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2020


Weight bias and linguistic body representation in anorexia nervosa: Findings from the BodyTalk project
Weight bias and linguistic body representation in anorexia nervosa: Findings from the BodyTalk project

Behrens, S. C., Meneguzzo, P., Favaro, A., Teufel, M., Skoda, E., Lindner, M., Walder, L., Quiros-Ramirez, A., Zipfel, S., Mohler, B., Black, M., Giel, K. E.

European Eating Disorders Review, Wiley, November 2020 (article)

Abstract
Objective: This study provides a comprehensive assessment of own body representation and linguistic representation of bodies in general in women with typical and atypical anorexia nervosa (AN). Methods: In a series of desktop experiments, participants rated a set of adjectives according to their match with a series of computer generated bodies varying in body mass index, and generated prototypic body shapes for the same set of adjectives. We analysed how body mass index of the bodies was associated with positive or negative valence of the adjectives in the different groups. Further, body image and own body perception were assessed. Results: In a German‐Italian sample comprising 39 women with AN, 20 women with atypical AN and 40 age matched control participants, we observed effects indicative of weight stigmatization, but no significant differences between the groups. Generally, positive adjectives were associated with lean bodies, whereas negative adjectives were associated with obese bodies. Discussion: Our observations suggest that patients with both typical and atypical AN affectively and visually represent body descriptions not differently from healthy women. We conclude that overvaluation of low body weight and fear of weight gain cannot be explained by generally distorted perception or cognition, but require individual consideration.

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on-line pdf DOI [BibTex]

2020


on-line pdf DOI [BibTex]


AirCapRL: Autonomous Aerial Human Motion Capture Using Deep Reinforcement Learning
AirCapRL: Autonomous Aerial Human Motion Capture Using Deep Reinforcement Learning

Tallamraju, R., Saini, N., Bonetto, E., Pabst, M., Liu, Y. T., Black, M., Ahmad, A.

IEEE Robotics and Automation Letters, IEEE Robotics and Automation Letters, 5(4):6678 - 6685, IEEE, October 2020, Also accepted and presented in the 2020 IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS). (article)

Abstract
In this letter, we introduce a deep reinforcement learning (DRL) based multi-robot formation controller for the task of autonomous aerial human motion capture (MoCap). We focus on vision-based MoCap, where the objective is to estimate the trajectory of body pose, and shape of a single moving person using multiple micro aerial vehicles. State-of-the-art solutions to this problem are based on classical control methods, which depend on hand-crafted system, and observation models. Such models are difficult to derive, and generalize across different systems. Moreover, the non-linearities, and non-convexities of these models lead to sub-optimal controls. In our work, we formulate this problem as a sequential decision making task to achieve the vision-based motion capture objectives, and solve it using a deep neural network-based RL method. We leverage proximal policy optimization (PPO) to train a stochastic decentralized control policy for formation control. The neural network is trained in a parallelized setup in synthetic environments. We performed extensive simulation experiments to validate our approach. Finally, real-robot experiments demonstrate that our policies generalize to real world conditions.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


Combining learned and analytical models for predicting action effects from sensory data
Combining learned and analytical models for predicting action effects from sensory data

Kloss, A., Schaal, S., Bohg, J.

International Journal of Robotics Research, September 2020 (article)

Abstract
One of the most basic skills a robot should possess is predicting the effect of physical interactions with objects in the environment. This enables optimal action selection to reach a certain goal state. Traditionally, dynamics are approximated by physics-based analytical models. These models rely on specific state representations that may be hard to obtain from raw sensory data, especially if no knowledge of the object shape is assumed. More recently, we have seen learning approaches that can predict the effect of complex physical interactions directly from sensory input. It is however an open question how far these models generalize beyond their training data. In this work, we investigate the advantages and limitations of neural network based learning approaches for predicting the effects of actions based on sensory input and show how analytical and learned models can be combined to leverage the best of both worlds. As physical interaction task, we use planar pushing, for which there exists a well-known analytical model and a large real-world dataset. We propose to use a convolutional neural network to convert raw depth images or organized point clouds into a suitable representation for the analytical model and compare this approach to using neural networks for both, perception and prediction. A systematic evaluation of the proposed approach on a very large real-world dataset shows two main advantages of the hybrid architecture. Compared to a pure neural network, it significantly (i) reduces required training data and (ii) improves generalization to novel physical interaction.

