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2019


Learning to Explore in Motion and Interaction Tasks
Learning to Explore in Motion and Interaction Tasks

Bogdanovic, M., Righetti, L.

Proceedings 2019 IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS), pages: 2686-2692, IEEE, 2019 IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS), November 2019, ISSN: 2153-0866 (conference)

Abstract
Model free reinforcement learning suffers from the high sampling complexity inherent to robotic manipulation or locomotion tasks. Most successful approaches typically use random sampling strategies which leads to slow policy convergence. In this paper we present a novel approach for efficient exploration that leverages previously learned tasks. We exploit the fact that the same system is used across many tasks and build a generative model for exploration based on data from previously solved tasks to improve learning new tasks. The approach also enables continuous learning of improved exploration strategies as novel tasks are learned. Extensive simulations on a robot manipulator performing a variety of motion and contact interaction tasks demonstrate the capabilities of the approach. In particular, our experiments suggest that the exploration strategy can more than double learning speed, especially when rewards are sparse. Moreover, the algorithm is robust to task variations and parameter tuning, making it beneficial for complex robotic problems.

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DOI [BibTex]

2019


DOI [BibTex]


A Learnable Safety Measure
A Learnable Safety Measure

Heim, S., Rohr, A. V., Trimpe, S., Badri-Spröwitz, A.

Conference on Robot Learning, November 2019 (conference) Accepted

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Arxiv [BibTex]

Arxiv [BibTex]


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Robust Humanoid Locomotion Using Trajectory Optimization and Sample-Efficient Learning

Yeganegi, M. H., Khadiv, M., Moosavian, S. A. A., Zhu, J., Prete, A. D., Righetti, L.

Proceedings International Conference on Humanoid Robots, IEEE, 2019 IEEE-RAS International Conference on Humanoid Robots, October 2019 (conference)

Abstract
Trajectory optimization (TO) is one of the most powerful tools for generating feasible motions for humanoid robots. However, including uncertainties and stochasticity in the TO problem to generate robust motions can easily lead to intractable problems. Furthermore, since the models used in TO have always some level of abstraction, it can be hard to find a realistic set of uncertainties in the model space. In this paper we leverage a sample-efficient learning technique (Bayesian optimization) to robustify TO for humanoid locomotion. The main idea is to use data from full-body simulations to make the TO stage robust by tuning the cost weights. To this end, we split the TO problem into two phases. The first phase solves a convex optimization problem for generating center of mass (CoM) trajectories based on simplified linear dynamics. The second stage employs iterative Linear-Quadratic Gaussian (iLQG) as a whole-body controller to generate full body control inputs. Then we use Bayesian optimization to find the cost weights to use in the first stage that yields robust performance in the simulation/experiment, in the presence of different disturbance/uncertainties. The results show that the proposed approach is able to generate robust motions for different sets of disturbances and uncertainties.

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https://arxiv.org/abs/1907.04616 link (url) [BibTex]

https://arxiv.org/abs/1907.04616 link (url) [BibTex]


Trunk Pitch Oscillations for Joint Load Redistribution in Humans and Humanoid Robots
Trunk Pitch Oscillations for Joint Load Redistribution in Humans and Humanoid Robots

Drama, Ö., Badri-Spröwitz, A.

Proceedings International Conference on Humanoid Robots, Humanoids, September 2019 (conference) Accepted

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link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


How do people learn how to plan?
How do people learn how to plan?

Jain, Y. R., Gupta, S., Rakesh, V., Dayan, P., Callaway, F., Lieder, F.

Conference on Cognitive Computational Neuroscience, September 2019 (conference)

Abstract
How does the brain learn how to plan? We reverse-engineer people's underlying learning mechanisms by combining rational process models of cognitive plasticity with recently developed empirical methods that allow us to trace the temporal evolution of people's planning strategies. We find that our Learned Value of Computation model (LVOC) accurately captures people's average learning curve. However, there were also substantial individual differences in metacognitive learning that are best understood in terms of multiple different learning mechanisms-including strategy selection learning. Furthermore, we observed that LVOC could not fully capture people's ability to adaptively decide when to stop planning. We successfully extended the LVOC model to address these discrepancies. Our models broadly capture people's ability to improve their decision mechanisms and represent a significant step towards reverse-engineering how the brain learns increasingly effective cognitive strategies through its interaction with the environment.

