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2016


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Shape-programmable magnetic soft matter

Lum, G. Z., Ye, Z., Dong, X., Marvi, H., Erin, O., Hu, W., Sitti, M.

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 113(41):E6007–E6015, National Acad Sciences, May 2016 (article)

Abstract
Shape-programmable matter is a class of active materials whose geometry can be controlled to potentially achieve mechanical functionalities beyond those of traditional machines. Among these materials, magnetically actuated matter is particularly promising for achieving complex time-varying shapes at small scale (overall dimensions smaller than 1 cm). However, previous work can only program these materials for limited applications, as they rely solely on human intuition to approximate the required magnetization profile and actuating magnetic fields for their materials. Here, we propose a universal programming methodology that can automatically generate the required magnetization profile and actuating fields for soft matter to achieve new time-varying shapes. The universality of the proposed method can therefore inspire a vast number of miniature soft devices that are critical in robotics, smart engineering surfaces and materials, and biomedical devices. Our proposed method includes theoretical formulations, computational strategies, and fabrication procedures for programming magnetic soft matter. The presented theory and computational method are universal for programming 2D or 3D time-varying shapes, whereas the fabrication technique is generic only for creating planar beams. Based on the proposed programming method, we created a jellyfish-like robot, a spermatozoid-like undulating swimmer, and an artificial cilium that could mimic the complex beating patterns of its biological counterpart.

pi

DOI [BibTex]

2016


DOI [BibTex]


Thumb xl screen shot 2016 01 19 at 14.48.37
Automatic LQR Tuning Based on Gaussian Process Global Optimization

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

In Proceedings of the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA), pages: 270-277, IEEE, IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation, May 2016 (inproceedings)

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

am ics pn

Video PDF DOI Project Page [BibTex]

Video PDF DOI Project Page [BibTex]


Thumb xl 07487340
Sperm-shaped magnetic microrobots: Fabrication using electrospinning, modeling, and characterization

Khalil, I. S., Tabak, A. F., Hosney, A., Mohamed, A., Klingner, A., Ghoneima, M., Sitti, M.

In Robotics and Automation (ICRA), 2016 IEEE International Conference on, pages: 1939-1944, May 2016 (inproceedings)

Abstract
We use electrospinning to fabricate sperm-shaped magnetic microrobots with a range of diameters from 50 μm to 500 μm. The variables of the electrospinning operation (voltage, concentration of the solution, dynamic viscosity, and distance between the syringe needle and collector) to achieve beading effect are determined. This beading effect allows us to fabricate microrobots with similar morphology to that of sperm cells. The bead and the ultra-fine fiber resemble the morphology of the head and tail of the sperm cell, respectively. We incorporate iron oxide nanoparticles to the head of the sperm-shaped microrobot to provide a magnetic dipole moment. This dipole enables directional control under the influence of external magnetic fields. We also apply weak (less than 2 mT) oscillating magnetic fields to exert a magnetic torque on the magnetic head, and generate planar flagellar waves and flagellated swim. The average speed of the sperm-shaped microrobot is calculated to be 0.5 body lengths per second and 1 body lengths per second at frequencies of 5 Hz and 10 Hz, respectively. We also develop a model of the microrobot using elastohydrodynamics approach and Timoshenko-Rayleigh beam theory, and find good agreement with the experimental results.

pi

DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


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Batch Bayesian Optimization via Local Penalization

González, J., Dai, Z., Hennig, P., Lawrence, N.

Proceedings of the 19th International Conference on Artificial Intelligence and Statistics (AISTATS), 51, pages: 648-657, JMLR Workshop and Conference Proceedings, (Editors: Gretton, A. and Robert, C. C.), May 2016 (conference)

ei pn

link (url) Project Page [BibTex]

link (url) Project Page [BibTex]


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Probabilistic Approximate Least-Squares

Bartels, S., Hennig, P.

Proceedings of the 19th International Conference on Artificial Intelligence and Statistics (AISTATS), 51, pages: 676-684, JMLR Workshop and Conference Proceedings, (Editors: Gretton, A. and Robert, C. C. ), May 2016 (conference)

Abstract
Least-squares and kernel-ridge / Gaussian process regression are among the foundational algorithms of statistics and machine learning. Famously, the worst-case cost of exact nonparametric regression grows cubically with the data-set size; but a growing number of approximations have been developed that estimate good solutions at lower cost. These algorithms typically return point estimators, without measures of uncertainty. Leveraging recent results casting elementary linear algebra operations as probabilistic inference, we propose a new approximate method for nonparametric least-squares that affords a probabilistic uncertainty estimate over the error between the approximate and exact least-squares solution (this is not the same as the posterior variance of the associated Gaussian process regressor). This allows estimating the error of the least-squares solution on a subset of the data relative to the full-data solution. The uncertainty can be used to control the computational effort invested in the approximation. Our algorithm has linear cost in the data-set size, and a simple formal form, so that it can be implemented with a few lines of code in programming languages with linear algebra functionality.

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link (url) Project Page Project Page [BibTex]

link (url) Project Page Project Page [BibTex]


Thumb xl inflateble robots
Inflated soft actuators with reversible stable deformations

Hines, L., Petersen, K., Sitti, M.

Advanced Materials, 28(19):3690-3696, March 2016 (article)

Abstract
Most soft robotic systems are currently dependent on bulky compressors or pumps. A soft actuation method is presented combining hyperelastic membranes and dielectric elastomer actuators to switch between stable deformations of sealed chambers. This method is capable of large repeatable deformations, and has a number of stable states proportional to the number of actuatable membranes in the chamber.

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DOI Project Page [BibTex]


Thumb xl publications toc
Chemotaxis of bio-hybrid multiple bacteria-driven microswimmers

Zhuang, J., Sitti, M.