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arXiv pdf link (url) DOI [BibTex]


3D Morphable Face Models - Past, Present and Future
3D Morphable Face Models - Past, Present and Future

Egger, B., Smith, W. A. P., Tewari, A., Wuhrer, S., Zollhoefer, M., Beeler, T., Bernard, F., Bolkart, T., Kortylewski, A., Romdhani, S., Theobalt, C., Blanz, V., Vetter, T.

ACM Transactions on Graphics, 39(5), August 2020 (article)

Abstract
In this paper, we provide a detailed survey of 3D Morphable Face Models over the 20 years since they were first proposed. The challenges in building and applying these models, namely capture, modeling, image formation, and image analysis, are still active research topics, and we review the state-of-the-art in each of these areas. We also look ahead, identifying unsolved challenges, proposing directions for future research and highlighting the broad range of current and future applications.

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project page pdf preprint DOI [BibTex]

project page pdf preprint DOI [BibTex]


Analysis of motor development within the first year of life: 3-{D} motion tracking without markers for early detection of developmental disorders
Analysis of motor development within the first year of life: 3-D motion tracking without markers for early detection of developmental disorders

Parisi, C., Hesse, N., Tacke, U., Rocamora, S. P., Blaschek, A., Hadders-Algra, M., Black, M. J., Heinen, F., Müller-Felber, W., Schroeder, A. S.

Bundesgesundheitsblatt - Gesundheitsforschung - Gesundheitsschutz, 63, pages: 881–890, July 2020 (article)

Abstract
Children with motor development disorders benefit greatly from early interventions. An early diagnosis in pediatric preventive care (U2–U5) can be improved by automated screening. Current approaches to automated motion analysis, however, are expensive, require lots of technical support, and cannot be used in broad clinical application. Here we present an inexpensive, marker-free video analysis tool (KineMAT) for infants, which digitizes 3‑D movements of the entire body over time allowing automated analysis in the future. Three-minute video sequences of spontaneously moving infants were recorded with a commercially available depth-imaging camera and aligned with a virtual infant body model (SMIL model). The virtual image generated allows any measurements to be carried out in 3‑D with high precision. We demonstrate seven infants with different diagnoses. A selection of possible movement parameters was quantified and aligned with diagnosis-specific movement characteristics. KineMAT and the SMIL model allow reliable, three-dimensional measurements of spontaneous activity in infants with a very low error rate. Based on machine-learning algorithms, KineMAT can be trained to automatically recognize pathological spontaneous motor skills. It is inexpensive and easy to use and can be developed into a screening tool for preventive care for children.

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pdf on-line w/ sup mat DOI [BibTex]

pdf on-line w/ sup mat DOI [BibTex]


Learning and Tracking the {3D} Body Shape of Freely Moving Infants from {RGB-D} sequences
Learning and Tracking the 3D Body Shape of Freely Moving Infants from RGB-D sequences

Hesse, N., Pujades, S., Black, M., Arens, M., Hofmann, U., Schroeder, S.

IEEE Transactions on Pattern Analysis and Machine Intelligence (TPAMI), 42(10):2540-2551, 2020 (article)

Abstract
Statistical models of the human body surface are generally learned from thousands of high-quality 3D scans in predefined poses to cover the wide variety of human body shapes and articulations. Acquisition of such data requires expensive equipment, calibration procedures, and is limited to cooperative subjects who can understand and follow instructions, such as adults. We present a method for learning a statistical 3D Skinned Multi-Infant Linear body model (SMIL) from incomplete, low-quality RGB-D sequences of freely moving infants. Quantitative experiments show that SMIL faithfully represents the RGB-D data and properly factorizes the shape and pose of the infants. To demonstrate the applicability of SMIL, we fit the model to RGB-D sequences of freely moving infants and show, with a case study, that our method captures enough motion detail for General Movements Assessment (GMA), a method used in clinical practice for early detection of neurodevelopmental disorders in infants. SMIL provides a new tool for analyzing infant shape and movement and is a step towards an automated system for GMA.

