction dataset. Two experiments were performed to refine data collection parameters. After adjusting the placement and filtering of the Proton's high-bandwidth accelerometers, we recorded interactions between two differently-sized steel tooling ball end-effectors (diameter 6.35 and 9.525 mm) and five surfaces. Using features based on normal force, tangential force, end-effector speed, and contact vibration, we trained multi-class SVMs to classify the surfaces using 50 ms chunks of data from each end-effector. Classification accuracies of 84.5% and 91.5% respectively were achieved on unseen test data, an improvement over prior results. In parallel, we pursued on-board motion tracking, using the Proton's camera and fiducial markers. Motion tracks from the external and onboard trackers agree within 2 mm and 0.01 rad RMS, and the accuracy decreases only slightly to 87.7% when using onboard tracking for the 9.525 mm end-effector. These experiments indicate that the Proton 2 is ready for portable data collection.

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DOI Project Page [BibTex]

DOI Project Page [BibTex]

2015


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Automatic LQR Tuning Based on Gaussian Process Optimization: Early Experimental Results

Marco, A., Hennig, P., Bohg, J., Schaal, S., Trimpe, S.

Machine Learning in Planning and Control of Robot Motion Workshop at the IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (iROS), pages: , , Machine Learning in Planning and Control of Robot Motion Workshop, October 2015 (conference)

Abstract
This paper proposes an automatic controller tuning framework based on linear optimal control combined with Bayesian optimization. With this framework, an initial set of controller gains is automatically improved according to a pre-defined performance objective evaluated from experimental data. The underlying Bayesian optimization algorithm is Entropy Search, which represents the latent objective as a Gaussian process and constructs an explicit belief over the location of the objective minimum. This is used to maximize the information gain from each experimental evaluation. Thus, this framework shall yield improved controllers with fewer evaluations compared to alternative approaches. A seven-degree-of-freedom robot arm balancing an inverted pole is used as the experimental demonstrator. Preliminary results of a low-dimensional tuning problem highlight the method’s potential for automatic controller tuning on robotic platforms.

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PDF DOI Project Page [BibTex]

2015


PDF DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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Direct Loss Minimization Inverse Optimal Control

Doerr, A., Ratliff, N., Bohg, J., Toussaint, M., Schaal, S.

In Proceedings of Robotics: Science and Systems, Rome, Italy, Robotics: Science and Systems XI, July 2015 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Inverse Optimal Control (IOC) has strongly impacted the systems engineering process, enabling automated planner tuning through straightforward and intuitive demonstration. The most successful and established applications, though, have been in lower dimensional problems such as navigation planning where exact optimal planning or control is feasible. In higher dimensional systems, such as humanoid robots, research has made substantial progress toward generalizing the ideas to model free or locally optimal settings, but these systems are complicated to the point where demonstration itself can be difficult. Typically, real-world applications are restricted to at best noisy or even partial or incomplete demonstrations that prove cumbersome in existing frameworks. This work derives a very flexible method of IOC based on a form of Structured Prediction known as Direct Loss Minimization. The resulting algorithm is essentially Policy Search on a reward function that rewards similarity to demonstrated behavior (using Covariance Matrix Adaptation (CMA) in our experiments). Our framework blurs the distinction between IOC, other forms of Imitation Learning, and Reinforcement Learning, enabling us to derive simple, versatile, and practical algorithms that blend imitation and reinforcement signals into a unified framework. Our experiments analyze various aspects of its performance and demonstrate its efficacy on conveying preferences for motion shaping and combined reach and grasp quality optimization.

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PDF Video Project Page [BibTex]

PDF Video Project Page [BibTex]


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LMI-Based Synthesis for Distributed Event-Based State Estimation

Muehlebach, M., Trimpe, S.

In Proceedings of the American Control Conference, July 2015 (inproceedings)

Abstract
This paper presents an LMI-based synthesis procedure for distributed event-based state estimation. Multiple agents observe and control a dynamic process by sporadically exchanging data over a broadcast network according to an event-based protocol. In previous work [1], the synthesis of event-based state estimators is based on a centralized design. In that case three different types of communication are required: event-based communication of measurements, periodic reset of all estimates to their joint average, and communication of inputs. The proposed synthesis problem eliminates the communication of inputs as well as the periodic resets (under favorable circumstances) by accounting explicitly for the distributed structure of the control system.

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PDF DOI Project Page [BibTex]

PDF DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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Guaranteed H2 Performance in Distributed Event-Based State Estimation

Muehlebach, M., Trimpe, S.

In Proceeding of the First International Conference on Event-based Control, Communication, and Signal Processing, June 2015 (inproceedings)

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PDF DOI Project Page [BibTex]

PDF DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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On the Choice of the Event Trigger in Event-based Estimation

Trimpe, S., Campi, M.

In Proceeding of the First International Conference on Event-based Control, Communication, and Signal Processing, June 2015 (inproceedings)

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PDF DOI Project Page [BibTex]

PDF DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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Event-based Estimation and Control for Remote Robot Operation with Reduced Communication

Trimpe, S., Buchli, J.

In Proceedings of the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation, May 2015 (inproceedings)

Abstract
An event-based communication framework for remote operation of a robot via a bandwidth-limited network is proposed. The robot sends state and environment estimation data to the operator, and the operator transmits updated control commands or policies to the robot. Event-based communication protocols are designed to ensure that data is transmitted only when required: the robot sends new estimation data only if this yields a significant information gain at the operator, and the operator transmits an updated control policy only if this comes with a significant improvement in control performance. The developed framework is modular and can be used with any standard estimation and control algorithms. Simulation results of a robotic arm highlight its potential for an efficient use of limited communication resources, for example, in disaster response scenarios such as the DARPA Robotics Challenge.

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PDF DOI Project Page [BibTex]

PDF DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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A New Perspective and Extension of the Gaussian Filter

Wüthrich, M., Trimpe, S., Kappler, D., Schaal, S.

In Robotics: Science and Systems, 2015 (inproceedings)

Abstract
The Gaussian Filter (GF) is one of the most widely used filtering algorithms; instances are the Extended Kalman Filter, the Unscented Kalman Filter and the Divided Difference Filter. GFs represent the belief of the current state by a Gaussian with the mean being an affine function of the measurement. We show that this representation can be too restrictive to accurately capture the dependencies in systems with nonlinear observation models, and we investigate how the GF can be generalized to alleviate this problem. To this end we view the GF from a variational-inference perspective, and analyze how restrictions on the form of the belief can be relaxed while maintaining simplicity and efficiency. This analysis provides a basis for generalizations of the GF. We propose one such generalization which coincides with a GF using a virtual measurement, obtained by applying a nonlinear function to the actual measurement. Numerical experiments show that the proposed Feature Gaussian Filter (FGF) can have a substantial performance advantage over the standard GF for systems with nonlinear observation models.

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Web PDF Project Page [BibTex]