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2017


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Active colloidal propulsion over a crystalline surface

Choudhury, U., Straube, A., Fischer, P., Gibbs, J., Höfling, F.

New Journal of Physics, 19, pages: 125010, December 2017 (article)

Abstract
We study both experimentally and theoretically the dynamics of chemically self-propelled Janus colloids moving atop a two-dimensional crystalline surface. The surface is a hexagonally close-packed monolayer of colloidal particles of the same size as the mobile one. The dynamics of the self-propelled colloid reflects the competition between hindered diffusion due to the periodic surface and enhanced diffusion due to active motion. Which contribution dominates depends on the propulsion strength, which can be systematically tuned by changing the concentration of a chemical fuel. The mean-square displacements obtained from the experiment exhibit enhanced diffusion at long lag times. Our experimental data are consistent with a Langevin model for the effectively two-dimensional translational motion of an active Brownian particle in a periodic potential, combining the confining effects of gravity and the crystalline surface with the free rotational diffusion of the colloid. Approximate analytical predictions are made for the mean-square displacement describing the crossover from free Brownian motion at short times to active diffusion at long times. The results are in semi-quantitative agreement with numerical results of a refined Langevin model that treats translational and rotational degrees of freedom on the same footing.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

2017


link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Interactive Perception: Leveraging Action in Perception and Perception in Action

Bohg, J., Hausman, K., Sankaran, B., Brock, O., Kragic, D., Schaal, S., Sukhatme, G.

IEEE Transactions on Robotics, 33, pages: 1273-1291, December 2017 (article)

Abstract
Recent approaches in robotics follow the insight that perception is facilitated by interactivity with the environment. These approaches are subsumed under the term of Interactive Perception (IP). We argue that IP provides the following benefits: (i) any type of forceful interaction with the environment creates a new type of informative sensory signal that would otherwise not be present and (ii) any prior knowledge about the nature of the interaction supports the interpretation of the signal. This is facilitated by knowledge of the regularity in the combined space of sensory information and action parameters. The goal of this survey is to postulate this as a principle and collect evidence in support by analyzing and categorizing existing work in this area. We also provide an overview of the most important applications of Interactive Perception. We close this survey by discussing the remaining open questions. Thereby, we hope to define a field and inspire future work.

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arXiv DOI Project Page [BibTex]

arXiv DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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Wireless Acoustic-Surface Actuators for Miniaturized Endoscopes

Qiu, T., Adams, F., Palagi, S., Melde, K., Mark, A. G., Wetterauer, U., Miernik, A., Fischer, P.

ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces, 9(49):42536 - 42543, November 2017 (article)

Abstract
Endoscopy enables minimally invasive procedures in many medical fields, such as urology. However, current endoscopes are normally cable-driven, which limits their dexterity and makes them hard to miniaturize. Indeed current urological endoscopes have an outer diameter of about 3 mm and still only possess one bending degree of freedom. In this paper, we report a novel wireless actuation mechanism that increases the dexterity and that permits the miniaturization of a urological endoscope. The novel actuator consists of thin active surfaces that can be readily attached to any device and are wirelessly powered by ultrasound. The surfaces consist of two-dimensional arrays of micro-bubbles, which oscillate under ultrasound excitation and thereby generate an acoustic streaming force. Bubbles of different sizes are addressed by their unique resonance frequency, thus multiple degrees of freedom can readily be incorporated. Two active miniaturized devices (with a side length of around 1 mm) are demonstrated: a miniaturized mechanical arm that realizes two degrees of freedom, and a flexible endoscope prototype equipped with a camera at the tip. With the flexible endoscope, an active endoscopic examination is successfully performed in a rabbit bladder. This results show the potential medical applicability of surface actuators wirelessly powered by ultrasound penetrating through biological tissues.