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How do people learn to plan? How do people learn to plan? [BibTex]

How do people learn to plan? How do people learn to plan? [BibTex]


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Testing Computational Models of Goal Pursuit

Mohnert, F., Tosic, M., Lieder, F.

CCN2019, September 2019 (conference)

Abstract
Goals are essential to human cognition and behavior. But how do we pursue them? To address this question, we model how capacity limits on planning and attention shape the computational mechanisms of human goal pursuit. We test the predictions of a simple model based on previous theories in a behavioral experiment. The results show that to fully capture how people pursue their goals it is critical to account for people’s limited attention in addition to their limited planning. Our findings elucidate the cognitive constraints that shape human goal pursuit and point to an improved model of human goal pursuit that can reliably predict which goals a person will achieve and which goals they will struggle to pursue effectively.

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link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]


The positive side of damping
The positive side of damping

Heim, S., Millard, M., Le Mouel, C., Sproewitz, A.

Proceedings of AMAM, The 9th International Symposium on Adaptive Motion of Animals and Machines, August 2019 (conference) Accepted

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[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Measuring How People Learn How to Plan

Jain, Y. R., Callaway, F., Lieder, F.

Proceedings 41st Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society, pages: 1956-1962, CogSci2019, 41st Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society, July 2019 (conference)

Abstract
The human mind has an unparalleled ability to acquire complex cognitive skills, discover new strategies, and refine its ways of thinking and decision-making; these phenomena are collectively known as cognitive plasticity. One important manifestation of cognitive plasticity is learning to make better–more far-sighted–decisions via planning. A serious obstacle to studying how people learn how to plan is that cognitive plasticity is even more difficult to observe than cognitive strategies are. To address this problem, we develop a computational microscope for measuring cognitive plasticity and validate it on simulated and empirical data. Our approach employs a process tracing paradigm recording signatures of human planning and how they change over time. We then invert a generative model of the recorded changes to infer the underlying cognitive plasticity. Our computational microscope measures cognitive plasticity significantly more accurately than simpler approaches, and it correctly detected the effect of an external manipulation known to promote cognitive plasticity. We illustrate how computational microscopes can be used to gain new insights into the time course of metacognitive learning and to test theories of cognitive development and hypotheses about the nature of cognitive plasticity. Future work will leverage our computational microscope to reverse-engineer the learning mechanisms enabling people to acquire complex cognitive skills such as planning and problem solving.

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link (url) Project Page [BibTex]

link (url) Project Page [BibTex]


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Extending Rationality

Pothos, E. M., Busemeyer, J. R., Pleskac, T., Yearsley, J. M., Tenenbaum, J. B., Goodman, N. D., Tessler, M. H., Griffiths, T. L., Lieder, F., Hertwig, R., Pachur, T., Leuker, C., Shiffrin, R. M.

Proceedings of the 41st Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society, pages: 39-40, CogSci 2019, July 2019 (conference)

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Proceedings of the 41st Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society [BibTex]

Proceedings of the 41st Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society [BibTex]


How should we incentivize learning? An optimal feedback mechanism for educational games and online courses
How should we incentivize learning? An optimal feedback mechanism for educational games and online courses

Xu, L., Wirzberger, M., Lieder, F.

41st Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society, July 2019 (conference)

Abstract
Online courses offer much-needed opportunities for lifelong self-directed learning, but people rarely follow through on their noble intentions to complete them. To increase student retention educational software often uses game elements to motivate students to engage in and persist in learning activities. However, gamification only works when it is done properly, and there is currently no principled method that educational software could use to achieve this. We develop a principled feedback mechanism for encouraging good study choices and persistence in self-directed learning environments. Rather than giving performance feedback, our method rewards the learner's efforts with optimal brain points that convey the value of practice. To derive these optimal brain points, we applied the theory of optimal gamification to a mathematical model of skill acquisition. In contrast to hand-designed incentive structures, optimal brain points are constructed in such a way that the incentive system cannot be gamed. Evaluating our method in a behavioral experiment, we find that optimal brain points significantly increased the proportion of participants who instead of exploiting an inefficient skill they already knew-attempted to learn a difficult but more efficient skill, persisted through failure, and succeeded to master the new skill. Our method provides a principled approach to designing incentive structures and feedback mechanisms for educational games and online courses. We are optimistic that optimal brain points will prove useful for increasing student retention and helping people overcome the motivational obstacles that stand in the way of self-directed lifelong learning.