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pdf Journal DOI [BibTex]

pdf Journal DOI [BibTex]


General Movement Assessment from videos of computed {3D} infant body models is equally effective compared to conventional {RGB} Video rating
General Movement Assessment from videos of computed 3D infant body models is equally effective compared to conventional RGB Video rating

Schroeder, S., Hesse, N., Weinberger, R., Tacke, U., Gerstl, L., Hilgendorff, A., Heinen, F., Arens, M., Bodensteiner, C., Dijkstra, L. J., Pujades, S., Black, M., Hadders-Algra, M.

Early Human Development, 144, May 2020 (article)

Abstract
Background: General Movement Assessment (GMA) is a powerful tool to predict Cerebral Palsy (CP). Yet, GMA requires substantial training hampering its implementation in clinical routine. This inspired a world-wide quest for automated GMA. Aim: To test whether a low-cost, marker-less system for three-dimensional motion capture from RGB depth sequences using a whole body infant model may serve as the basis for automated GMA. Study design: Clinical case study at an academic neurodevelopmental outpatient clinic. Subjects: Twenty-nine high-risk infants were recruited and assessed at their clinical follow-up at 2-4 month corrected age (CA). Their neurodevelopmental outcome was assessed regularly up to 12-31 months CA. Outcome measures: GMA according to Hadders-Algra by a masked GMA-expert of conventional and computed 3D body model (“SMIL motion”) videos of the same GMs. Agreement between both GMAs was assessed, and sensitivity and specificity of both methods to predict CP at ≥12 months CA. Results: The agreement of the two GMA ratings was substantial, with κ=0.66 for the classification of definitely abnormal (DA) GMs and an ICC of 0.887 (95% CI 0.762;0.947) for a more detailed GM-scoring. Five children were diagnosed with CP (four bilateral, one unilateral CP). The GMs of the child with unilateral CP were twice rated as mildly abnormal. DA-ratings of both videos predicted bilateral CP well: sensitivity 75% and 100%, specificity 88% and 92% for conventional and SMIL motion videos, respectively. Conclusions: Our computed infant 3D full body model is an attractive starting point for automated GMA in infants at risk of CP.

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


Learning Multi-Human Optical Flow
Learning Multi-Human Optical Flow

Ranjan, A., Hoffmann, D. T., Tzionas, D., Tang, S., Romero, J., Black, M. J.

International Journal of Computer Vision (IJCV), (128):873-890, April 2020 (article)

Abstract
The optical flow of humans is well known to be useful for the analysis of human action. Recent optical flow methods focus on training deep networks to approach the problem. However, the training data used by them does not cover the domain of human motion. Therefore, we develop a dataset of multi-human optical flow and train optical flow networks on this dataset. We use a 3D model of the human body and motion capture data to synthesize realistic flow fields in both single-and multi-person images. We then train optical flow networks to estimate human flow fields from pairs of images. We demonstrate that our trained networks are more accurate than a wide range of top methods on held-out test data and that they can generalize well to real image sequences. The code, trained models and the dataset are available for research.

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pdf DOI poster link (url) DOI [BibTex]

pdf DOI poster link (url) DOI [BibTex]


Real Time Trajectory Prediction Using Deep Conditional Generative Models
Real Time Trajectory Prediction Using Deep Conditional Generative Models

Gomez-Gonzalez, S., Prokudin, S., Schölkopf, B., Peters, J.

IEEE Robotics and Automation Letters, 5(2):970-976, IEEE, January 2020 (article)

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arXiv DOI [BibTex]

arXiv DOI [BibTex]


Self-supervised motion deblurring
Self-supervised motion deblurring

Liu, P., Janai, J., Pollefeys, M., Sattler, T., Geiger, A.