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link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]

link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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Acquiring Target Stacking Skills by Goal-Parameterized Deep Reinforcement Learning

Li, W., Bohg, J., Fritz, M.

arXiv, November 2017 (article) Submitted

Abstract
Understanding physical phenomena is a key component of human intelligence and enables physical interaction with previously unseen environments. In this paper, we study how an artificial agent can autonomously acquire this intuition through interaction with the environment. We created a synthetic block stacking environment with physics simulation in which the agent can learn a policy end-to-end through trial and error. Thereby, we bypass to explicitly model physical knowledge within the policy. We are specifically interested in tasks that require the agent to reach a given goal state that may be different for every new trial. To this end, we propose a deep reinforcement learning framework that learns policies which are parametrized by a goal. We validated the model on a toy example navigating in a grid world with different target positions and in a block stacking task with different target structures of the final tower. In contrast to prior work, our policies show better generalization across different goals.

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arXiv [BibTex]


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Active Acoustic Surfaces Enable the Propulsion of a Wireless Robot

Qiu, T., Palagi, S., Mark, A. G., Melde, K., Adams, F., Fischer, P.

Advanced Materials Interfaces, 4(21):1700933, September 2017 (article)

Abstract
A major challenge that prevents the miniaturization of mechanically actuated systems is the lack of suitable methods that permit the efficient transfer of power to small scales. Acoustic energy holds great potential, as it is wireless, penetrates deep into biological tissues, and the mechanical vibrations can be directly converted into directional forces. Recently, active acoustic surfaces are developed that consist of 2D arrays of microcavities holding microbubbles that can be excited with an external acoustic field. At resonance, the surfaces give rise to acoustic streaming and thus provide a highly directional propulsive force. Here, this study advances these wireless surface actuators by studying their force output as the size of the bubble-array is increased. In particular, a general method is reported to dramatically improve the propulsive force, demonstrating that the surface actuators are actually able to propel centimeter-scale devices. To prove the flexibility of the functional surfaces as wireless ready-to-attach actuator, a mobile mini-robot capable of propulsion in water along multiple directions is presented. This work paves the way toward effectively exploiting acoustic surfaces as a novel wireless actuation scheme at small scales.

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link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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Corrosion-Protected Hybrid Nanoparticles

Jeong, H. H., Alarcon-Correa, M., Mark, A. G., Son, K., Lee, T., Fischer, P.

Advanced Science, 4(12):1700234, September 2017 (article)

Abstract
Nanoparticles composed of functional materials hold great promise for applications due to their unique electronic, optical, magnetic, and catalytic properties. However, a number of functional materials are not only difficult to fabricate at the nanoscale, but are also chemically unstable in solution. Hence, protecting nanoparticles from corrosion is a major challenge for those applications that require stability in aqueous solutions and biological fluids. Here, this study presents a generic scheme to grow hybrid 3D nanoparticles that are completely encapsulated by a nm thick protective shell. The method consists of vacuum-based growth and protection, and combines oblique physical vapor deposition with atomic layer deposition. It provides wide flexibility in the shape and composition of the nanoparticles, and the environments against which particles are protected. The work demonstrates the approach with multifunctional nanoparticles possessing ferromagnetic, plasmonic, and chiral properties. The present scheme allows nanocolloids, which immediately corrode without protection, to remain functional, at least for a week, in acidic solutions.

pf

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Event-based State Estimation: An Emulation-based Approach

Trimpe, S.

IET Control Theory & Applications, 11(11):1684-1693, July 2017 (article)

Abstract
An event-based state estimation approach for reducing communication in a networked control system is proposed. Multiple distributed sensor agents observe a dynamic process and sporadically transmit their measurements to estimator agents over a shared bus network. Local event-triggering protocols ensure that data is transmitted only when necessary to meet a desired estimation accuracy. The event-based design is shown to emulate the performance of a centralised state observer design up to guaranteed bounds, but with reduced communication. The stability results for state estimation are extended to the distributed control system that results when the local estimates are used for feedback control. Results from numerical simulations and hardware experiments illustrate the effectiveness of the proposed approach in reducing network communication.

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arXiv Supplementary material PDF DOI Project Page [BibTex]

arXiv Supplementary material PDF DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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Non-Equilibrium Assembly of Light-Activated Colloidal Mixtures

Singh, D. P., Choudhury, U., Fischer, P., Mark, A. G.