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link (url) Project Page [BibTex]


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What’s in the Adaptive Toolbox and How Do People Choose From It? Rational Models of Strategy Selection in Risky Choice

Mohnert, F., Pachur, T., Lieder, F.

41st Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society, July 2019 (conference)

Abstract
Although process data indicates that people often rely on various (often heuristic) strategies to choose between risky options, our models of heuristics cannot predict people's choices very accurately. To address this challenge, it has been proposed that people adaptively choose from a toolbox of simple strategies. But which strategies are contained in this toolbox? And how do people decide when to use which decision strategy? Here, we develop a model according to which each person selects decisions strategies rationally from their personal toolbox; our model allows one to infer which strategies are contained in the cognitive toolbox of an individual decision-maker and specifies when she will use which strategy. Using cross-validation on an empirical data set, we find that this rational model of strategy selection from a personal adaptive toolbox predicts people's choices better than any single strategy (even when it is allowed to vary across participants) and better than previously proposed toolbox models. Our model comparisons show that both inferring the toolbox and rational strategy selection are critical for accurately predicting people's risky choices. Furthermore, our model-based data analysis reveals considerable individual differences in the set of strategies people are equipped with and how they choose among them; these individual differences could partly explain why some people make better choices than others. These findings represent an important step towards a complete formalization of the notion that people select their cognitive strategies from a personal adaptive toolbox.

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link (url) [BibTex]


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Measuring How People Learn How to Plan

Jain, Y. R., Callaway, F., Lieder, F.

pages: 357-361, RLDM 2019, July 2019 (conference)

Abstract
The human mind has an unparalleled ability to acquire complex cognitive skills, discover new strategies, and refine its ways of thinking and decision-making; these phenomena are collectively known as cognitive plasticity. One important manifestation of cognitive plasticity is learning to make better – more far-sighted – decisions via planning. A serious obstacle to studying how people learn how to plan is that cognitive plasticity is even more difficult to observe than cognitive strategies are. To address this problem, we develop a computational microscope for measuring cognitive plasticity and validate it on simulated and empirical data. Our approach employs a process tracing paradigm recording signatures of human planning and how they change over time. We then invert a generative model of the recorded changes to infer the underlying cognitive plasticity. Our computational microscope measures cognitive plasticity significantly more accurately than simpler approaches, and it correctly detected the effect of an external manipulation known to promote cognitive plasticity. We illustrate how computational microscopes can be used to gain new insights into the time course of metacognitive learning and to test theories of cognitive development and hypotheses about the nature of cognitive plasticity. Future work will leverage our computational microscope to reverse-engineer the learning mechanisms enabling people to acquire complex cognitive skills such as planning and problem solving.

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link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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A Cognitive Tutor for Helping People Overcome Present Bias

Lieder, F., Callaway, F., Jain, Y. R., Krueger, P. M., Das, P., Gul, S., Griffiths, T. L.

RLDM 2019, July 2019, Falk Lieder and Frederick Callaway contributed equally to this publication. (conference)

