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2019


Thumb xl cell patterning with acoustic hologram
Acoustic Holographic Cell Patterning in a Biocompatible Hydrogel

Ma, Z., Holle, A., Melde, K., Qiu, T., Poeppel, K., Kadiri, V., Fischer, P.

Adv. Mat., October 2019 (article)

Abstract
Acoustophoresis is promising as a rapid, biocompatible, non-contact cell manipulation method, where cells are arranged along the nodes or antinodes of the acoustic field. Typically, the acoustic field is formed in a resonator, which results in highly symmetric regular patterns. However, arbitrary, non-symmetrically shaped cell assemblies are necessary to obtain the irregular cellular arrangements found in biological tissues. We show that arbitrarily shaped cell patterns can be obtained from the complex acoustic field distribution defined by an acoustic hologram. Attenuation of the sound field induces localized acoustic streaming and the resultant convection flow gently delivers the suspended cells to the image plane where they form the designed pattern. We show that the process can be implemented in a biocompatible collagen solution, which can then undergo gelation to immobilize the cell pattern inside the viscoelastic matrix. The patterned cells exhibit F-actin-based protrusions, which indicates that the cells grow and thrive within the matrix. Cell viability assays and brightfield imaging after one week confirm cell survival and that the patterns persist. Acoustophoretic cell manipulation by holographic fields thus holds promise for non-contact, long-range, long-term cellular pattern formation, with a wide variety of potential applications in tissue engineering and mechanobiology.

pf

[BibTex]


Thumb xl phantom surgery
A High-Fidelity Phantom for the Simulation and Quantitative Evaluation of Transurethral Resection of the Prostate

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

Annals of Biomed. Eng., October 2019 (article)

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

pf

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


Thumb xl vision
Interactive Materials – Drivers of Future Robotic Systems

Fischer, P.

Adv. Mat., October 2019 (article)

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

pf

[BibTex]


Thumb xl plasmonic dimers
Arrays of plasmonic nanoparticle dimers with defined nanogap spacers

Jeong, H., Adams, M. C., Guenther, J., Alarcon-Correa, M., Kim, I., Choi, E., Miksch, C., Mark, A. F. M., Mark, A. G., Fischer, P.

ACS Nano, September 2019 (article)

Abstract
Plasmonic molecules are building blocks of metallic nanostructures that give rise to intriguing optical phenomena with similarities to those seen in molecular systems. The ability to design plasmonic hybrid structures and molecules with nanometric resolution would enable applications in optical metamaterials and sensing that presently cannot be demonstrated, because of a lack of suitable fabrication methods allowing the structural control of the plasmonic atoms on a large scale. Here we demonstrate a wafer-scale “lithography-free” parallel fabrication scheme to realize nanogap plasmonic meta-molecules with precise control over their size, shape, material, and orientation. We demonstrate how we can tune the corresponding coupled resonances through the entire visible spectrum. Our fabrication method, based on glancing angle physical vapor deposition with gradient shadowing, permits critical parameters to be varied across the wafer and thus is ideally suited to screen potential structures. We obtain billions of aligned dimer structures with controlled variation of the spectral properties across the wafer. We spectroscopically map the plasmonic resonances of gold dimer structures and show that they not only are in good agreement with numerically modeled spectra, but also remain functional, at least for a year, in ambient conditions.

pf

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


Thumb xl enzyme nanonets toc
Genetically modified M13 bacteriophage nanonets for enzyme catalysis and recovery

Kadiri, V. M., Alarcon-Correa, M., Guenther, J. P., Ruppert, J., Bill, J., Rothenstein, D., Fischer, P.

Catalysts, 9, pages: 723, August 2019 (article)

Abstract
Enzyme-based biocatalysis exhibits multiple advantages over inorganic catalysts, including the biocompatibility and the unchallenged specificity of enzymes towards their substrate. The recovery and repeated use of enzymes is essential for any realistic application in biotechnology, but is not easily achieved with current strategies. For this purpose, enzymes are often immobilized on inorganic scaffolds, which could entail a reduction of the enzymes’ activity. Here, we show that immobilization to a nano-scaled biological scaffold, a nanonetwork of end-to-end cross-linked M13 bacteriophages, ensures high enzymatic activity and at the same time allows for the simple recovery of the enzymes. The bacteriophages have been genetically engineered to express AviTags at their ends, which permit biotinylation and their specific end-to-end self-assembly while allowing space on the major coat protein for enzyme coupling. We demonstrate that the phages form nanonetwork structures and that these so-called nanonets remain highly active even after re-using the nanonets multiple times in a flow-through reactor.

pf

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


Thumb xl special issue adv opt mat
Light-controlled micromotors and soft microrobots

Palagi, S., Singh, D. P., Fischer, P.