Advanced Materials, 29, pages: 1701328, June 2017, 32 (article)

Abstract
The collective phenomena exhibited by artificial active matter systems present novel routes to fabricating out-of-equilibrium microscale assemblies. Here, the crystallization of passive silica colloids into well-controlled 2D assemblies is shown, which is directed by a small number of self-propelled active colloids. The active colloids are titania–silica Janus particles that are propelled when illuminated by UV light. The strength of the attractive interaction and thus the extent of the assembled clusters can be regulated by the light intensity. A remarkably small number of the active colloids is sufficient to induce the assembly of the dynamic crystals. The approach produces rationally designed colloidal clusters and crystals with controllable sizes, shapes, and symmetries. This multicomponent active matter system offers the possibility of obtaining structures and assemblies that cannot be found in equilibrium systems.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Nanodiamonds That Swim

Kim, J. T., Choudhury, U., Hyeon-Ho, J., Fischer, P.

Advanced Materials, 29(30):1701024, June 2017, Back Cover (article)

Abstract
Nanodiamonds are emerging as nanoscale quantum probes for bio-sensing and imaging. This necessitates the development of new methods to accurately manipulate their position and orientation in aqueous solutions. The realization of an “active” nanodiamond (ND) swimmer in fluids, composed of a ND crystal containing nitrogen vacancy centers and a light-driven self-thermophoretic micromotor, is reported. The swimmer is propelled by a local temperature gradient created by laser illumination on its metal-coated side. Its locomotion—from translational to rotational motion—is successfully controlled by shape-dependent hydrodynamic interactions. The precise engineering of the swimmer's geometry is achieved by self-assembly combined with physical vapor shadow growth. The optical addressability of the suspended ND swimmers is demonstrated by observing the electron spin resonance in the presence of magnetic fields. Active motion at the nanoscale enables new sensing capabilities combined with active transport including, potentially, in living organisms.

pf

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Probabilistic Articulated Real-Time Tracking for Robot Manipulation

(Best Paper of RA-L 2017, Finalist of Best Robotic Vision Paper Award of ICRA 2017)

Garcia Cifuentes, C., Issac, J., Wüthrich, M., Schaal, S., Bohg, J.

IEEE Robotics and Automation Letters (RA-L), 2(2):577-584, April 2017 (article)

Abstract
We propose a probabilistic filtering method which fuses joint measurements with depth images to yield a precise, real-time estimate of the end-effector pose in the camera frame. This avoids the need for frame transformations when using it in combination with visual object tracking methods. Precision is achieved by modeling and correcting biases in the joint measurements as well as inaccuracies in the robot model, such as poor extrinsic camera calibration. We make our method computationally efficient through a principled combination of Kalman filtering of the joint measurements and asynchronous depth-image updates based on the Coordinate Particle Filter. We quantitatively evaluate our approach on a dataset recorded from a real robotic platform, annotated with ground truth from a motion capture system. We show that our approach is robust and accurate even under challenging conditions such as fast motion, significant and long-term occlusions, and time-varying biases. We release the dataset along with open-source code of our approach to allow for quantitative comparison with alternative approaches.

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arXiv video code and dataset video PDF DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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Soft 3D-Printed Phantom of the Human Kidney with Collecting System

Adams, F., Qiu, T., Mark, A., Fritz, B., Kramer, L., Schlager, D., Wetterauer, U., Miernik, A., Fischer, P.

Ann. of Biomed. Eng., 45(4):963-972, April 2017 (article)

Abstract
Organ models are used for planning and simulation of operations, developing new surgical instruments, and training purposes. There is a substantial demand for in vitro organ phantoms, especially in urological surgery. Animal models and existing simulator systems poorly mimic the detailed morphology and the physical properties of human organs. In this paper, we report a novel fabrication process to make a human kidney phantom with realistic anatomical structures and physical properties. The detailed anatomical structure was directly acquired from high resolution CT data sets of human cadaveric kidneys. The soft phantoms were constructed using a novel technique that combines 3D wax printing and polymer molding. Anatomical details and material properties of the phantoms were validated in detail by CT scan, ultrasound, and endoscopy. CT reconstruction, ultrasound examination, and endoscopy showed that the designed phantom mimics a real kidney's detailed anatomy and correctly corresponds to the targeted human cadaver's upper urinary tract. Soft materials with a tensile modulus of 0.8-1.5 MPa as well as biocompatible hydrogels were used to mimic human kidney tissues. We developed a method of constructing 3D organ models from medical imaging data using a 3D wax printing and molding process. This method is cost-effective means for obtaining a reproducible and robust model suitable for surgical simulation and training purposes.