IEEE Robotics and Automation Letters, 2020 (article)

Abstract
Motion blurry images challenge many computer vision algorithms, e.g., feature detection, motion estimation, or object recognition. Deep convolutional neural networks are state-of-the-art for image deblurring. However, obtaining training data with corresponding sharp and blurry image pairs can be difficult. In this paper, we present a differentiable reblur model for self-supervised motion deblurring, which enables the network to learn from real-world blurry image sequences without relying on sharp images for supervision. Our key insight is that motion cues obtained from consecutive images yield sufficient information to inform the deblurring task. We therefore formulate deblurring as an inverse rendering problem, taking into account the physical image formation process: we first predict two deblurred images from which we estimate the corresponding optical flow. Using these predictions, we re-render the blurred images and minimize the difference with respect to the original blurry inputs. We use both synthetic and real dataset for experimental evaluations. Our experiments demonstrate that self-supervised single image deblurring is really feasible and leads to visually compelling results.

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pdf Project Page Blog [BibTex]

pdf Project Page Blog [BibTex]


Learning Neural Light Transport
Learning Neural Light Transport

Sanzenbacher, P., Mescheder, L., Geiger, A.

Arxiv, 2020 (article)

Abstract
In recent years, deep generative models have gained significance due to their ability to synthesize natural-looking images with applications ranging from virtual reality to data augmentation for training computer vision models. While existing models are able to faithfully learn the image distribution of the training set, they often lack controllability as they operate in 2D pixel space and do not model the physical image formation process. In this work, we investigate the importance of 3D reasoning for photorealistic rendering. We present an approach for learning light transport in static and dynamic 3D scenes using a neural network with the goal of predicting photorealistic images. In contrast to existing approaches that operate in the 2D image domain, our approach reasons in both 3D and 2D space, thus enabling global illumination effects and manipulation of 3D scene geometry. Experimentally, we find that our model is able to produce photorealistic renderings of static and dynamic scenes. Moreover, it compares favorably to baselines which combine path tracing and image denoising at the same computational budget.

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arxiv [BibTex]


Occlusion Boundary: A Formal Definition & Its Detection via Deep Exploration of Context
Occlusion Boundary: A Formal Definition & Its Detection via Deep Exploration of Context

Wang, C., Fu, H., Tao, D., Black, M.

IEEE Transactions on Pattern Analysis and Machine Intelligence (TPAMI), 2020 (article)

Abstract
Occlusion boundaries contain rich perceptual information about the underlying scene structure and provide important cues in many visual perception-related tasks such as object recognition, segmentation, motion estimation, scene understanding, and autonomous navigation. However, there is no formal definition of occlusion boundaries in the literature, and state-of-the-art occlusion boundary detection is still suboptimal. With this in mind, in this paper we propose a formal definition of occlusion boundaries for related studies. Further, based on a novel idea, we develop two concrete approaches with different characteristics to detect occlusion boundaries in video sequences via enhanced exploration of contextual information (e.g., local structural boundary patterns, observations from surrounding regions, and temporal context) with deep models and conditional random fields. Experimental evaluations of our methods on two challenging occlusion boundary benchmarks (CMU and VSB100) demonstrate that our detectors significantly outperform the current state-of-the-art. Finally, we empirically assess the roles of several important components of the proposed detectors to validate the rationale behind these approaches.

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official version DOI [BibTex]

official version DOI [BibTex]


HOTA: A Higher Order Metric for Evaluating Multi-Object Tracking
HOTA: A Higher Order Metric for Evaluating Multi-Object Tracking

Luiten, J., Osep, A., Dendorfer, P., Torr, P., Geiger, A., Leal-Taixe, L., Leibe, B.