Adv. Opt. Mat., 7, pages: 1900370, August 2019 (article)

Abstract
Mobile microscale devices and microrobots can be powered by catalytic reactions (chemical micromotors) or by external fields. This report is focused on the role of light as a versatile means for wirelessly powering and controlling such microdevices. Recent advances in the development of autonomous micromotors are discussed, where light permits their actuation with unprecedented control and thereby enables advances in the field of active matter. In addition, structuring the light field is a new means to drive soft microrobots that are based on (photo‐) responsive polymers. The behavior of the two main classes of thermo‐ and photoresponsive polymers adopted in microrobotics (poly(N‐isopropylacrylamide) and liquid‐crystal elastomers) is analyzed, and recent applications are reported. The advantages and limitations of controlling micromotors and microrobots by light are reviewed, and some of the remaining challenges in the development of novel photo‐active materials for micromotors and microrobots are discussed.

pf

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


Thumb xl marss 42 palagi
Soft Continuous Surface for Micromanipulation driven by Light-controlled Hydrogels

Choi, E., Jeong, H., Qiu, T., Fischer, P., Palagi, S.

4th IEEE International Conference on Manipulation, Automation and Robotics at Small Scales (MARSS), July 2019 (conference)

Abstract
Remotely controlled, automated actuation and manipulation at the microscale is essential for a number of micro-manufacturing, biology, and lab-on-a-chip applications. To transport and manipulate micro-objects, arrays of remotely controlled micro-actuators are required, which, in turn, typically require complex and expensive solid-state chips. Here, we show that a continuous surface can function as a highly parallel, many-degree of freedom, wirelessly-controlled microactuator with seamless deformation. The soft continuous surface is based on a hydrogel that undergoes a volume change in response to applied light. The fabrication of the hydrogels and the characterization of their optical and thermomechanical behaviors are reported. The temperature-dependent localized deformation of the hydrogel is also investigated by numerical simulations. Static and dynamic deformations are obtained in the soft material by projecting light fields at high spatial resolution onto the surface. By controlling such deformations in open loop and especially closed loop, automated photoactuation is achieved. The surface deformations are then exploited to examine how inert microbeads can be manipulated autonomously on the surface. We believe that the proposed approach suggests ways to implement universal 2D micromanipulation schemes that can be useful for automation in microfabrication and lab-on-a-chip applications.

pf

[BibTex]

[BibTex]


Thumb xl kindney phantom
Soft Phantom for the Training of Renal Calculi Diagnostics and Lithotripsy

Li., D., Suarez-Ibarrola, R., Choi, E., Jeong, M., Gratzke, C., Miernik, A., Fischer, P., Qiu, T.

41st Annual International Conference of the IEEE Engineering in Medicine & Biology Society (EMBC), July 2019 (conference)

Abstract
Organ models are important for medical training and surgical planning. With the fast development of additive fabrication technologies, including 3D printing, the fabrication of 3D organ phantoms with precise anatomical features becomes possible. Here, we develop the first high-resolution kidney phantom based on soft material assembly, by combining 3D printing and polymer molding techniques. The phantom exhibits both the detailed anatomy of a human kidney and the elasticity of soft tissues. The phantom assembly can be separated into two parts on the coronal plane, thus large renal calculi are readily placed at any desired location of the calyx. With our sealing method, the assembled phantom withstands a hydraulic pressure that is four times the normal intrarenal pressure, thus it allows the simulation of medical procedures under realistic pressure conditions. The medical diagnostics of the renal calculi is performed by multiple imaging modalities, including X-ray, ultrasound imaging and endoscopy. The endoscopic lithotripsy is also successfully performed on the phantom. The use of a multifunctional soft phantom assembly thus shows great promise for the simulation of minimally invasive medical procedures under realistic conditions.

pf

[BibTex]

[BibTex]


Thumb xl marss qiu
A Magnetic Actuation System for the Active Microrheology in Soft Biomaterials

Jeong, M., Choi, E., Li., D., Palagi, S., Fischer, P., Qiu, T.

4th IEEE International Conference on Manipulation, Automation and Robotics at Small Scales (MARSS), July 2019 (conference)

Abstract
Microrheology is a key technique to characterize soft materials at small scales. The microprobe is wirelessly actuated and therefore typically only low forces or torques can be applied, which limits the range of the applied strain. Here, we report a new magnetic actuation system for microrheology consisting of an array of rotating permanent magnets, which achieves a rotating magnetic field with a spatially homogeneous high field strength of ~100 mT in a working volume of ~20×20×20 mm3. Compared to a traditional electromagnetic coil system, the permanent magnet assembly is portable and does not require cooling, and it exerts a large magnetic torque on the microprobe that is an order of magnitude higher than previous setups. Experimental results demonstrate that the measurement range of the soft gels’ elasticity covers at least five orders of magnitude. With the large actuation torque, it is also possible to study the fracture mechanics of soft biomaterials at small scales.

pf

[BibTex]

[BibTex]


Thumb xl learning tactile servoing thumbnail
Learning Latent Space Dynamics for Tactile Servoing

Sutanto, G., Ratliff, N., Sundaralingam, B., Chebotar, Y., Su, Z., Handa, A., Fox, D.

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

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pdf video [BibTex]

pdf video [BibTex]


Thumb xl m13 bacteriophages
Self-Assembled Phage-Based Colloids for High Localized Enzymatic Activity

Alarcon-Correa, M., Guenther, J., Troll, J., Kadiri, V. M., Bill, J., Fischer, P., Rothenstein, D.