Scientific reports, 6, pages: 32135, Nature Publishing Group, March 2016 (article)

Abstract
In this study, in a bio-hybrid microswimmer system driven by multiple Serratia marcescens bacteria, we quantify the chemotactic drift of a large number of microswimmers towards L-serine and elucidate the associated collective chemotaxis behavior by statistical analysis of over a thousand swimming trajectories of the microswimmers. The results show that the microswimmers have a strong heading preference for moving up the L-serine gradient, while their speed does not change considerably when moving up and down the gradient; therefore, the heading bias constitutes the major factor that produces the chemotactic drift. The heading direction of a microswimmer is found to be significantly more persistent when it moves up the L-serine gradient than when it travels down the gradient; this effect causes the apparent heading preference of the microswimmers and is the crucial reason that enables the seemingly cooperative chemotaxis of multiple bacteria on a microswimmer. In addition, we find that their chemotactic drift velocity increases superquadratically with their mean swimming speed, suggesting that chemotaxis of bio-hybrid microsystems can be enhanced by designing and building faster microswimmers. Such bio-hybrid microswimmers with chemotactic steering capability may find future applications in targeted drug delivery, bioengineering, and lab-on-a-chip devices.

pi

DOI Project Page [BibTex]

DOI Project Page [BibTex]


Thumb xl publications toc
Targeted drug delivery and imaging using mobile milli/microrobots: A promising future towards theranostic pharmaceutical design

Vikram Singh, A., Sitti, M.

Current Pharmaceutical Design, 22(11):1418-1428, Bentham Science Publishers, March 2016 (article)

Abstract
Miniature untethered medical robots have been receiving growing attention due to technological advances in microactuation, microsensors, and microfabrication and have significant potential to reduce the invasiveness and improve the accessibility of medical devices into unprecedented small spaces inside the human body. In this review, we discuss therapeutic and diagnostic applications of untethered medical microrobots. Wirelessly controlled milli/microrobots with integrated sensors are revolutionizing micromanipulation based medical interventions and are enabling doctors to perform minimally invasive procedures not possible before. 3D fabrication technologies enabling milli/microrobot fabrication at the single cell scale are empowering high-resolution visual imaging and in vivo manipulation capabilities. Swallowable millirobots and injectabale ocular microrobots allow the gastric ulcer imaging, and performance of vitreoretinal microsurgery at previously inaccessible ocular sites. Many invasive excision and incision based diagnostic biopsy, prostrate, and nephrolgical procedures can be performed minimally or almost noninvasively due to recent advancements in microrobotic technology. Advances in biohybrid microrobot systems are pushing microrobotic systems even smaller, using biological cells as on-board microactuators and microsensors using the chemical energy. Such microrobotic systems could be used for local targeted delivery of imaging contrast agents, drugs, genes, and mRNA, minimally invasive surgery, and cell micromanipulation in the near future.

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link (url) [BibTex]


Thumb xl publications toc
Parallel microcracks-based ultrasensitive and highly stretchable strain sensors

Amjadi, M., Turan, M., Clementson, C. P., Sitti, M.

ACS Applied Materials \& Interfaces, 8(8):5618-5626, American Chemical Society, Febuary 2016 (article)

Abstract
There is an increasing demand for flexible, skin-attachable, and wearable strain sensors due to their various potential applications. However, achieving strain sensors with both high sensitivity and high stretchability is still a grand challenge. Here, we propose highly sensitive and stretchable strain sensors based on the reversible microcrack formation in composite thin films. Controllable parallel microcracks are generated in graphite thin films coated on elastomer films. Sensors made of graphite thin films with short microcracks possess high gauge factors (maximum value of 522.6) and stretchability (ε ≥ 50%), whereas sensors with long microcracks show ultrahigh sensitivity (maximum value of 11 344) with limited stretchability (ε ≤ 50%). We demonstrate the high performance strain sensing of our sensors in both small and large strain sensing applications such as human physiological activity recognition, human body large motion capturing, vibration detection, pressure sensing, and soft robotics.

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


Thumb xl amjadi et al 2016 advanced functional materials
Stretchable, Skin-Mountable, and Wearable Strain Sensors and Their Potential Applications: A Review

Amjadi, M., Kyung, K., Park, I., Sitti, M.

Advanced Functional Materials, 26, pages: 1678-1698, Febuary 2016 (article)

Abstract
There is a growing demand for flexible and soft electronic devices. In particular, stretchable, skin-mountable, and wearable strain sensors are needed for several potential applications including personalized health-monitoring, human motion detection, human-machine interfaces, soft robotics, and so forth. This Feature Article presents recent advancements in the development of flexible and stretchable strain sensors. The article shows that highly stretchable strain sensors are successfully being developed by new mechanisms such as disconnection between overlapped nanomaterials, crack propagation in thin films, and tunneling effect, different from traditional strain sensing mechanisms. Strain sensing performances of recently reported strain sensors are comprehensively studied and discussed, showing that appropriate choice of composite structures as well as suitable interaction between functional nanomaterials and polymers are essential for the high performance strain sensing. Next, simulation results of piezoresistivity of stretchable strain sensors by computational models are reported. Finally, potential applications of flexible strain sensors are described. This survey reveals that flexible, skin-mountable, and wearable strain sensors have potential in diverse applications while several grand challenges have to be still overcome.

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


Thumb xl toc image patent
Remotely addressable magnetic composite micro-actuators

Sitti, M., Diller, E., Miyashita, S.

Febuary 2016, US Patent App. 15/018,008 (patent)

Abstract
The present invention describes methods to fabricate actuators that can be remotely controlled in an addressable manner, and methods to provide remote control such micro-actuators. The actuators are composites of two permanent magnet materials, one of which is has high coercivity, and the other of which switches magnetization direction by applied fields. By switching the second material's magnetization direction, the two magnets either work together or cancel each other, resulting in distinct “on” and “off” behavior of the devices. The device can be switched “on” or “off” remotely using a field pulse of short duration.

pi

[BibTex]

[BibTex]


Thumb xl toc image patent
Remotely addressable magnetic composite micro-actuators

Sitti, M., Diller, E., Miyashita, S.

Febuary 2016, US Patent 9,281,112 (patent)

Abstract
The present invention describes methods to fabricate actuators that can be remotely controlled in an addressable manner, and methods to provide remote control such micro-actuators. The actuators are composites of two permanent magnet materials, one of which is has high coercivity, and the other of which switches magnetization direction by applied fields. By switching the second material's magnetization direction, the two magnets either work together or cancel each other, resulting in distinct “on” and “off” behavior of the devices. The device can be switched “on” or “off” remotely using a field pulse of short duration.