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DOI Project Page [BibTex]

DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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Pattern formation and collective effects in populations of magnetic microswimmers

Vach, P. J., (Walker) Schamel, D., Fischer, P., Fratzl, P., Faivre, D.

J. of Phys. D: Appl. Phys., 50(11):11LT03, Febuary 2017 (article)

Abstract
Self-propelled particles are one prototype of synthetic active matter used to understand complex biological processes, such as the coordination of movement in bacterial colonies or schools of fishes. Collective patterns such as clusters were observed for such systems, reproducing features of biological organization. However, one limitation of this model is that the synthetic assemblies are made of identical individuals. Here we introduce an active system based on magnetic particles at colloidal scales. We use identical but also randomly-shaped magnetic micropropellers and show that they exhibit dynamic and reversible pattern formation.

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


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On-chip enzymatic microbiofuel cell-powered integrated circuits

Mark, A. G., Suraniti, E., Roche, J., Richter, H., Kuhn, A., Mano, N., Fischer, P.

Lab on a Chip, 17(10):1761-1768, Febuary 2017, Recent HOT Article (article)

Abstract
A variety of diagnostic and therapeutic medical technologies rely on long term implantation of an electronic device to monitor or regulate a patient's condition. One proposed approach to powering these devices is to use a biofuel cell to convert the chemical energy from blood nutrients into electrical current to supply the electronics. We present here an enzymatic microbiofuel cell whose electrodes are directly integrated into a digital electronic circuit. Glucose oxidizing and oxygen reducing enzymes are immobilized on microelectrodes of an application specific integrated circuit (ASIC) using redox hydrogels to produce an enzymatic biofuel cell, capable of harvesting electrical power from just a single droplet of 5 mM glucose solution. Optimisation of the fuel cell voltage and power to match the requirements of the electronics allow self-powered operation of the on-board digital circuitry. This study represents a step towards implantable self-powered electronic devices that gather their energy from physiological fluids.

Recent HOT Article.

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


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Strong Rotational Anisotropies Affect Nonlinear Chiral Metamaterials

Hooper, D. C., Mark, A. G., Kuppe, C., Collins, J. T., Fischer, P., Valev, V. K.

Advanced Materials, 29(13):1605110, January 2017 (article)

Abstract
Masked by rotational anisotropies, the nonlinear chiroptical response of a metamaterial is initially completely inaccessible. Upon rotating the sample the chiral information emerges. These results highlight the need for a general method to extract the true chiral contributions to the nonlinear optical signal, which would be hugely valuable in the present context of increasingly complex chiral meta/nanomaterials.

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


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Anticipatory Action Selection for Human-Robot Table Tennis

Wang, Z., Boularias, A., Mülling, K., Schölkopf, B., Peters, J.

Artificial Intelligence, 247, pages: 399-414, 2017, Special Issue on AI and Robotics (article)

