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2020


SIMULTANEOUS CALIBRATION METHOD FOR MAGNETIC LOCALIZATION AND ACTUATION SYSTEMS
SIMULTANEOUS CALIBRATION METHOD FOR MAGNETIC LOCALIZATION AND ACTUATION SYSTEMS

Sitti, M., Son, D., Dong, X.

June 2020, US Patent App. 16/696,605 (misc)

Abstract
The invention relates to a method of simultaneously calibrating magnetic actuation and sensing systems for a workspace, wherein the actuation system comprises a plurality of magnetic actuators and the sensing system comprises a plurality of magnetic sensors, wherein all the measured data is fed into a calibration model, wherein the calibration model is based on a sensor measurement model and a magnetic actuation model, and wherein a solution of the model parameters is found via a numerical solver order to calibrate both the actuation and sensing systems at the same time.

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[BibTex]


Bayesian Optimization in Robot Learning - Automatic Controller Tuning and Sample-Efficient Methods
Bayesian Optimization in Robot Learning - Automatic Controller Tuning and Sample-Efficient Methods

Marco-Valle, A.

University of Tübingen, June 2020 (thesis)

Abstract
The problem of designing controllers to regulate dynamical systems has been studied by engineers during the past millennia. Ever since, suboptimal performance lingers in many closed loops as an unavoidable side effect of manually tuning the parameters of the controllers. Nowadays, industrial settings remain skeptic about data-driven methods that allow one to automatically learn controller parameters. In the context of robotics, machine learning (ML) keeps growing its influence on increasing autonomy and adaptability, for example to aid automating controller tuning. However, data-hungry ML methods, such as standard reinforcement learning, require a large number of experimental samples, prohibitive in robotics, as hardware can deteriorate and break. This brings about the following question: Can manual controller tuning, in robotics, be automated by using data-efficient machine learning techniques? In this thesis, we tackle the question above by exploring Bayesian optimization (BO), a data-efficient ML framework, to buffer the human effort and side effects of manual controller tuning, while retaining a low number of experimental samples. We focus this work in the context of robotic systems, providing thorough theoretical results that aim to increase data-efficiency, as well as demonstrations in real robots. Specifically, we present four main contributions. We first consider using BO to replace manual tuning in robotic platforms. To this end, we parametrize the design weights of a linear quadratic regulator (LQR) and learn its parameters using an information-efficient BO algorithm. Such algorithm uses Gaussian processes (GPs) to model the unknown performance objective. The GP model is used by BO to suggest controller parameters that are expected to increment the information about the optimal parameters, measured as a gain in entropy. The resulting “automatic LQR tuning” framework is demonstrated on two robotic platforms: A robot arm balancing an inverted pole and a humanoid robot performing a squatting task. In both cases, an existing controller is automatically improved in a handful of experiments without human intervention. BO compensates for data scarcity by means of the GP, which is a probabilistic model that encodes prior assumptions about the unknown performance objective. Usually, incorrect or non-informed assumptions have negative consequences, such as higher number of robot experiments, poor tuning performance or reduced sample-efficiency. The second to fourth contributions presented herein attempt to alleviate this issue. The second contribution proposes to include the robot simulator into the learning loop as an additional information source for automatic controller tuning. While doing a real robot experiment generally entails high associated costs (e.g., require preparation and take time), simulations are cheaper to obtain (e.g., they can be computed faster). However, because the simulator is an imperfect model of the robot, its information is biased and could have negative repercussions in the learning performance. To address this problem, we propose “simu-vs-real”, a principled multi-fidelity BO algorithm that trades off cheap, but inaccurate information from simulations with expensive and accurate physical experiments in a cost-effective manner. The resulting algorithm is demonstrated on a cart-pole system, where simulations and real experiments are alternated, thus sparing many real evaluations. The third contribution explores how to adequate the expressiveness of the probabilistic prior to the control problem at hand. To this end, the mathematical structure of LQR controllers is leveraged and embedded into the GP, by means of the kernel function. Specifically, we propose two different “LQR kernel” designs that retain the flexibility of Bayesian nonparametric learning. Simulated results indicate that the LQR kernel yields superior performance than non-informed kernel choices when used for controller learning with BO. Finally, the fourth contribution specifically addresses the problem of handling controller failures, which are typically unavoidable in practice while learning from data, specially if non-conservative solutions are expected. Although controller failures are generally problematic (e.g., the robot has to be emergency-stopped), they are also a rich information source about what should be avoided. We propose “failures-aware excursion search”, a novel algorithm for Bayesian optimization under black-box constraints, where failures are limited in number. Our results in numerical benchmarks indicate that by allowing a confined number of failures, better optima are revealed as compared with state-of-the-art methods. The first contribution of this thesis, “automatic LQR tuning”, lies among the first on applying BO to real robots. While it demonstrated automatic controller learning from few experimental samples, it also revealed several important challenges, such as the need of higher sample-efficiency, which opened relevant research directions that we addressed through several methodological contributions. Summarizing, we proposed “simu-vs-real”, a novel BO algorithm that includes the simulator as an additional information source, an “LQR kernel” design that learns faster than standard choices and “failures-aware excursion search”, a new BO algorithm for constrained black-box optimization problems, where the number of failures is limited.