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link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


Thumb xl b 07384529
Size optimization of a magnetic system for drug delivery with capsule robots

Munoz, F., Alici, G., Li, W., Sitti, M.

IEEE Transactions on Magnetics, 52(5):1-11, IEEE, January 2016 (article)

Abstract
In this paper, we present a methodology for the size optimization of an external magnetic system made of arc-shaped permanent magnets (ASMs). This magnetic system is able to remotely actuate a drug-release module embedded in a prototype of a capsule robot. The optimization of the magnetic system is carried out by using an accurate analytical model that is valid for any arbitrary dimensions of the ASMs. By using this analytical model, we perform parametric studies and conduct a statistical analysis [analysis of variance (ANOVA)] to investigate efficient ways to distribute the volume of the ASMs so that the dimensions and volume of the magnetic system are minimized while optimal flux densities and magnetic torques are obtained to actuate the drug delivery system (DDS). The ANOVA results, at 5% significance level, indicate that changes in the angular width followed by changes in the length of the ASMs have the highest impact on the magnetic linkage. Furthermore, our experimental results, which are in agreement with the analytical results, show that the size optimization of the magnetic system is effective for the actuation of the DDS in capsule robots.

pi

DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


Thumb xl cloud tracking
Gaussian Process-Based Predictive Control for Periodic Error Correction

Klenske, E. D., Zeilinger, M., Schölkopf, B., Hennig, P.

IEEE Transactions on Control Systems Technology , 24(1):110-121, 2016 (article)

ei pn

PDF DOI [BibTex]

PDF DOI [BibTex]


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Dual Control for Approximate Bayesian Reinforcement Learning

Klenske, E. D., Hennig, P.

Journal of Machine Learning Research, 17(127):1-30, 2016 (article)

ei pn

PDF link (url) [BibTex]

PDF link (url) [BibTex]


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A Convex Model of Momentum Dynamics for Multi-Contact Motion Generation

Ponton, B., Herzog, A., Schaal, S., Righetti, L.

In 2016 IEEE-RAS 16th International Conference on Humanoid Robots Humanoids, pages: 842-849, IEEE, Cancun, Mexico, 2016 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Linear models for control and motion generation of humanoid robots have received significant attention in the past years, not only due to their well known theoretical guarantees, but also because of practical computational advantages. However, to tackle more challenging tasks and scenarios such as locomotion on uneven terrain, a more expressive model is required. In this paper, we are interested in contact interaction-centered motion optimization based on the momentum dynamics model. This model is non-linear and non-convex; however, we find a relaxation of the problem that allows us to formulate it as a single convex quadratically-constrained quadratic program (QCQP) that can be very efficiently optimized and is useful for multi-contact planning. This convex model is then coupled to the optimization of end-effector contact locations using a mixed integer program, which can also be efficiently solved. This becomes relevant e.g. to recover from external pushes, where a predefined stepping plan is likely to fail and an online adaptation of the contact location is needed. The performance of our algorithm is demonstrated in several multi-contact scenarios for a humanoid robot.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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On the Effects of Measurement Uncertainty in Optimal Control of Contact Interactions

Ponton, B., Schaal, S., Righetti, L.

In The 12th International Workshop on the Algorithmic Foundations of Robotics WAFR, Berkeley, USA, 2016 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Stochastic Optimal Control (SOC) typically considers noise only in the process model, i.e. unknown disturbances. However, in many robotic applications involving interaction with the environment, such as locomotion and manipulation, uncertainty also comes from lack of precise knowledge of the world, which is not an actual disturbance. We analyze the effects of also considering noise in the measurement model, by devel- oping a SOC algorithm based on risk-sensitive control, that includes the dynamics of an observer in such a way that the control law explicitly de- pends on the current measurement uncertainty. In simulation results on a simple 2D manipulator, we have observed that measurement uncertainty leads to low impedance behaviors, a result in contrast with the effects of process noise that creates stiff behaviors. This suggests that taking into account measurement uncertainty could be a potentially very interesting way to approach problems involving uncertain contact interactions.

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link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Extrapolation and learning equations

Martius, G., Lampert, C. H.

2016, arXiv preprint \url{https://arxiv.org/abs/1610.02995} (misc)

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Project Page [BibTex]

Project Page [BibTex]


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Momentum Control with Hierarchical Inverse Dynamics on a Torque-Controlled Humanoid

Herzog, A., Rotella, N., Mason, S., Grimminger, F., Schaal, S., Righetti, L.

Autonomous Robots, 40(3):473-491, 2016 (article)

Abstract
Hierarchical inverse dynamics based on cascades of quadratic programs have been proposed for the control of legged robots. They have important benefits but to the best of our knowledge have never been implemented on a torque controlled humanoid where model inaccuracies, sensor noise and real-time computation requirements can be problematic. Using a reformulation of existing algorithms, we propose a simplification of the problem that allows to achieve real-time control. Momentum-based control is integrated in the task hierarchy and a LQR design approach is used to compute the desired associated closed-loop behavior and improve performance. Extensive experiments on various balancing and tracking tasks show very robust performance in the face of unknown disturbances, even when the humanoid is standing on one foot. Our results demonstrate that hierarchical inverse dynamics together with momentum control can be efficiently used for feedback control under real robot conditions.

am mg

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Inertial Sensor-Based Humanoid Joint State Estimation

Rotella, N., Mason, S., Schaal, S., Righetti, L.

In 2016 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA), pages: 1825-1831, IEEE, Stockholm, Sweden, 2016 (inproceedings)

Abstract
This work presents methods for the determination of a humanoid robot's joint velocities and accelerations directly from link-mounted Inertial Measurement Units (IMUs) each containing a three-axis gyroscope and a three-axis accelerometer. No information about the global pose of the floating base or its links is required and precise knowledge of the link IMU poses is not necessary due to presented calibration routines. Additionally, a filter is introduced to fuse gyroscope angular velocities with joint position measurements and compensate the computed joint velocities for time-varying gyroscope biases. The resulting joint velocities are subject to less noise and delay than filtered velocities computed from numerical differentiation of joint potentiometer signals, leading to superior performance in joint feedback control as demonstrated in experiments performed on a SARCOS hydraulic humanoid.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Stepping Stabilization Using a Combination of DCM Tracking and Step Adjustment

Khadiv, M., Kleff, S., Herzog, A., Moosavian, S. A. A., Schaal, S., Righetti, L.