ACS Nano, March 2019 (article)

Abstract
Catalytically active colloids are model systems for chemical motors and active matter. It is desirable to replace the inorganic catalysts and the toxic fuels that are often used, with biocompatible enzymatic reactions. However, compared to inorganic catalysts, enzyme-coated colloids tend to exhibit less activity. Here, we show that the self-assembly of genetically engineered M13 bacteriophages that bind enzymes to magnetic beads ensures high and localized enzymatic activity. These phage-decorated colloids provide a proteinaceous environment for directed enzyme immobilization. The magnetic properties of the colloidal carrier particle permit repeated enzyme recovery from a reaction solution, while the enzymatic activity is retained. Moreover, localizing the phage-based construct with a magnetic field in a microcontainer allows the enzyme-phage-colloids to function as an enzymatic micropump, where the enzymatic reaction generates a fluid flow. This system shows the fastest fluid flow reported to date by a biocompatible enzymatic micropump. In addition, it is functional in complex media including blood where the enzyme driven micropump can be powered at the physiological blood-urea concentration.

pf

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


Thumb xl jcp pfg nmr
Absolute diffusion measurements of active enzyme solutions by NMR

Guenther, J., Majer, G., Fischer, P.

J. Chem. Phys., 150(124201), March 2019 (article)

Abstract
The diffusion of enzymes is of fundamental importance for many biochemical processes. Enhanced or directed enzyme diffusion can alter the accessibility of substrates and the organization of enzymes within cells. Several studies based on fluorescence correlation spectroscopy (FCS) report enhanced diffusion of enzymes upon interaction with their substrate or inhibitor. In this context, major importance is given to the enzyme fructose-bisphosphate aldolase, for which enhanced diffusion has been reported even though the catalysed reaction is endothermic. Additionally, enhanced diffusion of tracer particles surrounding the active aldolase enzymes has been reported. These studies suggest that active enzymes can act as chemical motors that self-propel and give rise to enhanced diffusion. However, fluorescence studies of enzymes can, despite several advantages, suffer from artefacts. Here we show that the absolute diffusion coefficients of active enzyme solutions can be determined with Pulsed Field Gradient Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (PFG-NMR). The advantage of PFG-NMR is that the motion of the molecule of interest is directly observed in its native state without the need for any labelling. Further, PFG-NMR is model-free and thus yields absolute diffusion constants. Our PFG-NMR experiments of solutions containing active fructose-bisphosphate aldolase from rabbit muscle do not show any diffusion enhancement for the active enzymes nor the surrounding molecules. Additionally, we do not observe any diffusion enhancement of aldolase in the presence of its inhibitor pyrophosphate.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]


Thumb xl activeoptorheologicalmedium
Chemical Nanomotors at the Gram Scale Form a Dense Active Optorheological Medium

Choudhury, U., Singh, D. P., Qiu, T., Fischer, P.

Adv. Mat., (1807382), Febuary 2019 (article)

Abstract
The rheological properties of a colloidal suspension are a function of the concentration of the colloids and their interactions. While suspensions of passive colloids are well studied and have been shown to form crystals, gels, and glasses, examples of energy‐consuming “active” colloidal suspensions are still largely unexplored. Active suspensions of biological matter, such as motile bacteria or dense mixtures of active actin–motor–protein mixtures have, respectively, reveals superfluid‐like and gel‐like states. Attractive inanimate systems for active matter are chemically self‐propelled particles. It has so far been challenging to use these swimming particles at high enough densities to affect the bulk material properties of the suspension. Here, it is shown that light‐triggered asymmetric titanium dioxide that self‐propel, can be obtained in large quantities, and self‐organize to make a gram‐scale active medium. The suspension shows an activity‐dependent tenfold reversible change in its bulk viscosity.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]


Thumb xl hyperrayleigh
First Observation of Optical Activity in Hyper-Rayleigh Scattering

Collins, J., Rusimova, K., Hooper, D., Jeong, H. H., Ohnoutek, L., Pradaux-Caggiano, F., Verbiest, T., Carbery, D., Fischer, P., Valev, V.

Phys. Rev. X, 9(011024), January 2019 (article)

Abstract
Chiral nano- or metamaterials and surfaces enable striking photonic properties, such as negative refractive index and superchiral light, driving promising applications in novel optical components, nanorobotics, and enhanced chiral molecular interactions with light. In characterizing chirality, although nonlinear chiroptical techniques are typically much more sensitive than their linear optical counterparts, separating true chirality from anisotropy is a major challenge. Here, we report the first observation of optical activity in second-harmonic hyper-Rayleigh scattering (HRS). We demonstrate the effect in a 3D isotropic suspension of Ag nanohelices in water. The effect is 5 orders of magnitude stronger than linear optical activity and is well pronounced above the multiphoton luminescence background. Because of its sensitivity, isotropic environment, and straightforward experimental geometry, HRS optical activity constitutes a fundamental experimental breakthrough in chiral photonics for media including nanomaterials, metamaterials, and chemical molecules.

pf

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


Thumb xl screenshot from 2019 03 21 12 11 19
Automated Generation of Reactive Programs from Human Demonstration for Orchestration of Robot Behaviors

Berenz, V., Bjelic, A., Mainprice, J.