Abstract
People's reliance on suboptimal heuristics gives rise to a plethora of cognitive biases in decision-making including the present bias, which denotes people's tendency to be overly swayed by an action's immediate costs/benefits rather than its more important long-term consequences. One approach to helping people overcome such biases is to teach them better decision strategies. But which strategies should we teach them? And how can we teach them effectively? Here, we leverage an automatic method for discovering rational heuristics and insights into how people acquire cognitive skills to develop an intelligent tutor that teaches people how to make better decisions. As a proof of concept, we derive the optimal planning strategy for a simple model of situations where people fall prey to the present bias. Our cognitive tutor teaches people this optimal planning strategy by giving them metacognitive feedback on how they plan in a 3-step sequential decision-making task. Our tutor's feedback is designed to maximally accelerate people's metacognitive reinforcement learning towards the optimal planning strategy. A series of four experiments confirmed that training with the cognitive tutor significantly reduced present bias and improved people's decision-making competency: Experiment 1 demonstrated that the cognitive tutor's feedback can help participants discover far-sighted planning strategies. Experiment 2 found that this training effect transfers to more complex environments. Experiment 3 found that these transfer effects are retained for at least 24 hours after the training. Finally, Experiment 4 found that practicing with the cognitive tutor can have additional benefits over being told the strategy in words. The results suggest that promoting metacognitive reinforcement learning with optimal feedback is a promising approach to improving the human mind.

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


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Introducing the Decision Advisor: A simple online tool that helps people overcome cognitive biases and experience less regret in real-life decisions

lawama, G., Greenberg, S., Moore, D., Lieder, F.

40th Annual Meeting of the Society for Judgement and Decision Making, June 2019 (conference)

Abstract
Cognitive biases shape many decisions people come to regret. To help people overcome these biases, Clear-erThinking.org developed a free online tool, called the Decision Advisor (https://programs.clearerthinking.org/decisionmaker.html). The Decision Advisor assists people in big real-life decisions by prompting them to generate more alternatives, guiding them to evaluate their alternatives according to principles of decision analysis, and educates them about pertinent biases while they are making their decision. In a within-subjects experiment, 99 participants reported significantly fewer biases and less regret for a decision supported by the Decision Advisor than for a previous unassisted decision.

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


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The Goal Characteristics (GC) questionannaire: A comprehensive measure for goals’ content, attainability, interestingness, and usefulness

Iwama, G., Wirzberger, M., Lieder, F.

40th Annual Meeting of the Society for Judgement and Decision Making, June 2019 (conference)

Abstract
Many studies have investigated how goal characteristics affect goal achievement. However, most of them considered only a small number of characteristics and the psychometric properties of their measures remains unclear. To overcome these limitations, we developed and validated a comprehensive questionnaire of goal characteristics with four subscales - measuring the goal’s content, attainability, interestingness, and usefulness respectively. 590 participants completed the questionnaire online. A confirmatory factor analysis supported the four subscales and their structure. The GC questionnaire (https://osf.io/qfhup) can be easily applied to investigate goal setting, pursuit and adjustment in a wide range of contexts.

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DOI [BibTex]


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Efficient Humanoid Contact Planning using Learned Centroidal Dynamics Prediction

Lin, Y., Ponton, B., Righetti, L., Berenson, D.

International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA), pages: 5280-5286, IEEE, May 2019 (conference)

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


Leveraging Contact Forces for Learning to Grasp
Leveraging Contact Forces for Learning to Grasp

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

In Proceedings of the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA) 2019, IEEE, International Conference on Robotics and Automation, May 2019 (inproceedings)

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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Soft Sensors for Curvature Estimation under Water in a Soft Robotic Fish

Wright, Brian, Vogt, Daniel M., Wood, Robert J., Jusufi, Ardian

In 2019 2nd IEEE International Conference on Soft Robotics (RoboSoft 2019), pages: 367-371, IEEE, Piscataway, NJ, 2nd IEEE International Conference on Soft Robotics (RoboSoft 2019), 2019 (inproceedings)

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


Quantifying the Robustness of Natural Dynamics: a Viability Approach
Quantifying the Robustness of Natural Dynamics: a Viability Approach

Heim, S., Sproewitz, A.

Proceedings of Dynamic Walking , Dynamic Walking , 2019 (conference) Accepted

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Submission DW2019 [BibTex]

Submission DW2019 [BibTex]


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Remediating Cognitive Decline with Cognitive Tutors

Das, P., Callaway, F., Griffiths, T. L., Lieder, F.