In 2016 4th International Conference on Robotics and Mechatronics (ICROM), pages: 130-135, IEEE, Teheran, Iran, 2016 (inproceedings)

Abstract
In this paper, a method for stabilizing biped robots stepping by a combination of Divergent Component of Motion (DCM) tracking and step adjustment is proposed. In this method, the DCM trajectory is generated, consistent with the predefined footprints. Furthermore, a swing foot trajectory modification strategy is proposed to adapt the landing point, using DCM measurement. In order to apply the generated trajectories to the full robot, a Hierarchical Inverse Dynamics (HID) is employed. The HID enables us to use different combinations of the DCM tracking and step adjustment for stabilizing different biped robots. Simulation experiments on two scenarios for two different simulated robots, one with active ankles and the other with passive ankles, are carried out. Simulation results demonstrate the effectiveness of the proposed method for robots with both active and passive ankles.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Structured contact force optimization for kino-dynamic motion generation

Herzog, A., Schaal, S., Righetti, L.

In 2016 IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS), pages: 2703-2710, IEEE, Daejeon, South Korea, 2016 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Optimal control approaches in combination with trajectory optimization have recently proven to be a promising control strategy for legged robots. Computationally efficient and robust algorithms were derived using simplified models of the contact interaction between robot and environment such as the linear inverted pendulum model (LIPM). However, as humanoid robots enter more complex environments, less restrictive models become increasingly important. As we leave the regime of linear models, we need to build dedicated solvers that can compute interaction forces together with consistent kinematic plans for the whole-body. In this paper, we address the problem of planning robot motion and interaction forces for legged robots given predefined contact surfaces. The motion generation process is decomposed into two alternating parts computing force and motion plans in coherence. We focus on the properties of the momentum computation leading to sparse optimal control formulations to be exploited by a dedicated solver. In our experiments, we demonstrate that our motion generation algorithm computes consistent contact forces and joint trajectories for our humanoid robot. We also demonstrate the favorable time complexity due to our formulation and composition of the momentum equations.

am mg

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Balancing and Walking Using Full Dynamics LQR Control With Contact Constraints

Mason, S., Rotella, N., Schaal, S., Righetti, L.

In 2016 IEEE-RAS 16th International Conference on Humanoid Robots (Humanoids), pages: 63-68, IEEE, Cancun, Mexico, 2016 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Torque control algorithms which consider robot dynamics and contact constraints are important for creating dynamic behaviors for humanoids. As computational power increases, algorithms tend to also increase in complexity. However, it is not clear how much complexity is really required to create controllers which exhibit good performance. In this paper, we study the capabilities of a simple approach based on contact consistent LQR controllers designed around key poses to control various tasks on a humanoid robot. We present extensive experimental results on a hydraulic, torque controlled humanoid performing balancing and stepping tasks. This feedback control approach captures the necessary synergies between the DoFs of the robot to guarantee good control performance. We show that for the considered tasks, it is only necessary to re-linearize the dynamics of the robot at different contact configurations and that increasing the number of LQR controllers along desired trajectories does not improve performance. Our result suggest that very simple controllers can yield good performance competitive with current state of the art, but more complex, optimization-based whole-body controllers. A video of the experiments can be found at https://youtu.be/5T08CNKV1hw.

am mg

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Step Timing Adjustement: a Step toward Generating Robust Gaits

Khadiv, M., Herzog, A., Moosavian, S. A. A., Righetti, L.

In 2016 IEEE-RAS 16th International Conference on Humanoid Robots (Humanoids), pages: 35-42, IEEE, Cancun, Mexico, 2016 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Step adjustment for humanoid robots has been shown to improve robustness in gaits. However, step duration adaptation is often neglected in control strategies. In this paper, we propose an approach that combines both step location and timing adjustment for generating robust gaits. In this approach, step location and step timing are decided, based on feedback from the current state of the robot. The proposed approach is comprised of two stages. In the first stage, the nominal step location and step duration for the next step or a previewed number of steps are specified. In this stage which is done at the start of each step, the main goal is to specify the best step length and step duration for a desired walking speed. The second stage deals with finding the best landing point and landing time of the swing foot at each control cycle. In this stage, stability of the gaits is preserved by specifying a desired offset between the swing foot landing point and the Divergent Component of Motion (DCM) at the end of current step. After specifying the landing point of the swing foot at a desired time, the swing foot trajectory is regenerated at each control cycle to realize desired landing properties. Simulation on different scenarios shows the robustness of the generated gaits from our proposed approach compared to the case where no timing adjustment is employed.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

2015


Thumb xl screen shot 2015 09 09 at 12.09.20
Untethered Magnetic Micromanipulation

Diller, E., Sitti, M.

In Micro-and Nanomanipulation Tools, 13, 10, Wiley-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA, November 2015 (inbook)

Abstract
This chapter discusses the methods and state of the art in microscale manipulation in remote environments using untethered microrobotic devices. It focuses on manipulation at the size scale of tens to hundreds of microns, where small size leads to a dominance of microscale physical effects and challenges in fabrication and actuation. To motivate the challenges of operating at this size scale, the chapter includes coverage of the physical forces relevant to microrobot motion and manipulation below the millimeter-size scale. It then introduces the actuation methods commonly used in untethered manipulation schemes, with particular focus on magnetic actuation due to its wide use in the field. The chapter divides these manipulation techniques into two types: contact manipulation, which relies on direct pushing or grasping of objects for motion, and noncontact manipulation, which relies indirectly on induced fluid flow from the microrobot motion to move objects without any direct contact.

pi

DOI Project Page [BibTex]

2015


DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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

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

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

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

am ei ics pn

PDF DOI Project Page [BibTex]

PDF DOI Project Page [BibTex]


Thumb xl 07353111
Compliant wing design for a flapping wing micro air vehicle

Colmenares, D., Kania, R., Zhang, W., Sitti, M.

In Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS), 2015 IEEE/RSJ International Conference on, pages: 32-39, September 2015 (inproceedings)

Abstract
In this work, we examine several wing designs for a motor-driven, flapping-wing micro air vehicle capable of liftoff. The full system consists of two wings independently driven by geared pager motors that include a spring in parallel with the output shaft. The linear transmission allows for resonant operation, while control is achieved by direct drive of the wing angle. Wings used in previous work were chosen to be fully rigid for simplicity of modeling and fabrication. However, biological wings are highly flexible and other micro air vehicles have successfully utilized flexible wing structures for specialized tasks. The goal of our study is to determine if wing flexibility can be generally used to increase wing performance. Two approaches to lift improvement using flexible wings are explored, resonance of the wing cantilever structure and dynamic wing twisting. We design and test several wings that are compared using different figures of merit. A twisted design improved lift per power by 73.6% and maximum lift production by 53.2% compared to the original rigid design. Wing twist is then modeled in order to propose optimal wing twist profiles that can maximize either wing efficiency or lift production.

pi

DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


Thumb xl toc image patent
Methods of forming dry adhesive structures

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

September 2015, US Patent 9,120,953 (patent)

Abstract
Methods of forming dry adhesives including a method of making a dry adhesive including applying a liquid polymer to the second end of the stem, molding the liquid polymer on the stem in a mold, wherein the mold includes a recess having a cross-sectional area that is less than a cross-sectional area of the second end of the stem, curing the liquid polymer in the mold to form a tip at the second end of the stem, wherein the tip includes a second layer stem; corresponding to the recess in the mold, and removing the tip from the mold after the liquid polymer cures.

pi

[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Millimeter-scale magnetic swimmers using elastomeric undulations

Zhang, J., Diller, E.

In 2015 IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS), pages: 1706-1711, September 2015 (inproceedings)

Abstract
This paper presents a new soft-bodied millimeterscale swimmer actuated by rotating uniform magnetic fields. The proposed swimmer moves through internal undulatory deformations, resulting from a magnetization profile programmed into its body. To understand the motion of the swimmer, a mathematical model is developed to describe the general relationship between the deflection of a flexible strip and its magnetization profile. As a special case, the situation of the swimmer on the water surface is analyzed and predictions made by the model are experimentally verified. Experimental results show the controllability of the proposed swimmer under a computer vision-based closed-loop controller. The swimmers have nominal dimensions of 1.5×4.9×0.06 mm and a top speed of 50 mm/s (10 body lengths per second). Waypoint following and multiagent control are demonstrated for swimmers constrained at the air-water interface and underwater swimming is also shown, suggesting the promising potential of this type of swimmer in biomedical and microfluidic applications.

pi

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


Thumb xl publications toc
Experimental investigation of optimal adhesion of mushroomlike elastomer microfibrillar adhesives

Marvi, H., Song, S., Sitti, M.

Langmuir, 31(37):10119-10124, American Chemical Society, August 2015 (article)

Abstract
Optimal fiber designs for the maximal pull-off force have been indispensable for increasing the attachment performance of recently introduced gecko-inspired reversible micro/nanofibrillar adhesives. There are several theoretical studies on such optimal designs; however, due to the lack of three-dimensional (3D) fabrication techniques that can fabricate such optimal designs in 3D, there have not been many experimental investigations on this challenge. In this study, we benefitted from recent advances in two-photon lithography techniques to fabricate mushroomlike polyurethane elastomer fibers with different aspect ratios of tip to stalk diameter (β) and tip wedge angles (θ) to investigate the effect of these two parameters on the pull-off force. We found similar trends to those predicted theoretically. We found that β has an impact on the slope of the force-displacement curve while both β and θ play a role in the stress distribution and crack propagation. We found that these effects are coupled and the optimal set of parameters also depends on the fiber material. This is the first experimental verification of such optimal designs proposed for mushroomlike microfibers. This experimental approach could be used to evaluate a wide range of complex microstructured adhesive designs suggested in the literature and optimize them.

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


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Micro-fiber arrays with tip coating and transfer method for preparing same

Sitti, M., Washburn, N. R., Glass, P. S., Chung, H.

July 2015, US Patent 9,079,215 (patent)

Abstract
Present invention describes a patterned and coated micro- and nano-scale fibers elastomeric material for enhanced adhesion in wet or dry environments. A multi-step fabrication process including optical lithography, micromolding, polymer synthesis, dipping, stamping, and photopolymerization is described to produce uniform arrays of micron-scale fibers with mushroom-shaped tips coated with a thin layer of an intrinsically adhesive synthetic polymer, such as lightly crosslinked p(DMA-co-MEA).

pi

[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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pH-taxis of biohybrid microsystems

Zhuang, J., Carlsen, R. W., Sitti, M.

Scientific reports, 5, Nature Publishing Group, June 2015 (article)

Abstract
The last decade has seen an increasing number of studies developing bacteria and other cell-integrated biohybrid microsystems. However, the highly stochastic motion of these microsystems severely limits their potential use. Here, we present a method that exploits the pH sensing of flagellated bacteria to realize robust drift control of multi-bacteria propelled microrobots. Under three specifically configured pH gradients, we demonstrate that the microrobots exhibit both unidirectional and bidirectional pH-tactic behaviors, which are also observed in free-swimming bacteria. From trajectory analysis, we find that the swimming direction and speed biases are two major factors that contribute to their tactic drift motion. The motion analysis of microrobots also sheds light on the propulsion dynamics of the flagellated bacteria as bioactuators. It is expected that similar driving mechanisms are shared among pH-taxis, chemotaxis, and thermotaxis. By identifying the mechanism that drives the tactic behavior of bacteria-propelled microsystems, this study opens up an avenue towards improving the control of biohybrid microsystems. Furthermore, assuming that it is possible to tune the preferred pH of bioactuators by genetic engineering, these biohybrid microsystems could potentially be applied to sense the pH gradient induced by cancerous cells in stagnant fluids inside human body and realize targeted drug delivery.

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DOI Project Page [BibTex]

DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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Fiberbot: A miniature crawling robot using a directional fibrillar pad

Han, Y., Marvi, H., Sitti, M.