International Journal of Computer Vision (IJCV), 2020 (article)

Abstract
Multi-Object Tracking (MOT) has been notoriously difficult to evaluate. Previous metrics overemphasize the importance of either detection or association. To address this, we present a novel MOT evaluation metric, HOTA (Higher Order Tracking Accuracy), which explicitly balances the effect of performing accurate detection, association and localization into a single unified metric for comparing trackers. HOTA decomposes into a family of sub-metrics which are able to evaluate each of five basic error types separately, which enables clear analysis of tracking performance. We evaluate the effectiveness of HOTA on the MOTChallenge benchmark, and show that it is able to capture important aspects of MOT performance not previously taken into account by established metrics. Furthermore, we show HOTA scores better align with human visual evaluation of tracking performance.

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pdf [BibTex]

pdf [BibTex]


Safe and Fast Tracking on a Robot Manipulator: Robust MPC and Neural Network Control
Safe and Fast Tracking on a Robot Manipulator: Robust MPC and Neural Network Control

Nubert, J., Koehler, J., Berenz, V., Allgower, F., Trimpe, S.

IEEE Robotics and Automation Letters, 2020 (article) Accepted

Abstract
Fast feedback control and safety guarantees are essential in modern robotics. We present an approach that achieves both by combining novel robust model predictive control (MPC) with function approximation via (deep) neural networks (NNs). The result is a new approach for complex tasks with nonlinear, uncertain, and constrained dynamics as are common in robotics. Specifically, we leverage recent results in MPC research to propose a new robust setpoint tracking MPC algorithm, which achieves reliable and safe tracking of a dynamic setpoint while guaranteeing stability and constraint satisfaction. The presented robust MPC scheme constitutes a one-layer approach that unifies the often separated planning and control layers, by directly computing the control command based on a reference and possibly obstacle positions. As a separate contribution, we show how the computation time of the MPC can be drastically reduced by approximating the MPC law with a NN controller. The NN is trained and validated from offline samples of the MPC, yielding statistical guarantees, and used in lieu thereof at run time. Our experiments on a state-of-the-art robot manipulator are the first to show that both the proposed robust and approximate MPC schemes scale to real-world robotic systems.

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arXiv PDF DOI [BibTex]

arXiv PDF DOI [BibTex]

2019


Decoding subcategories of human bodies from both body- and face-responsive cortical regions
Decoding subcategories of human bodies from both body- and face-responsive cortical regions

Foster, C., Zhao, M., Romero, J., Black, M. J., Mohler, B. J., Bartels, A., Bülthoff, I.

NeuroImage, 202(15):116085, November 2019 (article)

Abstract
Our visual system can easily categorize objects (e.g. faces vs. bodies) and further differentiate them into subcategories (e.g. male vs. female). This ability is particularly important for objects of social significance, such as human faces and bodies. While many studies have demonstrated category selectivity to faces and bodies in the brain, how subcategories of faces and bodies are represented remains unclear. Here, we investigated how the brain encodes two prominent subcategories shared by both faces and bodies, sex and weight, and whether neural responses to these subcategories rely on low-level visual, high-level visual or semantic similarity. We recorded brain activity with fMRI while participants viewed faces and bodies that varied in sex, weight, and image size. The results showed that the sex of bodies can be decoded from both body- and face-responsive brain areas, with the former exhibiting more consistent size-invariant decoding than the latter. Body weight could also be decoded in face-responsive areas and in distributed body-responsive areas, and this decoding was also invariant to image size. The weight of faces could be decoded from the fusiform body area (FBA), and weight could be decoded across face and body stimuli in the extrastriate body area (EBA) and a distributed body-responsive area. The sex of well-controlled faces (e.g. excluding hairstyles) could not be decoded from face- or body-responsive regions. These results demonstrate that both face- and body-responsive brain regions encode information that can distinguish the sex and weight of bodies. Moreover, the neural patterns corresponding to sex and weight were invariant to image size and could sometimes generalize across face and body stimuli, suggesting that such subcategorical information is encoded with a high-level visual or semantic code.