RLDM 2019, 2019 (conference)

Abstract
As people age, their cognitive abilities tend to deteriorate, including their ability to make complex plans. To remediate this cognitive decline, many commercial brain training programs target basic cognitive capacities, such as working memory. We have recently developed an alternative approach: intelligent tutors that teach people cognitive strategies for making the best possible use of their limited cognitive resources. Here, we apply this approach to improve older adults' planning skills. In a process-tracing experiment we found that the decline in planning performance may be partly because older adults use less effective planning strategies. We also found that, with practice, both older and younger adults learned more effective planning strategies from experience. But despite these gains there was still room for improvement-especially for older people. In a second experiment, we let older and younger adults train their planning skills with an intelligent cognitive tutor that teaches optimal planning strategies via metacognitive feedback. We found that practicing planning with this intelligent tutor allowed older adults to catch up to their younger counterparts. These findings suggest that intelligent tutors that teach clever cognitive strategies can help aging decision-makers stay sharp.

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


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Heads or Tails? Cranio-Caudal Mass Distribution for Robust Locomotion with Biorobotic Appendages Composed of 3D-Printed Soft Materials

Siddall, R., Schwab, F., Michel, J., Weaver, J., Jusufi, A.

In Biomimetic and Biohybrid Systems, 11556, pages: 240-253, Lecture Notes in Artificial Intelligence, (Editors: Martinez-Hernandez, Uriel and Vouloutsi, Vasiliki and Mura, Anna and Mangan, Michael and Asada, Minoru and Prescott, Tony J. and Verschure, Paul F. M. J.), Springer, Cham, Living Machines 2019: 8th International Conference on Biomimetic and Biohybrid Systems, 2019 (inproceedings)

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]

2018


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Discovering and Teaching Optimal Planning Strategies

Lieder, F., Callaway, F., Krueger, P. M., Das, P., Griffiths, T. L., Gul, S.

In The 14th biannual conference of the German Society for Cognitive Science, GK, September 2018, Falk Lieder and Frederick Callaway contributed equally to this publication. (inproceedings)

Abstract
How should we think and decide, and how can we learn to make better decisions? To address these questions we formalize the discovery of cognitive strategies as a metacognitive reinforcement learning problem. This formulation leads to a computational method for deriving optimal cognitive strategies and a feedback mechanism for accelerating the process by which people learn how to make better decisions. As a proof of concept, we apply our approach to develop an intelligent system that teaches people optimal planning stratgies. Our training program combines a novel process-tracing paradigm that makes peoples latent planning strategies observable with an intelligent system that gives people feedback on how their planning strategy could be improved. The pedagogy of our intelligent tutor is based on the theory that people discover their cognitive strategies through metacognitive reinforcement learning. Concretely, the tutor’s feedback is designed to maximally accelerate people’s metacognitive reinforcement learning towards the optimal cognitive strategy. A series of four experiments confirmed that training with the cognitive tutor significantly improved people’s decision-making competency: Experiment 1 demonstrated that the cognitive tutor’s feedback accelerates participants’ metacognitive learning. Experiment 2 found that this training effect transfers to more difficult planning problems in more complex environments. Experiment 3 found that these transfer effects are retained for at least 24 hours after the training. Finally, Experiment 4 found that practicing with the cognitive tutor conveys additional benefits above and beyond verbal description of the optimal planning strategy. The results suggest that promoting metacognitive reinforcement learning with optimal feedback is a promising approach to improving the human mind.

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link (url) Project Page [BibTex]

2018


link (url) Project Page [BibTex]


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Discovering Rational Heuristics for Risky Choice

Gul, S., Krueger, P. M., Callaway, F., Griffiths, T. L., Lieder, F.

The 14th biannual conference of the German Society for Cognitive Science, GK, The 14th biannual conference of the German Society for Cognitive Science, GK, September 2018 (conference)