In Robotics and Automation (ICRA), 2015 IEEE International Conference on, pages: 3122-3127, May 2015 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Vibration-driven locomotion has been widely used for crawling robot studies. Such robots usually have a vibration motor as the actuator and a fibrillar structure for providing directional friction on the substrate. However, there has not been any studies about the effect of fiber structure on robot crawling performance. In this paper, we develop Fiberbot, a custom made mini vibration robot, for studying the effect of fiber angle on robot velocity, steering, and climbing performance. It is known that the friction force with and against fibers depends on the fiber angle. Thus, we first present a new fabrication method for making millimeter scale fibers at a wide range of angles. We then show that using 30° angle fibers that have the highest friction anisotropy (ratio of backward to forward friction force) among the other fibers we fabricated in this study, Fiberbot speed on glass increases to 13.8±0.4 cm/s (compared to ν = 0.6±0.1 cm/s using vertical fibers). We also demonstrate that the locomotion direction of Fiberbot depends on the tilting direction of fibers and we can steer the robot by rotating the fiber pad. Fiberbot could also climb on glass at inclinations of up to 10° when equipped with fibers of high friction anisotropy. We show that adding a rigid tail to the robot it can climb on glass at 25° inclines. Moreover, the robot is able to crawl on rough surfaces such as wood (ν = 10.0±0.2 cm/s using 30° fiber pad). Fiberbot, a low-cost vibration robot equipped with a custom-designed fiber pad with steering and climbing capabilities could be used for studies on collective behavior on a wide range of topographies as well as search and exploratory missions.

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


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Platform design and tethered flight of a motor-driven flapping-wing system

Hines, L., Colmenares, D., Sitti, M.

In Robotics and Automation (ICRA), 2015 IEEE International Conference on, pages: 5838-5845, May 2015 (inproceedings)

Abstract
In this work, we examine two design modifications to a tethered motor-driven flapping-wing system. Previously, we had demonstrated a simple mechanism utilizing a linear transmission for resonant operation and direct drive of the wing flapping angle for control. The initial two-wing system had a weight of 2.7 grams and a maximum lift-to-weight ratio of 1.4. While capable of vertical takeoff, in open-loop flight it demonstrated instability and pitch oscillations at the wing flapping frequency, leading to flight times of only a few wing strokes. Here the effect of vertical wing offset as well as an alternative multi-wing layout is investigated and experimentally tested with newly constructed prototypes. With only a change in vertical wing offset, stable open-loop flight of the two-wing flapping system is shown to be theoretically possible, but difficult to achieve with our current design and operating parameters. Both of the new two and four-wing systems, however, prove capable of flying to the end of the tether, with the four-wing system prototype eliminating disruptive wing beat oscillations.

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


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Structural optimization for flexure-based parallel mechanisms–Towards achieving optimal dynamic and stiffness properties

Lum, G. Z., Teo, T. J., Yeo, S. H., Yang, G., Sitti, M.

Precision Engineering, 42, pages: 195-207, Elsevier, May 2015 (article)

Abstract
Flexure-based parallel mechanisms (FPMs) are a type of compliant mechanisms that consist of a rigid end-effector that is articulated by several parallel, flexible limbs (a.k.a. sub-chains). Existing design methods can enhance the FPMs’ dynamic and stiffness properties by conducting a size optimization on their sub-chains. A similar optimization process, however, was not performed for their sub-chains’ topology, and this may severely limit the benefits of a size optimization. Thus, this paper proposes to use a structural optimization approach to synthesize and optimize the topology, shape and size of the FPMs’ sub-chains. The benefits of this approach are demonstrated via the design and development of a planar X − Y − θz FPM. A prototype of this FPM was evaluated experimentally to have a large workspace of 1.2 mm × 1.2 mm × 6°, a fundamental natural frequency of 102 Hz, and stiffness ratios that are greater than 120. The achieved properties show significant improvement over existing 3-degrees-of-freedom compliant mechanisms that can deflect more than 0.5 mm and 0.5°. These compliant mechanisms typically have stiffness ratios that are less than 60 and a fundamental natural frequency that is less than 45 Hz.

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


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Controlled surface topography regulates collective 3D migration by epithelial–mesenchymal composite embryonic tissues

Song, J., Shawky, J. H., Kim, Y., Hazar, M., LeDuc, P. R., Sitti, M., Davidson, L. A.

Biomaterials, 58, pages: 1-9, Elsevier, April 2015 (article)

Abstract
Cells in tissues encounter a range of physical cues as they migrate. Probing single cell and collective migratory responses to physically defined three-dimensional (3D) microenvironments and the factors that modulate those responses are critical to understanding how tissue migration is regulated during development, regeneration, and cancer. One key physical factor that regulates cell migration is topography. Most studies on surface topography and cell mechanics have been carried out with single migratory cells, yet little is known about the spreading and motility response of 3D complex multi-cellular tissues to topographical cues. Here, we examine the response to complex topographical cues of microsurgically isolated tissue explants composed of epithelial and mesenchymal cell layers from naturally 3D organized embryos of the aquatic frog Xenopus laevis. We control topography using fabricated micropost arrays (MPAs) and investigate the collective 3D migration of these multi-cellular systems in these MPAs. We find that the topography regulates both collective and individual cell migration and that dense MPAs reduce but do not eliminate tissue spreading. By modulating cell size through the cell cycle inhibitor Mitomycin C or the spacing of the MPAs we uncover how 3D topographical cues disrupt collective cell migration. We find surface topography can direct both single cell motility and tissue spreading, altering tissue-scale processes that enable efficient conversion of single cell motility into collective movement.

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


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Transfer Printing of Metallic Microstructures on Adhesion-Promoting Hydrogel Substrates

Wu, H., Sariola, V., Zhu, C., Zhao, J., Sitti, M., Bettinger, C. J.

Advanced Materials, 27(22):3398-3404, April 2015 (article)

Abstract
Fabrication schemes that integrate inorganic microstructures with hydrogel substrates are essential for advancing flexible electronics. A transfer printing process that is made possible through the design and synthesis of adhesion-promoting hydrogels as target substrates is reported. This fabrication technique may advance ultracompliant electronics by melding microfabricated structures with swollen hydrogel substrates.