ArXiv, 2019 (article)

Abstract
Social robots or collaborative robots that have to interact with people in a reactive way are difficult to program. This difficulty stems from the different skills required by the programmer: to provide an engaging user experience the behavior must include a sense of aesthetics while robustly operating in a continuously changing environment. The Playful framework allows composing such dynamic behaviors using a basic set of action and perception primitives. Within this framework, a behavior is encoded as a list of declarative statements corresponding to high-level sensory-motor couplings. To facilitate non-expert users to program such behaviors, we propose a Learning from Demonstration (LfD) technique that maps motion capture of humans directly to a Playful script. The approach proceeds by identifying the sensory-motor couplings that are active at each step using the Viterbi path in a Hidden Markov Model (HMM). Given these activation patterns, binary classifiers called evaluations are trained to associate activations to sensory data. Modularity is increased by clustering the sensory-motor couplings, leading to a hierarchical tree structure. The novelty of the proposed approach is that the learned behavior is encoded not in terms of trajectories in a task space, but as couplings between sensory information and high-level motor actions. This provides advantages in terms of behavioral generalization and reactivity displayed by the robot.

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Support Video link (url) [BibTex]

2010


no image
Reinforcement learning of full-body humanoid motor skills

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

In Humanoid Robots (Humanoids), 2010 10th IEEE-RAS International Conference on, pages: 405-410, December 2010, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
Applying reinforcement learning to humanoid robots is challenging because humanoids have a large number of degrees of freedom and state and action spaces are continuous. Thus, most reinforcement learning algorithms would become computationally infeasible and require a prohibitive amount of trials to explore such high-dimensional spaces. In this paper, we present a probabilistic reinforcement learning approach, which is derived from the framework of stochastic optimal control and path integrals. The algorithm, called Policy Improvement with Path Integrals (PI2), has a surprisingly simple form, has no open tuning parameters besides the exploration noise, is model-free, and performs numerically robustly in high dimensional learning problems. We demonstrate how PI2 is able to learn full-body motor skills on a 34-DOF humanoid robot. To demonstrate the generality of our approach, we also apply PI2 in the context of variable impedance control, where both planned trajectories and gain schedules for each joint are optimized simultaneously.

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link (url) [BibTex]

2010


link (url) [BibTex]


Thumb xl toc image patent
Magnetic Nanostructured Propellers

Fischer, P., Ghosh, A.

July 2010 (patent)

pf

[BibTex]

[BibTex]


no image
Relative Entropy Policy Search

Peters, J., Mülling, K., Altun, Y.

In Proceedings of the Twenty-Fourth National Conference on Artificial Intelligence, pages: 1607-1612, (Editors: Fox, M. , D. Poole), AAAI Press, Menlo Park, CA, USA, Twenty-Fourth National Conference on Artificial Intelligence (AAAI-10), July 2010 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Policy search is a successful approach to reinforcement learning. However, policy improvements often result in the loss of information. Hence, it has been marred by premature convergence and implausible solutions. As first suggested in the context of covariant policy gradients (Bagnell and Schneider 2003), many of these problems may be addressed by constraining the information loss. In this paper, we continue this path of reasoning and suggest the Relative Entropy Policy Search (REPS) method. The resulting method differs significantly from previous policy gradient approaches and yields an exact update step. It works well on typical reinforcement learning benchmark problems.

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PDF Web [BibTex]

PDF Web [BibTex]


no image
Reinforcement learning of motor skills in high dimensions: A path integral approach

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

In Robotics and Automation (ICRA), 2010 IEEE International Conference on, pages: 2397-2403, May 2010, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
Reinforcement learning (RL) is one of the most general approaches to learning control. Its applicability to complex motor systems, however, has been largely impossible so far due to the computational difficulties that reinforcement learning encounters in high dimensional continuous state-action spaces. In this paper, we derive a novel approach to RL for parameterized control policies based on the framework of stochastic optimal control with path integrals. While solidly grounded in optimal control theory and estimation theory, the update equations for learning are surprisingly simple and have no danger of numerical instabilities as neither matrix inversions nor gradient learning rates are required. Empirical evaluations demonstrate significant performance improvements over gradient-based policy learning and scalability to high-dimensional control problems. Finally, a learning experiment on a robot dog illustrates the functionality of our algorithm in a real-world scenario. We believe that our new algorithm, Policy Improvement with Path Integrals (PI2), offers currently one of the most efficient, numerically robust, and easy to implement algorithms for RL in robotics.

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link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


no image
Inverse dynamics control of floating base systems using orthogonal decomposition

Mistry, M., Buchli, J., Schaal, S.

In Robotics and Automation (ICRA), 2010 IEEE International Conference on, pages: 3406-3412, May 2010, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
Model-based control methods can be used to enable fast, dexterous, and compliant motion of robots without sacrificing control accuracy. However, implementing such techniques on floating base robots, e.g., humanoids and legged systems, is non-trivial due to under-actuation, dynamically changing constraints from the environment, and potentially closed loop kinematics. In this paper, we show how to compute the analytically correct inverse dynamics torques for model-based control of sufficiently constrained floating base rigid-body systems, such as humanoid robots with one or two feet in contact with the environment. While our previous inverse dynamics approach relied on an estimation of contact forces to compute an approximate inverse dynamics solution, here we present an analytically correct solution by using an orthogonal decomposition to project the robot dynamics onto a reduced dimensional space, independent of contact forces. We demonstrate the feasibility and robustness of our approach on a simulated floating base bipedal humanoid robot and an actual robot dog locomoting over rough terrain.