Abstract
How should we think and decide to make the best possible use of our precious time and limited cognitive resources? And how do people’s cognitive strategies compare to this ideal? We study these questions in the domain of multi-alternative risky choice using the methodology of resource-rational analysis. To answer the first question, we leverage a new meta-level reinforcement learning algorithm to derive optimal heuristics for four different risky choice environments. We find that our method rediscovers two fast-and-frugal heuristics that people are known to use, namely Take-The-Best and choosing randomly, as resource-rational strategies for specific environments. Our method also discovered a novel heuristic that combines elements of Take-The-Best and Satisficing. To answer the second question, we use the Mouselab paradigm to measure how people’s decision strategies compare to the predictions of our resource-rational analysis. We found that our resource-rational analysis correctly predicted which strategies people use and under which conditions they use them. While people generally tend to make rational use of their limited resources overall, their strategy choices do not always fully exploit the structure of each decision problem. Overall, people’s decision operations were about 88% as resource-rational as they could possibly be. A formal model comparison confirmed that our resource-rational model explained people’s decision strategies significantly better than the Directed Cognition model of Gabaix et al. (2006). Our study is a proof-of-concept that optimal cognitive strategies can be automatically derived from the principle of resource-rationality. Our results suggest that resource-rational analysis is a promising approach for uncovering people’s cognitive strategies and revisiting the debate about human rationality with a more realistic normative standard.

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link (url) Project Page [BibTex]

link (url) Project Page [BibTex]


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Learning to Select Computations

Callaway, F., Gul, S., Krueger, P. M., Griffiths, T. L., Lieder, F.

In Uncertainty in Artificial Intelligence: Proceedings of the Thirty-Fourth Conference, August 2018, Frederick Callaway and Sayan Gul and Falk Lieder contributed equally to this publication. (inproceedings)

Abstract
The efficient use of limited computational resources is an essential ingredient of intelligence. Selecting computations optimally according to rational metareasoning would achieve this, but this is computationally intractable. Inspired by psychology and neuroscience, we propose the first concrete and domain-general learning algorithm for approximating the optimal selection of computations: Bayesian metalevel policy search (BMPS). We derive this general, sample-efficient search algorithm for a computation-selecting metalevel policy based on the insight that the value of information lies between the myopic value of information and the value of perfect information. We evaluate BMPS on three increasingly difficult metareasoning problems: when to terminate computation, how to allocate computation between competing options, and planning. Across all three domains, BMPS achieved near-optimal performance and compared favorably to previously proposed metareasoning heuristics. Finally, we demonstrate the practical utility of BMPS in an emergency management scenario, even accounting for the overhead of metareasoning.

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link (url) Project Page [BibTex]

link (url) Project Page [BibTex]


Learning from Outside the Viability Kernel: Why we Should Build Robots that can Fail with Grace
Learning from Outside the Viability Kernel: Why we Should Build Robots that can Fail with Grace

Heim, S., Sproewitz, A.

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

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link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]

link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]


Shaping in Practice: Training Wheels to Learn Fast Hopping Directly in Hardware
Shaping in Practice: Training Wheels to Learn Fast Hopping Directly in Hardware

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

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

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

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Video Youtube link (url) Project Page [BibTex]

Video Youtube link (url) Project Page [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, 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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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]

2013


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AGILITY – Dynamic Full Body Locomotion and Manipulation with Autonomous Legged Robots

Hutter, M., Bloesch, M., Buchli, J., Semini, C., Bazeille, S., Righetti, L., Bohg, J.

In 2013 IEEE International Symposium on Safety, Security, and Rescue Robotics (SSRR), pages: 1-4, IEEE, Linköping, Sweden, 2013 (inproceedings)

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2013


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Learning Objective Functions for Manipulation

Kalakrishnan, M., Pastor, P., Righetti, L., Schaal, S.

In 2013 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation, IEEE, Karlsruhe, Germany, 2013 (inproceedings)

Abstract
We present an approach to learning objective functions for robotic manipulation based on inverse reinforcement learning. Our path integral inverse reinforcement learning algorithm can deal with high-dimensional continuous state-action spaces, and only requires local optimality of demonstrated trajectories. We use L 1 regularization in order to achieve feature selection, and propose an efficient algorithm to minimize the resulting convex objective function. We demonstrate our approach by applying it to two core problems in robotic manipulation. First, we learn a cost function for redundancy resolution in inverse kinematics. Second, we use our method to learn a cost function over trajectories, which is then used in optimization-based motion planning for grasping and manipulation tasks. Experimental results show that our method outperforms previous algorithms in high-dimensional settings.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Learning Task Error Models for Manipulation