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Repository (Universitätsbibliothek) - University of Tübingen PDF DOI [BibTex]


Gripping apparatus and method of producing a gripping apparatus
Gripping apparatus and method of producing a gripping apparatus

Song, S., Sitti, M., Drotlef, D., Majidi, C.

Google Patents, Febuary 2020, US Patent App. 16/610,209 (patent)

Abstract
The present invention relates to a gripping apparatus comprising a membrane; a flexible housing; with said membrane being fixedly connected to a periphery of the housing. The invention further relates to a method of producing a gripping apparatus.

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[BibTex]

[BibTex]


Method of actuating a shape changeable member, shape changeable member and actuating system
Method of actuating a shape changeable member, shape changeable member and actuating system

Hu, W., Lum, G. Z., Mastrangeli, M., Sitti, M.

Google Patents, January 2020, US Patent App. 16/477,593 (patent)

Abstract
The present invention relates to a method of actuating a shape changeable member of actuatable material. The invention further relates to a shape changeable member and to a system comprising such a shape changeable member and a magnetic field apparatus.

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[BibTex]


Microfibers with mushroom-shaped tips for optimal adhesion
Microfibers with mushroom-shaped tips for optimal adhesion

Sitti, M., Aksak, B.

Google Patents, 2020, US Patent 10,689,549 (misc)

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[BibTex]

[BibTex]

2017


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Editorial for the Special Issue on Microdevices and Microsystems for Cell Manipulation

Hu, W., Ohta, A. T.

8, Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute, September 2017 (misc)

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DOI [BibTex]

2017


DOI [BibTex]


Crowdshaping Realistic {3D} Avatars with Words
Crowdshaping Realistic 3D Avatars with Words

Streuber, S., Ramirez, M. Q., Black, M., Zuffi, S., O’Toole, A., Hill, M. Q., Hahn, C. A.

August 2017, Application PCT/EP2017/051954 (misc)

Abstract
A method for generating a body shape, comprising the steps: - receiving one or more linguistic descriptors related to the body shape; - retrieving an association between the one or more linguistic descriptors and a body shape; and - generating the body shape, based on the association.

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Google Patents [BibTex]

Google Patents [BibTex]


Human Shape Estimation using Statistical Body Models
Human Shape Estimation using Statistical Body Models

Loper, M. M.

University of Tübingen, May 2017 (thesis)

Abstract
Human body estimation methods transform real-world observations into predictions about human body state. These estimation methods benefit a variety of health, entertainment, clothing, and ergonomics applications. State may include pose, overall body shape, and appearance. Body state estimation is underconstrained by observations; ambiguity presents itself both in the form of missing data within observations, and also in the form of unknown correspondences between observations. We address this challenge with the use of a statistical body model: a data-driven virtual human. This helps resolve ambiguity in two ways. First, it fills in missing data, meaning that incomplete observations still result in complete shape estimates. Second, the model provides a statistically-motivated penalty for unlikely states, which enables more plausible body shape estimates. Body state inference requires more than a body model; we therefore build obser- vation models whose output is compared with real observations. In this thesis, body state is estimated from three types of observations: 3D motion capture markers, depth and color images, and high-resolution 3D scans. In each case, a forward process is proposed which simulates observations. By comparing observations to the results of the forward process, state can be adjusted to minimize the difference between simulated and observed data. We use gradient-based methods because they are critical to the precise estimation of state with a large number of parameters. The contributions of this work include three parts. First, we propose a method for the estimation of body shape, nonrigid deformation, and pose from 3D markers. Second, we present a concise approach to differentiating through the rendering process, with application to body shape estimation. And finally, we present a statistical body model trained from human body scans, with state-of-the-art fidelity, good runtime performance, and compatibility with existing animation packages.