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link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


no image
Fast, robust quadruped locomotion over challenging terrain

Kalakrishnan, M., Buchli, J., Pastor, P., Mistry, M., Schaal, S.

In Robotics and Automation (ICRA), 2010 IEEE International Conference on, pages: 2665-2670, May 2010, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
We present a control architecture for fast quadruped locomotion over rough terrain. We approach the problem by decomposing it into many sub-systems, in which we apply state-of-the-art learning, planning, optimization and control techniques to achieve robust, fast locomotion. Unique features of our control strategy include: (1) a system that learns optimal foothold choices from expert demonstration using terrain templates, (2) a body trajectory optimizer based on the Zero-Moment Point (ZMP) stability criterion, and (3) a floating-base inverse dynamics controller that, in conjunction with force control, allows for robust, compliant locomotion over unperceived obstacles. We evaluate the performance of our controller by testing it on the LittleDog quadruped robot, over a wide variety of rough terrain of varying difficulty levels. We demonstrate the generalization ability of this controller by presenting test results from an independent external test team on terrains that have never been shown to us.

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link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


no image
Policy learning algorithmis for motor learning (Algorithmen zum automatischen Erlernen von Motorfähigkigkeiten)

Peters, J., Kober, J., Schaal, S.

Automatisierungstechnik, 58(12):688-694, 2010, clmc (article)

Abstract
Robot learning methods which allow au- tonomous robots to adapt to novel situations have been a long standing vision of robotics, artificial intelligence, and cognitive sciences. However, to date, learning techniques have yet to ful- fill this promise as only few methods manage to scale into the high-dimensional domains of manipulator robotics, or even the new upcoming trend of humanoid robotics. If possible, scaling was usually only achieved in precisely pre-structured domains. In this paper, we investigate the ingredients for a general ap- proach policy learning with the goal of an application to motor skill refinement in order to get one step closer towards human- like performance. For doing so, we study two major components for such an approach, i. e., firstly, we study policy learning algo- rithms which can be applied in the general setting of motor skill learning, and, secondly, we study a theoretically well-founded general approach to representing the required control structu- res for task representation and execution.

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link (url) [BibTex]


Thumb xl toc image
Molecular QED of coherent and incoherent sum-frequency and second-harmonic generation in chiral liquids in the presence of a static electric field

Fischer, P., Salam, A.

MOLECULAR PHYSICS, 108(14):1857-1868, 2010 (article)

Abstract
Coherent second-order nonlinear optical processes are symmetry forbidden in centrosymmetric environments in the electric-dipole approximation. In liquids that contain chiral molecules, however, and which therefore lack mirror image symmetry, coherent sum-frequency generation is possible, whereas second-harmonic generation remains forbidden. Here we apply the theory of molecular quantum electrodynamics to the calculation of the matrix element, transition rate, and integrated signal intensity for sum-frequency and second-harmonic generation taking place in a chiral liquid in the presence and absence of a static electric field, to examine which coherent and incoherent processes exist in the electric-dipole approximation in liquids. Third- and fourth-order time-dependent perturbation theory is employed in combination with single-sided Feynman diagrams to evaluate two contributions arising from static field-free and field-induced processes. It is found that, in addition to the coherent term, an incoherent process exists for sum-frequency generation in liquids. Surprisingly, in the case of dc-field-induced second-harmonic generation, the incoherent contribution is found to always vanish for isotropic chiral liquids even though hyper-Rayleigh second-harmonic generation and electric-field-induced second-harmonic generation are both independently symmetry allowed in any liquid.

pf

DOI [BibTex]


no image
A Bayesian approach to nonlinear parameter identification for rigid-body dynamics

Ting, J., DSouza, A., Schaal, S.

Neural Networks, 2010, 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]


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A first optimal control solution for a complex, nonlinear, tendon driven neuromuscular finger model

Theodorou, E. A., Todorov, E., Valero-Cuevas, F.

Proceedings of the ASME 2010 Summer Bioengineering Conference August 30-September 2, 2010, Naples, Florida, USA, 2010, clmc (article)

Abstract
In this work we present the first constrained stochastic op- timal feedback controller applied to a fully nonlinear, tendon driven index finger model. Our model also takes into account an extensor mechanism, and muscle force-length and force-velocity properties. We show this feedback controller is robust to noise and perturbations to the dynamics, while successfully handling the nonlinearities and high dimensionality of the system. By ex- tending prior methods, we are able to approximate physiological realism by ensuring positivity of neural commands and tendon tensions at all timesthus can, for the first time, use the optimal control framework to predict biologically plausible tendon tensions for a nonlinear neuromuscular finger model. METHODS 1 Muscle Model The rigid-body triple pendulum finger model with slightly viscous joints is actuated by Hill-type muscle models. Joint torques are generated by the seven muscles of the index fin-

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PDF [BibTex]

PDF [BibTex]


no image
Locally weighted regression for control

Ting, J., Vijayakumar, S., Schaal, S.

In Encyclopedia of Machine Learning, pages: 613-624, (Editors: Sammut, C.;Webb, G. I.), Springer, 2010, clmc (inbook)

Abstract
This is article addresses two topics: learning control and locally weighted regression.

am

link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Are reaching movements planned in kinematic or dynamic coordinates?