Abstract
Abstract Anticipation can enhance the capability of a robot in its interaction with humans, where the robot predicts the humans' intention for selecting its own action. We present a novel framework of anticipatory action selection for human-robot interaction, which is capable to handle nonlinear and stochastic human behaviors such as table tennis strokes and allows the robot to choose the optimal action based on prediction of the human partner's intention with uncertainty. The presented framework is generic and can be used in many human-robot interaction scenarios, for example, in navigation and human-robot co-manipulation. In this article, we conduct a case study on human-robot table tennis. Due to the limited amount of time for executing hitting movements, a robot usually needs to initiate its hitting movement before the opponent hits the ball, which requires the robot to be anticipatory based on visual observation of the opponent's movement. Previous work on Intention-Driven Dynamics Models (IDDM) allowed the robot to predict the intended target of the opponent. In this article, we address the problem of action selection and optimal timing for initiating a chosen action by formulating the anticipatory action selection as a Partially Observable Markov Decision Process (POMDP), where the transition and observation are modeled by the \{IDDM\} framework. We present two approaches to anticipatory action selection based on the \{POMDP\} formulation, i.e., a model-free policy learning method based on Least-Squares Policy Iteration (LSPI) that employs the \{IDDM\} for belief updates, and a model-based Monte-Carlo Planning (MCP) method, which benefits from the transition and observation model by the IDDM. Experimental results using real data in a simulated environment show the importance of anticipatory action selection, and that \{POMDPs\} are suitable to formulate the anticipatory action selection problem by taking into account the uncertainties in prediction. We also show that existing algorithms for POMDPs, such as \{LSPI\} and MCP, can be applied to substantially improve the robot's performance in its interaction with humans.

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DOI Project Page [BibTex]

DOI Project Page [BibTex]

2011


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Learning, planning, and control for quadruped locomotion over challenging terrain

Kalakrishnan, Mrinal, Buchli, Jonas, Pastor, Peter, Mistry, Michael, Schaal, S.

International Journal of Robotics Research, 30(2):236-258, February 2011 (article)

am

[BibTex]

2011


[BibTex]


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Quantum-Cascade Laser-Based Vibrational Circular Dichroism

Luedeke, S., Pfeifer, M., Fischer, P.

JOURNAL OF THE AMERICAN CHEMICAL SOCIETY, 133(15):5704-5707, 2011 (article)

Abstract
Vibrational circular dichroism (VCD) spectra were recorded with a tunable external-cavity quantum-cascade laser (QCL). In comparison with standard thermal light sources in the IR, QCLs provide orders of magnitude more power and are therefore promising for VCD studies in strongly absorbing solvents. The brightness of this novel light source is demonstrated with VCD and IR absorption measurements of a number of compounds, including proline in water.

pf

DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


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Actively coupled cavity ringdown spectroscopy with low-power broadband sources

Petermann, C., Fischer, P.

OPTICS EXPRESS, 19(11):10164-10173, 2011 (article)

Abstract
We demonstrate a coupling scheme for cavity enhanced absorption spectroscopy that makes use of an intracavity acousto-optical modulator to actively switch light into (and out of) a resonator. This allows cavity ringdown spectroscopy (CRDS) to be implemented with broadband nonlaser light sources with spectral power densities of less than 30 mu W/nm. Although the acousto-optical element reduces the ultimate detection limit by introducing additional losses, it permits absorptivities to be measured with a high dynamic range, especially in lossy environments. Absorption measurements for the forbidden transition of gaseous oxygen in air at similar to 760nm are presented using a low-coherence cw-superluminescent diode. The same setup was electronically configured to cover absorption losses from 1.8 x 10(-8)cm(-1) to 7.5\% per roundtrip. This could be of interest in process analytical applications. (C) 2011 Optical Society of America

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


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Magnetically actuated propulsion at low Reynolds numbers: towards nanoscale control

Fischer, P., Ghosh, A.

NANOSCALE, 3(2):557-563, 2011 (article)

Abstract
Significant progress has been made in the fabrication of micron and sub-micron structures whose motion can be controlled in liquids under ambient conditions. The aim of many of these engineering endeavors is to be able to build and propel an artificial micro-structure that rivals the versatility of biological swimmers of similar size, e. g. motile bacterial cells. Applications for such artificial ``micro-bots'' are envisioned to range from microrheology to targeted drug delivery and microsurgery, and require full motion-control under ambient conditions. In this Mini-Review we discuss the construction, actuation, and operation of several devices that have recently been reported, especially systems that can be controlled by and propelled with homogenous magnetic fields. We describe the fabrication and associated experimental challenges and discuss potential applications.

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Video - Nanospropellers DOI [BibTex]


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Bayesian robot system identification with input and output noise

Ting, J., D’Souza, A., Schaal, S.