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

In 2013 IEEE Conference on Robotics and Automation, IEEE, Karlsruhe, Germany, 2013 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Precise kinematic forward models are important for robots to successfully perform dexterous grasping and manipulation tasks, especially when visual servoing is rendered infeasible due to occlusions. A lot of research has been conducted to estimate geometric and non-geometric parameters of kinematic chains to minimize reconstruction errors. However, kinematic chains can include non-linearities, e.g. due to cable stretch and motor-side encoders, that result in significantly different errors for different parts of the state space. Previous work either does not consider such non-linearities or proposes to estimate non-geometric parameters of carefully engineered models that are robot specific. We propose a data-driven approach that learns task error models that account for such unmodeled non-linearities. We argue that in the context of grasping and manipulation, it is sufficient to achieve high accuracy in the task relevant state space. We identify this relevant state space using previously executed joint configurations and learn error corrections for those. Therefore, our system is developed to generate subsequent executions that are similar to previous ones. The experiments show that our method successfully captures the non-linearities in the head kinematic chain (due to a counterbalancing spring) and the arm kinematic chains (due to cable stretch) of the considered experimental platform, see Fig. 1. The feasibility of the presented error learning approach has also been evaluated in independent DARPA ARM-S testing contributing to successfully complete 67 out of 72 grasping and manipulation tasks.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

2007


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Hand placement during quadruped locomotion in a humanoid robot: A dynamical system approach

Degallier, S., Righetti, L., Ijspeert, A.

In 2007 IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems, pages: 2047-2052, IEEE, San Diego, USA, 2007 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Locomotion on an irregular surface is a challenging task in robotics. Among different problems to solve to obtain robust locomotion, visually guided locomotion and accurate foot placement are of crucial importance. Robust controllers able to adapt to sensory-motor feedbacks, in particular to properly place feet on specific locations, are thus needed. Dynamical systems are well suited for this task as any online modification of the parameters leads to a smooth adaptation of the trajectories, allowing a safe integration of sensory-motor feedback. In this contribution, as a first step in the direction of locomotion on irregular surfaces, we present a controller that allows hand placement during crawling in a simulated humanoid robot. The goal of the controller is to superimpose rhythmic movements for crawling with discrete (i.e. short-term) modulations of the hand placements to reach specific marks on the ground.

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2007


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Lower body realization of the baby humanoid - ‘iCub’

Tsagarakis, N., Becchi, F., Righetti, L., Ijspeert, A., Caldwell, D.

In 2007 IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems, pages: 3616-3622, IEEE, San Diego, USA, 2007 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Nowadays, the understanding of the human cognition and it application to robotic systems forms a great challenge of research. The iCub is a robotic platform that was developed within the RobotCub European project to provide the cognition research community with an open baby- humanoid platform for understanding and development of cognitive systems. In this paper we present the design requirements and mechanical realization of the lower body developed for the "iCub". In particular the leg and the waist mechanisms adopted for lower body to match the size and physical abilities of a 2 frac12 year old human baby are introduced.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

2006


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Movement generation using dynamical systems : a humanoid robot performing a drumming task

Degallier, S., Santos, C. P., Righetti, L., Ijspeert, A.

In 2006 6th IEEE-RAS International Conference on Humanoid Robots, pages: 512-517, IEEE, Genova, Italy, 2006 (inproceedings)

Abstract
The online generation of trajectories in humanoid robots remains a difficult problem. In this contribution, we present a system that allows the superposition, and the switch between, discrete and rhythmic movements. Our approach uses nonlinear dynamical systems for generating trajectories online and in real time. Our goal is to make use of attractor properties of dynamical systems in order to provide robustness against small perturbations and to enable online modulation of the trajectories. The system is demonstrated on a humanoid robot performing a drumming task.

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2006


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Design methodologies for central pattern generators: an application to crawling humanoids

Righetti, L., Ijspeert, A.

In Proceedings of Robotics: Science and Systems, Philadelphia, USA, August 2006 (inproceedings)

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Programmable central pattern generators: an application to biped locomotion control

Righetti, L., Ijspeert, A.

In Proceedings of the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation, 2006. ICRA 2006., pages: 1585-1590, IEEE, 2006 (inproceedings)

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[BibTex]

[BibTex]