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


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Dry adhesives and methods for making dry adhesives

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

March 2015, US Patent App. 14/625,162 (patent)

Abstract
Dry adhesives and methods for forming dry adhesives. A method of forming a dry adhesive structure on a substrate, comprises: forming a template backing layer of energy sensitive material on the substrate; forming a template layer of energy sensitive material on the template backing layer; exposing the template layer to a predetermined pattern of energy; removing a portion of the template layer related to the predetermined pattern of energy, and leaving a template structure formed from energy sensitive material and connected to the substrate via the template backing layer.

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[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Biomedical applications of untethered mobile milli/microrobots

Sitti, M., Ceylan, H., Hu, W., Giltinan, J., Turan, M., Yim, S., Diller, E.

Proceedings of the IEEE, 103(2):205-224, IEEE, March 2015 (article)

Abstract
Untethered robots miniaturized to the length scale of millimeter and below attract growing attention for the prospect of transforming many aspects of health care and bioengineering. As the robot size goes down to the order of a single cell, previously inaccessible body sites would become available for high-resolution in situ and in vivo manipulations. This unprecedented direct access would enable an extensive range of minimally invasive medical operations. Here, we provide a comprehensive review of the current advances in biomedical untethered mobile milli/microrobots. We put a special emphasis on the potential impacts of biomedical microrobots in the near future. Finally, we discuss the existing challenges and emerging concepts associated with designing such a miniaturized robot for operation inside a biological environment for biomedical applications.

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


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Collective 3D Migration of Embryonic Epithelial Mesenchymal Composite Tissues are Regulated by Surface Topology

Song, J., Shawky, J., Kim, Y. T., Hazar, M., Sitti, M., LeDuc, P. R., Davidson, L. A.

Biophysical Journal, 108(2):455a, Elsevier, January 2015 (article)

Abstract
Cells in tissues encounter a range of physical cues as they migrate. Probing single cell and collective migratory responses to physically defined three-dimensional (3D) microenvironments and the factors that modulate those responses are critical to understanding how tissue migration is regulated during development, regeneration, and cancer. One key physical factor that regulates cell migration is topology. Most studies on surface topology and cell mechanics have been carried out with single migratory cells, yet little is known about the spreading and motility response of 3D complex multicellular tissues to topological cues. Here, we examine the behaviors of microsurgically isolated tissue explants composed of epithelial and mesenchymal cell layers from naturally 3D organized embryos of the aquatic frog Xenopus laevis to complex topological cues. We control topology using fabricated micropost arrays (MPAs) with different diameters (e.g., different spacing gaps) and investigate the collective 3D migration of these multicellular systems in these MPAs. Our topographical controlled approach for cellular application enables us to achieve a high degree of control over micropost positioning and geometry via simple, accurate, and repeatable microfabrication processes. We find that the topology regulates both collective and individual cell migration and that dense MPAs reduce but do not eliminate tissue spreading. By modulating cell size through the cell cycle inhibitor Mitomycin C or the spacing within MPAs we discover a role for topology in disrupting collective enhancement of cell migration. We find 3D topological cues can direct both single cell motility and tissue spreading, altering tissue-scale processes that enable efficient conversion of single cell motility into collective movement.

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


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Three-dimensional heterogeneous assembly of coded microgels using an untethered mobile microgripper

Chung, S. E., Dong, X., Sitti, M.

Lab on a Chip, 15(7):1667-1676, Royal Society of Chemistry, January 2015 (article)

Abstract
Three-dimensional (3D) heterogeneous assembly of coded microgels in enclosed aquatic environments is demonstrated using a remotely actuated and controlled magnetic microgripper by a customized electromagnetic coil system. The microgripper uses different ‘stick–slip’ and ‘rolling’ locomotion in 2D and also levitation in 3D by magnetic gradient-based pulling force. This enables the microrobot to precisely manipulate each microgel by controlling its position and orientation in all x–y–z directions. Our microrobotic assembly method broke the barrier of limitation on the number of assembled microgel layers, because it enabled precise 3D levitation of the microgripper. We used the gripper to assemble microgels that had been coded with different colours and shapes onto prefabricated polymeric microposts. This eliminates the need for extra secondary cross-linking to fix the final construct. We demonstrated assembly of microgels on a single micropost up to ten layers. By increasing the number and changing the distribution of the posts, complex heterogeneous microsystems were possible to construct in 3D.

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DOI Project Page [BibTex]

DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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Integrating mechanism synthesis and topological optimization technique for stiffness-oriented design of a three degrees-of-freedom flexure-based parallel mechanism

Lum, G. Z., Teo, T. J., Yang, G., Yeo, S. H., Sitti, M.

Precision Engineering, 39, pages: 125-133, Elsevier, January 2015 (article)

Abstract
This paper introduces a new design approach to synthesize multiple degrees-of-freedom (DOF) flexure-based parallel mechanism (FPM). Termed as an integrated design approach, it is a systematic design methodology, which integrates both classical mechanism synthesis and modern topology optimization technique, to deliver an optimized multi-DOF FPM. This design approach is separated into two levels. At sub-chain level, a novel topology optimization technique, which uses the classical linkage mechanisms as DNA seeds, is used to synthesize the compliant joints or limbs. At configuration level, the optimal compliant joints are used to form the parallel limbs of the multi-DOF FPM and another stage of optimization was conducted to determine the optimal space distribution between these compliant joints so as to generate a multi-DOF FPM with optimized stiffness characteristic. In this paper, the design of a 3-DOF planar motion FPM was used to demonstrate the effectiveness and accuracy of this proposed design approach.

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DOI [BibTex]


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Actively controlled fibrillar friction surfaces

Marvi, H, Han, Y, Sitti, M

Applied Physics Letters, 106(5):051602, AIP Publishing, January 2015 (article)

Abstract
In this letter, we propose a technique by which we can actively adjust frictional properties of elastic fibrillar structures in different directions. Using a mesh attached to a two degree-of-freedom linear stage, we controlled the active length and the tilt angle of fibers, independently. Thus, we were able to achieve desired levels of friction forces in different directions and significantly improve passive friction anisotropies observed in the same fiber arrays. The proposed technique would allow us to readily control the friction anisotropy and the friction magnitude of fibrillar structures in any planar direction.