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Official Version [BibTex]


Chapter 8 - Micro- and nanorobots in Newtonian and biological viscoelastic fluids
Chapter 8 - Micro- and nanorobots in Newtonian and biological viscoelastic fluids

Palagi, S., (Walker) Schamel, D., Qiu, T., Fischer, P.

In Microbiorobotics, pages: 133 - 162, 8, Micro and Nano Technologies, Second edition, Elsevier, Boston, March 2017 (incollection)

Abstract
Swimming microorganisms are a source of inspiration for small scale robots that are intended to operate in fluidic environments including complex biomedical fluids. Nature has devised swimming strategies that are effective at small scales and at low Reynolds number. These include the rotary corkscrew motion that, for instance, propels a flagellated bacterial cell, as well as the asymmetric beat of appendages that sperm cells or ciliated protozoa use to move through fluids. These mechanisms can overcome the reciprocity that governs the hydrodynamics at small scale. The complex molecular structure of biologically important fluids presents an additional challenge for the effective propulsion of microrobots. In this chapter it is shown how physical and chemical approaches are essential in realizing engineered abiotic micro- and nanorobots that can move in biomedically important environments. Interestingly, we also describe a microswimmer that is effective in biological viscoelastic fluids that does not have a natural analogue.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


Appealing Avatars from {3D} Body Scans: Perceptual Effects of Stylization
Appealing Avatars from 3D Body Scans: Perceptual Effects of Stylization

Fleming, R., Mohler, B. J., Romero, J., Black, M. J., Breidt, M.

In Computer Vision, Imaging and Computer Graphics Theory and Applications: 11th International Joint Conference, VISIGRAPP 2016, Rome, Italy, February 27 – 29, 2016, Revised Selected Papers, pages: 175-196, Springer International Publishing, 2017 (inbook)

Abstract
Using styles derived from existing popular character designs, we present a novel automatic stylization technique for body shape and colour information based on a statistical 3D model of human bodies. We investigate whether such stylized body shapes result in increased perceived appeal with two different experiments: One focuses on body shape alone, the other investigates the additional role of surface colour and lighting. Our results consistently show that the most appealing avatar is a partially stylized one. Importantly, avatars with high stylization or no stylization at all were rated to have the least appeal. The inclusion of colour information and improvements to render quality had no significant effect on the overall perceived appeal of the avatars, and we observe that the body shape primarily drives the change in appeal ratings. For body scans with colour information, we found that a partially stylized avatar was perceived as most appealing.

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publisher site pdf DOI [BibTex]

publisher site pdf DOI [BibTex]


Learning to Filter Object Detections
Learning to Filter Object Detections

Prokudin, S., Kappler, D., Nowozin, S., Gehler, P.

In Pattern Recognition: 39th German Conference, GCPR 2017, Basel, Switzerland, September 12–15, 2017, Proceedings, pages: 52-62, Springer International Publishing, Cham, 2017 (inbook)

Abstract
Most object detection systems consist of three stages. First, a set of individual hypotheses for object locations is generated using a proposal generating algorithm. Second, a classifier scores every generated hypothesis independently to obtain a multi-class prediction. Finally, all scored hypotheses are filtered via a non-differentiable and decoupled non-maximum suppression (NMS) post-processing step. In this paper, we propose a filtering network (FNet), a method which replaces NMS with a differentiable neural network that allows joint reasoning and re-scoring of the generated set of hypotheses per image. This formulation enables end-to-end training of the full object detection pipeline. First, we demonstrate that FNet, a feed-forward network architecture, is able to mimic NMS decisions, despite the sequential nature of NMS. We further analyze NMS failures and propose a loss formulation that is better aligned with the mean average precision (mAP) evaluation metric. We evaluate FNet on several standard detection datasets. Results surpass standard NMS on highly occluded settings of a synthetic overlapping MNIST dataset and show competitive behavior on PascalVOC2007 and KITTI detection benchmarks.