Neural Networks, 24(1):99-108, 2011, clmc (article)

Abstract
For complex robots such as humanoids, model-based control is highly beneficial for accurate tracking while keeping negative feedback gains low for compliance. However, in such multi degree-of-freedom lightweight systems, conventional identification of rigid body dynamics models using CAD data and actuator models is inaccurate due to unknown nonlinear robot dynamic effects. An alternative method is data-driven parameter estimation, but significant noise in measured and inferred variables affects it adversely. Moreover, standard estimation procedures may give physically inconsistent results due to unmodeled nonlinearities or insufficiently rich data. This paper addresses these problems, proposing a Bayesian system identification technique for linear or piecewise linear systems. Inspired by Factor Analysis regression, we develop a computationally efficient variational Bayesian regression algorithm that is robust to ill-conditioned data, automatically detects relevant features, and identifies input and output noise. We evaluate our approach on rigid body parameter estimation for various robotic systems, achieving an error of up to three times lower than other state-of-the-art machine learning methods

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link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Learning variable impedance control

Buchli, J., Stulp, F., Theodorou, E., Schaal, S.

International Journal of Robotics Research, 2011, clmc (article)

Abstract
One of the hallmarks of the performance, versatility, and robustness of biological motor control is the ability to adapt the impedance of the overall biomechanical system to different task requirements and stochastic disturbances. A transfer of this principle to robotics is desirable, for instance to enable robots to work robustly and safely in everyday human environments. It is, however, not trivial to derive variable impedance controllers for practical high degree-of-freedom (DOF) robotic tasks. In this contribution, we accomplish such variable impedance control with the reinforcement learning (RL) algorithm PISq ({f P}olicy {f I}mprovement with {f P}ath {f I}ntegrals). PISq is a model-free, sampling based learning method derived from first principles of stochastic optimal control. The PISq algorithm requires no tuning of algorithmic parameters besides the exploration noise. The designer can thus fully focus on cost function design to specify the task. From the viewpoint of robotics, a particular useful property of PISq is that it can scale to problems of many DOFs, so that reinforcement learning on real robotic systems becomes feasible. We sketch the PISq algorithm and its theoretical properties, and how it is applied to gain scheduling for variable impedance control. We evaluate our approach by presenting results on several simulated and real robots. We consider tasks involving accurate tracking through via-points, and manipulation tasks requiring physical contact with the environment. In these tasks, the optimal strategy requires both tuning of a reference trajectory emph{and} the impedance of the end-effector. The results show that we can use path integral based reinforcement learning not only for planning but also to derive variable gain feedback controllers in realistic scenarios. Thus, the power of variable impedance control is made available to a wide variety of robotic systems and practical applications.

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link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Iterative path integral stochastic optimal control: Theory and applications to motor control

Theodorou, E. A.

University of Southern California, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA, 2011 (phdthesis)

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PDF [BibTex]

PDF [BibTex]


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Learning of grasp selection based on shape-templates

Herzog, A.

Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, 2011 (mastersthesis)

am

[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Weak value amplified optical activity measurements

Pfeifer, M., Fischer, P.

Opt. Express, 19(17):16508-16517, OSA, 2011 (article)

Abstract
We present a new form of optical activity measurement based on a modified weak value amplification scheme. It has recently been shown experimentally that the left- and right-circular polarization components refract with slightly different angles of refraction at a chiral interface causing a linearly polarized light beam to split into two. By introducing a polarization modulation that does not give rise to a change in the optical rotation it is possible to differentiate between the two circular polarization components even after post-selection with a linear polarizer. We show that such a modified weak value amplification measurement permits the sign of the splitting and thus the handedness of the optically active medium to be determined. Angular beam separations of Δθ ∼ 1 nanoradian, which corresponds to a circular birefringence of Δn ∼ 1 × 10−9, could be measured with a relative error of less than 1%.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Understanding haptics by evolving mechatronic systems

Loeb, G. E., Tsianos, G.A., Fishel, J.A., Wettels, N., Schaal, S.

Progress in Brain Research, 192, pages: 129, 2011 (article)

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[BibTex]

[BibTex]