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


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Inference of Cause and Effect with Unsupervised Inverse Regression

Sgouritsa, E., Janzing, D., Hennig, P., Schölkopf, B.

In Proceedings of the 18th International Conference on Artificial Intelligence and Statistics, 38, pages: 847-855, JMLR Workshop and Conference Proceedings, (Editors: Lebanon, G. and Vishwanathan, S.V.N.), JMLR.org, AISTATS, 2015 (inproceedings)

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Web PDF [BibTex]

Web PDF [BibTex]


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Probabilistic Interpretation of Linear Solvers

Hennig, P.

SIAM Journal on Optimization, 25(1):234-260, 2015 (article)

ei pn

Web PDF link (url) DOI [BibTex]

Web PDF link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Probabilistic Line Searches for Stochastic Optimization

Mahsereci, M., Hennig, P.

In Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 28, pages: 181-189, (Editors: C. Cortes, N.D. Lawrence, D.D. Lee, M. Sugiyama and R. Garnett), Curran Associates, Inc., 29th Annual Conference on Neural Information Processing Systems (NIPS), 2015 (inproceedings)

Abstract
In deterministic optimization, line searches are a standard tool ensuring stability and efficiency. Where only stochastic gradients are available, no direct equivalent has so far been formulated, because uncertain gradients do not allow for a strict sequence of decisions collapsing the search space. We construct a probabilistic line search by combining the structure of existing deterministic methods with notions from Bayesian optimization. Our method retains a Gaussian process surrogate of the univariate optimization objective, and uses a probabilistic belief over the Wolfe conditions to monitor the descent. The algorithm has very low computational cost, and no user-controlled parameters. Experiments show that it effectively removes the need to define a learning rate for stochastic gradient descent. [You can find the matlab research code under `attachments' below. The zip-file contains a minimal working example. The docstring in probLineSearch.m contains additional information. A more polished implementation in C++ will be published here at a later point. For comments and questions about the code please write to mmahsereci@tue.mpg.de.]

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Matlab research code link (url) [BibTex]

Matlab research code link (url) [BibTex]


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A Random Riemannian Metric for Probabilistic Shortest-Path Tractography

Hauberg, S., Schober, M., Liptrot, M., Hennig, P., Feragen, A.

In 18th International Conference on Medical Image Computing and Computer Assisted Intervention, 9349, pages: 597-604, Lecture Notes in Computer Science, MICCAI, 2015 (inproceedings)

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PDF DOI [BibTex]

PDF DOI [BibTex]


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Probabilistic numerics and uncertainty in computations

Hennig, P., Osborne, M. A., Girolami, M.

Proceedings of the Royal Society of London A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences, 471(2179), 2015 (article)

Abstract
We deliver a call to arms for probabilistic numerical methods: algorithms for numerical tasks, including linear algebra, integration, optimization and solving differential equations, that return uncertainties in their calculations. Such uncertainties, arising from the loss of precision induced by numerical calculation with limited time or hardware, are important for much contemporary science and industry. Within applications such as climate science and astrophysics, the need to make decisions on the basis of computations with large and complex data have led to a renewed focus on the management of numerical uncertainty. We describe how several seminal classic numerical methods can be interpreted naturally as probabilistic inference. We then show that the probabilistic view suggests new algorithms that can flexibly be adapted to suit application specifics, while delivering improved empirical performance. We provide concrete illustrations of the benefits of probabilistic numeric algorithms on real scientific problems from astrometry and astronomical imaging, while highlighting open problems with these new algorithms. Finally, we describe how probabilistic numerical methods provide a coherent framework for identifying the uncertainty in calculations performed with a combination of numerical algorithms (e.g. both numerical optimizers and differential equation solvers), potentially allowing the diagnosis (and control) of error sources in computations.

ei pn

PDF DOI [BibTex]

PDF DOI [BibTex]


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Kinematic and gait similarities between crawling human infants and other quadruped mammals

Righetti, L., Nylen, A., Rosander, K., Ijspeert, A.

Frontiers in Neurology, 6(17), February 2015 (article)

Abstract
Crawling on hands and knees is an early pattern of human infant locomotion, which offers an interesting way of studying quadrupedalism in one of its simplest form. We investigate how crawling human infants compare to other quadruped mammals, especially primates. We present quantitative data on both the gait and kinematics of seven 10-month-old crawling infants. Body movements were measured with an optoelectronic system giving precise data on 3-dimensional limb movements. Crawling on hands and knees is very similar to the locomotion of non-human primates in terms of the quite protracted arm at touch-down, the coordination between the spine movements in the lateral plane and the limbs, the relatively extended limbs during locomotion and the strong correlation between stance duration and speed of locomotion. However, there are important differences compared to primates, such as the choice of a lateral-sequence walking gait, which is similar to most non-primate mammals and the relatively stiff elbows during stance as opposed to the quite compliant gaits of primates. These finding raise the question of the role of both the mechanical structure of the body and neural control on the determination of these characteristics.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Novel plasticity rule can explain the development of sensorimotor intelligence

Der, R., Martius, G.

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 112(45):E6224-E6232, 2015 (article)

Abstract
Grounding autonomous behavior in the nervous system is a fundamental challenge for neuroscience. In particular, self-organized behavioral development provides more questions than answers. Are there special functional units for curiosity, motivation, and creativity? This paper argues that these features can be grounded in synaptic plasticity itself, without requiring any higher-level constructs. We propose differential extrinsic plasticity (DEP) as a new synaptic rule for self-learning systems and apply it to a number of complex robotic systems as a test case. Without specifying any purpose or goal, seemingly purposeful and adaptive rhythmic behavior is developed, displaying a certain level of sensorimotor intelligence. These surprising results require no system-specific modifications of the DEP rule. They rather arise from the underlying mechanism of spontaneous symmetry breaking, which is due to the tight brain body environment coupling. The new synaptic rule is biologically plausible and would be an interesting target for neurobiological investigation. We also argue that this neuronal mechanism may have been a catalyst in natural evolution.

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link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]

link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]