Ellmer, A., Schaal, S.

In Abstracts of Neural Control of Movement Conference (NCM 2010), Naples, Florida, 2010, 2010, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
Whether human reaching movements are planned and optimized in kinematic (task space) or dynamic (joint or muscle space) coordinates is still an issue of debate. The first hypothesis implies that a planner produces a desired end-effector position at each point in time during the reaching movement, whereas the latter hypothesis includes the dynamics of the muscular-skeletal control system to produce a continuous end-effector trajectory. Previous work by Wolpert et al (1995) showed that when subjects were led to believe that their straight reaching paths corresponded to curved paths as shown on a computer screen, participants adapted the true path of their hand such that they would visually perceive a straight line in visual space, despite that they actually produced a curved path. These results were interpreted as supporting the stance that reaching trajectories are planned in kinematic coordinates. However, this experiment could only demonstrate that adaptation to altered paths, i.e. the position of the end-effector, did occur, but not that the precise timing of end-effector position was equally planned, i.e., the trajectory. Our current experiment aims at filling this gap by explicitly testing whether position over time, i.e. velocity, is a property of reaching movements that is planned in kinematic coordinates. In the current experiment, the velocity profiles of cursor movements corresponding to the participant's hand motions were skewed either to the left or to the right; the path itself was left unaltered. We developed an adaptation paradigm, where the skew of the velocity profile was introduced gradually and participants reported no awareness of any manipulation. Preliminary results indicate that the true hand motion of participants did not alter, i.e. there was no adaptation so as to counterbalance the introduced skew. However, for some participants, peak hand velocities were lowered for higher skews, which suggests that participants interpreted the manipulation as mere noise due to variance in their own movement. In summary, for a visuomotor transformation task, the hypothesis of a planned continuous end-effector trajectory predicts adaptation to a modified velocity profile. The current experiment found no systematic adaptation under such transformation, but did demonstrate an effect that is more in accordance that subjects could not perceive the manipulation and rather interpreted as an increase of noise.

am

[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Optimality in Neuromuscular Systems

Theodorou, E. A., Valero-Cuevas, F.

In 32nd Annual International Conference of the IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society, 2010, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
Abstract? We provide an overview of optimal control meth- ods to nonlinear neuromuscular systems and discuss their lim- itations. Moreover we extend current optimal control methods to their application to neuromuscular models with realistically numerous musculotendons; as most prior work is limited to torque-driven systems. Recent work on computational motor control has explored the used of control theory and esti- mation as a conceptual tool to understand the underlying computational principles of neuromuscular systems. After all, successful biological systems regularly meet conditions for stability, robustness and performance for multiple classes of complex tasks. Among a variety of proposed control theory frameworks to explain this, stochastic optimal control has become a dominant framework to the point of being a standard computational technique to reproduce kinematic trajectories of reaching movements (see [12]) In particular, we demonstrate the application of optimal control to a neuromuscular model of the index finger with all seven musculotendons producing a tapping task. Our simu- lations include 1) a muscle model that includes force- length and force-velocity characteristics; 2) an anatomically plausible biomechanical model of the index finger that includes a tendi- nous network for the extensor mechanism and 3) a contact model that is based on a nonlinear spring-damper attached at the end effector of the index finger. We demonstrate that it is feasible to apply optimal control to systems with realistically large state vectors and conclude that, while optimal control is an adequate formalism to create computational models of neuro- musculoskeletal systems, there remain important challenges and limitations that need to be considered and overcome such as contact transitions, curse of dimensionality, and constraints on states and controls.

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PDF [BibTex]

PDF [BibTex]


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Efficient learning and feature detection in high dimensional regression

Ting, J., D’Souza, A., Vijayakumar, S., Schaal, S.

Neural Computation, 22, pages: 831-886, 2010, clmc (article)

Abstract
We present a novel algorithm for efficient learning and feature selection in high- dimensional regression problems. We arrive at this model through a modification of the standard regression model, enabling us to derive a probabilistic version of the well-known statistical regression technique of backfitting. Using the Expectation- Maximization algorithm, along with variational approximation methods to overcome intractability, we extend our algorithm to include automatic relevance detection of the input features. This Variational Bayesian Least Squares (VBLS) approach retains its simplicity as a linear model, but offers a novel statistically robust â??black- boxâ? approach to generalized linear regression with high-dimensional inputs. It can be easily extended to nonlinear regression and classification problems. In particular, we derive the framework of sparse Bayesian learning, e.g., the Relevance Vector Machine, with VBLS at its core, offering significant computational and robustness advantages for this class of methods. We evaluate our algorithm on synthetic and neurophysiological data sets, as well as on standard regression and classification benchmark data sets, comparing it with other competitive statistical approaches and demonstrating its suitability as a drop-in replacement for other generalized linear regression techniques.

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link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Stochastic Differential Dynamic Programming

Theodorou, E., Tassa, Y., Todorov, E.

In the proceedings of American Control Conference (ACC 2010) , 2010, clmc (article)

Abstract
We present a generalization of the classic Differential Dynamic Programming algorithm. We assume the existence of state- and control-dependent process noise, and proceed to derive the second-order expansion of the cost-to-go. Despite having quartic and cubic terms in the initial expression, we show that these vanish, leaving us with the same quadratic structure as standard DDP.