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Paper link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]

Paper link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]


Learning Inference Models for Computer Vision
Learning Inference Models for Computer Vision

Jampani, V.

MPI for Intelligent Systems and University of Tübingen, 2017 (phdthesis)

Abstract
Computer vision can be understood as the ability to perform 'inference' on image data. Breakthroughs in computer vision technology are often marked by advances in inference techniques, as even the model design is often dictated by the complexity of inference in them. This thesis proposes learning based inference schemes and demonstrates applications in computer vision. We propose techniques for inference in both generative and discriminative computer vision models. Despite their intuitive appeal, the use of generative models in vision is hampered by the difficulty of posterior inference, which is often too complex or too slow to be practical. We propose techniques for improving inference in two widely used techniques: Markov Chain Monte Carlo (MCMC) sampling and message-passing inference. Our inference strategy is to learn separate discriminative models that assist Bayesian inference in a generative model. Experiments on a range of generative vision models show that the proposed techniques accelerate the inference process and/or converge to better solutions. A main complication in the design of discriminative models is the inclusion of prior knowledge in a principled way. For better inference in discriminative models, we propose techniques that modify the original model itself, as inference is simple evaluation of the model. We concentrate on convolutional neural network (CNN) models and propose a generalization of standard spatial convolutions, which are the basic building blocks of CNN architectures, to bilateral convolutions. First, we generalize the existing use of bilateral filters and then propose new neural network architectures with learnable bilateral filters, which we call `Bilateral Neural Networks'. We show how the bilateral filtering modules can be used for modifying existing CNN architectures for better image segmentation and propose a neural network approach for temporal information propagation in videos. Experiments demonstrate the potential of the proposed bilateral networks on a wide range of vision tasks and datasets. In summary, we propose learning based techniques for better inference in several computer vision models ranging from inverse graphics to freely parameterized neural networks. In generative vision models, our inference techniques alleviate some of the crucial hurdles in Bayesian posterior inference, paving new ways for the use of model based machine learning in vision. In discriminative CNN models, the proposed filter generalizations aid in the design of new neural network architectures that can handle sparse high-dimensional data as well as provide a way for incorporating prior knowledge into CNNs.

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pdf [BibTex]

pdf [BibTex]


Methods, apparatuses, and systems for micromanipulation with adhesive fibrillar structures
Methods, apparatuses, and systems for micromanipulation with adhesive fibrillar structures

Sitti, M., Mengüç, Y.

US Patent 9,731,422, 2017 (patent)

Abstract
The present invention are methods for fabrication of micro- and/or nano-scale adhesive fibers and their use for movement and manipulation of objects. Further disclosed is a method of manipulating a part by providing a manipulation device with a plurality of fibers, where each fiber has a tip with a flat surface that is parallel to a backing layer, contacting the flat surfaces on an object, moving the object to a new location, then disengaging the tips from the object.

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link (url) [BibTex]


Decentralized Simultaneous Multi-target Exploration using a Connected Network of Multiple Robots
Decentralized Simultaneous Multi-target Exploration using a Connected Network of Multiple Robots

Nestmeyer, T., Robuffo Giordano, P., Bülthoff, H. H., Franchi, A.

In pages: 989-1011, Autonomous Robots, 2017 (incollection)

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[BibTex]

[BibTex]


Capturing Hand-Object Interaction and Reconstruction of Manipulated Objects
Capturing Hand-Object Interaction and Reconstruction of Manipulated Objects

Tzionas, D.