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PDF [BibTex]

PDF [BibTex]


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Learning Policy Improvements with Path Integrals

Theodorou, E. A., Buchli, J., Schaal, S.

In International Conference on Artificial Intelligence and Statistics (AISTATS 2010), 2010, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
With the goal to generate more scalable algo- rithms with higher efficiency and fewer open parameters, reinforcement learning (RL) has recently moved towards combining classi- cal techniques from optimal control and dy- namic programming with modern learning techniques from statistical estimation the- ory. In this vein, this paper suggests the framework of stochastic optimal control with path integrals to derive a novel approach to RL with parametrized policies. While solidly grounded in value function estimation and optimal control based on the stochastic Hamilton-Jacobi-Bellman (HJB) equations, policy improvements can be transformed into an approximation problem of a path inte- gral which has no open parameters other than the exploration noise. The resulting algorithm can be conceived of as model- based, semi-model-based, or even model free, depending on how the learning problem is structured. Our new algorithm demon- strates interesting similarities with previous RL research in the framework of proba- bility matching and provides intuition why the slightly heuristically motivated proba- bility matching approach can actually per- form well. Empirical evaluations demon- strate significant performance improvements over gradient-based policy learning and scal- ability to high-dimensional control problems. We believe that Policy Improvement with Path Integrals (PI2) offers currently one of the most efficient, numerically robust, and easy to implement algorithms for RL based on trajectory roll-outs.

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PDF [BibTex]

PDF [BibTex]


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Learning optimal control solutions: a path integral approach

Theodorou, E., Schaal, S.

In Abstracts of Neural Control of Movement Conference (NCM 2010), Naples, Florida, 2010, 2010, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
Investigating principles of human motor control in the framework of optimal control has had a long tradition in neural control of movement, and has recently experienced a new surge of investigations. Ideally, optimal control problems are addresses as a reinforcement learning (RL) problem, which would allow to investigate both the process of acquiring an optimal control solution as well as the solution itself. Unfortunately, the applicability of RL to complex neural and biomechanics systems has been largely impossible so far due to the computational difficulties that arise in high dimensional continuous state-action spaces. As a way out, research has focussed on computing optimal control solutions based on iterative optimal control methods that are based on linear and quadratic approximations of dynamical models and cost functions. These methods require perfect knowledge of the dynamics and cost functions while they are based on gradient and Newton optimization schemes. Their applicability is also restricted to low dimensional problems due to problematic convergence in high dimensions. Moreover, the process of computing the optimal solution is removed from the learning process that might be plausible in biology. In this work, we present a new reinforcement learning method for learning optimal control solutions or motor control. This method, based on the framework of stochastic optimal control with path integrals, has a very solid theoretical foundation, while resulting in surprisingly simple learning algorithms. It is also possible to apply this approach without knowledge of the system model, and to use a wide variety of complex nonlinear cost functions for optimization. We illustrate the theoretical properties of this approach and its applicability to learning motor control tasks for reaching movements and locomotion studies. We discuss its applicability to learning desired trajectories, variable stiffness control (co-contraction), and parameterized control policies. We also investigate the applicability to signal dependent noise control systems. We believe that the suggested method offers one of the easiest to use approaches to learning optimal control suggested in the literature so far, which makes it ideally suited for computational investigations of biological motor control.

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[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Learning control in robotics – trajectory-based opitimal control techniques

Schaal, S., Atkeson, C. G.

Robotics and Automation Magazine, 17(2):20-29, 2010, clmc (article)

Abstract
In a not too distant future, robots will be a natural part of daily life in human society, providing assistance in many areas ranging from clinical applications, education and care giving, to normal household environments [1]. It is hard to imagine that all possible tasks can be preprogrammed in such robots. Robots need to be able to learn, either by themselves or with the help of human supervision. Additionally, wear and tear on robots in daily use needs to be automatically compensated for, which requires a form of continuous self-calibration, another form of learning. Finally, robots need to react to stochastic and dynamic environments, i.e., they need to learn how to optimally adapt to uncertainty and unforeseen changes. Robot learning is going to be a key ingredient for the future of autonomous robots. While robot learning covers a rather large field, from learning to perceive, to plan, to make decisions, etc., we will focus this review on topics of learning control, in particular, as it is concerned with learning control in simulated or actual physical robots. In general, learning control refers to the process of acquiring a control strategy for a particular control system and a particular task by trial and error. Learning control is usually distinguished from adaptive control [2] in that the learning system can have rather general optimization objectivesâ??not just, e.g., minimal tracking errorâ??and is permitted to fail during the process of learning, while adaptive control emphasizes fast convergence without failure. Thus, learning control resembles the way that humans and animals acquire new movement strategies, while adaptive control is a special case of learning control that fulfills stringent performance constraints, e.g., as needed in life-critical systems like airplanes. Learning control has been an active topic of research for at least three decades. However, given the lack of working robots that actually use learning components, more work needs to be done before robot learning will make it beyond the laboratory environment. This article will survey some ongoing and past activities in robot learning to assess where the field stands and where it is going. We will largely focus on nonwheeled robots and less on topics of state estimation, as typically explored in wheeled robots [3]â??6], and we emphasize learning in continuous state-action spaces rather than discrete state-action spaces [7], [8]. We will illustrate the different topics of robot learning with examples from our own research with anthropomorphic and humanoid robots.