University of Bonn, 2017 (phdthesis)

Abstract
Hand motion capture with an RGB-D sensor gained recently a lot of research attention, however, even most recent approaches focus on the case of a single isolated hand. We focus instead on hands that interact with other hands or with a rigid or articulated object. Our framework successfully captures motion in such scenarios by combining a generative model with discriminatively trained salient points, collision detection and physics simulation to achieve a low tracking error with physically plausible poses. All components are unified in a single objective function that can be optimized with standard optimization techniques. We initially assume a-priori knowledge of the object's shape and skeleton. In case of unknown object shape there are existing 3d reconstruction methods that capitalize on distinctive geometric or texture features. These methods though fail for textureless and highly symmetric objects like household articles, mechanical parts or toys. We show that extracting 3d hand motion for in-hand scanning effectively facilitates the reconstruction of such objects and we fuse the rich additional information of hands into a 3d reconstruction pipeline. Finally, although shape reconstruction is enough for rigid objects, there is a lack of tools that build rigged models of articulated objects that deform realistically using RGB-D data. We propose a method that creates a fully rigged model consisting of a watertight mesh, embedded skeleton and skinning weights by employing a combination of deformable mesh tracking, motion segmentation based on spectral clustering and skeletonization based on mean curvature flow.

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Thesis link (url) Project Page [BibTex]

2013


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Dry adhesives and methods for making dry adhesives

Sitti, M., Kim, S.

sep 2013, US Patent App. 14/016,651 (misc)

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[BibTex]

2013


[BibTex]


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Dry adhesives and methods for making dry adhesives

Sitti, M., Kim, S.

sep 2013, US Patent App. 14/016,683 (misc)

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[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Dry adhesives and methods for making dry adhesives

Sitti, M., Kim, S.

sep 2013, US Patent 8,524,092 (misc)

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[BibTex]

[BibTex]


Human Pose Calculation from Optical Flow Data
Human Pose Calculation from Optical Flow Data

Black, M., Loper, M., Romero, J., Zuffi, S.

European Patent Application EP 2843621 , August 2013 (patent)

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Google Patents [BibTex]

Google Patents [BibTex]


Statistics on Manifolds with Applications to Modeling Shape Deformations
Statistics on Manifolds with Applications to Modeling Shape Deformations

Freifeld, O.

Brown University, August 2013 (phdthesis)

Abstract
Statistical models of non-rigid deformable shape have wide application in many fi elds, including computer vision, computer graphics, and biometry. We show that shape deformations are well represented through nonlinear manifolds that are also matrix Lie groups. These pattern-theoretic representations lead to several advantages over other alternatives, including a principled measure of shape dissimilarity and a natural way to compose deformations. Moreover, they enable building models using statistics on manifolds. Consequently, such models are superior to those based on Euclidean representations. We demonstrate this by modeling 2D and 3D human body shape. Shape deformations are only one example of manifold-valued data. More generally, in many computer-vision and machine-learning problems, nonlinear manifold representations arise naturally and provide a powerful alternative to Euclidean representations. Statistics is traditionally concerned with data in a Euclidean space, relying on the linear structure and the distances associated with such a space; this renders it inappropriate for nonlinear spaces. Statistics can, however, be generalized to nonlinear manifolds. Moreover, by respecting the underlying geometry, the statistical models result in not only more e ffective analysis but also consistent synthesis. We go beyond previous work on statistics on manifolds by showing how, even on these curved spaces, problems related to modeling a class from scarce data can be dealt with by leveraging information from related classes residing in di fferent regions of the space. We show the usefulness of our approach with 3D shape deformations. To summarize our main contributions: 1) We de fine a new 2D articulated model -- more expressive than traditional ones -- of deformable human shape that factors body-shape, pose, and camera variations. Its high realism is obtained from training data generated from a detailed 3D model. 2) We defi ne a new manifold-based representation of 3D shape deformations that yields statistical deformable-template models that are better than the current state-of-the- art. 3) We generalize a transfer learning idea from Euclidean spaces to Riemannian manifolds. This work demonstrates the value of modeling manifold-valued data and their statistics explicitly on the manifold. Specifi cally, the methods here provide new tools for shape analysis.

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pdf Project Page [BibTex]


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Dry adhesives and methods of making dry adhesives

Sitti, M., Murphy, M., Aksak, B.

March 2013, US Patent App. 13/845,702 (misc)

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[BibTex]

[BibTex]


Class-Specific Hough Forests for Object Detection
Class-Specific Hough Forests for Object Detection

Gall, J., Lempitsky, V.

In Decision Forests for Computer Vision and Medical Image Analysis, pages: 143-157, 11, (Editors: Criminisi, A. and Shotton, J.), Springer, 2013 (incollection)

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code Project Page [BibTex]

code Project Page [BibTex]