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link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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

Kalakrishnan, M., Buchli, J., Pastor, P., Mistry, M., Schaal, S.

International Journal of Robotics Research, 30(2):236-258, 2010, clmc (article)

Abstract
We present a control architecture for fast quadruped locomotion over rough terrain. We approach the problem by decomposing it into many sub-systems, in which we apply state-of-the-art learning, planning, optimization, and control techniques to achieve robust, fast locomotion. Unique features of our control strategy include: (1) a system that learns optimal foothold choices from expert demonstration using terrain templates, (2) a body trajectory optimizer based on the Zero- Moment Point (ZMP) stability criterion, and (3) a floating-base inverse dynamics controller that, in conjunction with force control, allows for robust, compliant locomotion over unperceived obstacles. We evaluate the performance of our controller by testing it on the LittleDog quadruped robot, over a wide variety of rough terrains of varying difficulty levels. The terrain that the robot was tested on includes rocks, logs, steps, barriers, and gaps, with obstacle sizes up to the leg length of the robot. We demonstrate the generalization ability of this controller by presenting results from testing performed by an independent external test team on terrain that has never been shown to us.

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link (url) Project Page [BibTex]

link (url) Project Page [BibTex]


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Constrained Accelerations for Controlled Geometric Reduction: Sagittal-Plane Decoupling for Bipedal Locomotion

Gregg, R., Righetti, L., Buchli, J., Schaal, S.

In 2010 10th IEEE-RAS International Conference on Humanoid Robots, pages: 1-7, IEEE, Nashville, USA, 2010 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Energy-shaping control methods have produced strong theoretical results for asymptotically stable 3D bipedal dynamic walking in the literature. In particular, geometric controlled reduction exploits robot symmetries to control momentum conservation laws that decouple the sagittal-plane dynamics, which are easier to stabilize. However, the associated control laws require high-dimensional matrix inverses multiplied with complicated energy-shaping terms, often making these control theories difficult to apply to highly-redundant humanoid robots. This paper presents a first step towards the application of energy-shaping methods on real robots by casting controlled reduction into a framework of constrained accelerations for inverse dynamics control. By representing momentum conservation laws as constraints in acceleration space, we construct a general expression for desired joint accelerations that render the constraint surface invariant. By appropriately choosing an orthogonal projection, we show that the unconstrained (reduced) dynamics are decoupled from the constrained dynamics. Any acceleration-based controller can then be used to stabilize this planar subsystem, including passivity-based methods. The resulting control law is surprisingly simple and represents a practical way to employ control theoretic stability results in robotic platforms. Simulated walking of a 3D compass-gait biped show correspondence between the new and original controllers, and simulated motions of a 16-DOF humanoid demonstrate the applicability of this method.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Variable impedance control - a reinforcement learning approach

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

In Robotics Science and Systems (2010), Zaragoza, Spain, June 27-30, 2010, clmc (inproceedings)

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 DOF robotic tasks. In this contribution, we accomplish such gain scheduling with a reinforcement learning approach algorithm, PI2 (Policy Improvement with Path Integrals). PI2 is a model-free, sampling based learning method derived from first principles of optimal control. The PI2 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 PI2 is that it can scale to problems of many DOFs, so that RL on real robotic systems becomes feasible. We sketch the PI2 algorithm and its theoretical properties, and how it is applied to gain scheduling. We evaluate our approach by presenting results on two different simulated robotic systems, a 3-DOF Phantom Premium Robot and a 6-DOF Kuka Lightweight Robot. We investigate tasks where the optimal strategy requires both tuning of the impedance of the end-effector, and tuning of a reference trajectory. The results show that we can use path integral based RL 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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Inverse dynamics with optimal distribution of ground reaction forces for legged robot

Righetti, L., Buchli, J., Mistry, M., Schaal, S.

In Proceedings of the 13th International Conference on Climbing and Walking Robots (CLAWAR), pages: 580-587, Nagoya, Japan, sep 2010 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Contact interaction with the environment is crucial in the design of locomotion controllers for legged robots, to prevent slipping for example. Therefore, it is of great importance to be able to control the effects of the robots movements on the contact reaction forces. In this contribution, we extend a recent inverse dynamics algorithm for floating base robots to optimize the distribution of contact forces while achieving precise trajectory tracking. The resulting controller is algorithmically simple as compared to other approaches. Numerical simulations show that this result significantly increases the range of possible movements of a humanoid robot as compared to the previous inverse dynamics algorithm. We also present a simplification of the result where no inversion of the inertia matrix is needed which is particularly relevant for practical use on a real robot. Such an algorithm becomes interesting for agile locomotion of robots on difficult terrains where the contacts with the environment are critical, such as walking over rough or slippery terrain.

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]

1991


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Ways to smarter CAD-systems

Ehrlenspiel, K., Schaal, S.

In Proceedings of ICED’91Heurista, pages: 10-16, (Editors: Hubka), Edition, Schriftenreihe WDK 21. Zürich, 1991, clmc (inbook)

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[BibTex]

1991


[BibTex]