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paper pdf DOI [BibTex]

2019


paper pdf DOI [BibTex]


Active Perception based Formation Control for Multiple Aerial Vehicles
Active Perception based Formation Control for Multiple Aerial Vehicles

Tallamraju, R., Price, E., Ludwig, R., Karlapalem, K., Bülthoff, H. H., Black, M. J., Ahmad, A.

IEEE Robotics and Automation Letters, Robotics and Automation Letters, 4(4):4491-4498, IEEE, October 2019 (article)

Abstract
We present a novel robotic front-end for autonomous aerial motion-capture (mocap) in outdoor environments. In previous work, we presented an approach for cooperative detection and tracking (CDT) of a subject using multiple micro-aerial vehicles (MAVs). However, it did not ensure optimal view-point configurations of the MAVs to minimize the uncertainty in the person's cooperatively tracked 3D position estimate. In this article, we introduce an active approach for CDT. In contrast to cooperatively tracking only the 3D positions of the person, the MAVs can actively compute optimal local motion plans, resulting in optimal view-point configurations, which minimize the uncertainty in the tracked estimate. We achieve this by decoupling the goal of active tracking into a quadratic objective and non-convex constraints corresponding to angular configurations of the MAVs w.r.t. the person. We derive this decoupling using Gaussian observation model assumptions within the CDT algorithm. We preserve convexity in optimization by embedding all the non-convex constraints, including those for dynamic obstacle avoidance, as external control inputs in the MPC dynamics. Multiple real robot experiments and comparisons involving 3 MAVs in several challenging scenarios are presented.

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pdf DOI Project Page [BibTex]

pdf DOI Project Page [BibTex]


Decoding the Viewpoint and Identity of Faces and Bodies
Decoding the Viewpoint and Identity of Faces and Bodies

Foster, C., Zhao, M., Bolkart, T., Black, M., Bartels, A., Bülthoff, I.

Journal of Vision, 19(10): 54c, pages: 54-55, Arvo Journals, September 2019 (article)

Abstract
(2019). . , 19(10): 25.13, 54-55. doi: Zitierlink: http://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0003-7493-4

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


 Perceptual Effects of Inconsistency in Human Animations
Perceptual Effects of Inconsistency in Human Animations

Kenny, S., Mahmood, N., Honda, C., Black, M. J., Troje, N. F.

ACM Trans. Appl. Percept., 16(1):2:1-2:18, Febuary 2019 (article)

Abstract
The individual shape of the human body, including the geometry of its articulated structure and the distribution of weight over that structure, influences the kinematics of a person’s movements. How sensitive is the visual system to inconsistencies between shape and motion introduced by retargeting motion from one person onto the shape of another? We used optical motion capture to record five pairs of male performers with large differences in body weight, while they pushed, lifted, and threw objects. From these data, we estimated both the kinematics of the actions as well as the performer’s individual body shape. To obtain consistent and inconsistent stimuli, we created animated avatars by combining the shape and motion estimates from either a single performer or from different performers. Using these stimuli we conducted three experiments in an immersive virtual reality environment. First, a group of participants detected which of two stimuli was inconsistent. Performance was very low, and results were only marginally significant. Next, a second group of participants rated perceived attractiveness, eeriness, and humanness of consistent and inconsistent stimuli, but these judgements of animation characteristics were not affected by consistency of the stimuli. Finally, a third group of participants rated properties of the objects rather than of the performers. Here, we found strong influences of shape-motion inconsistency on perceived weight and thrown distance of objects. This suggests that the visual system relies on its knowledge of shape and motion and that these components are assimilated into an altered perception of the action outcome. We propose that the visual system attempts to resist inconsistent interpretations of human animations. Actions involving object manipulations present an opportunity for the visual system to reinterpret the introduced inconsistencies as a change in the dynamics of an object rather than as an unexpected combination of body shape and body motion.

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publisher pdf DOI [BibTex]

publisher pdf DOI [BibTex]


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Statistical Coverage Control of Mobile Sensor Networks

Arslan, Ö.

IEEE Transactions on Robotics, 35(4):889-908, 2019 (article)

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


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Self and Body Part Localization in Virtual Reality: Comparing a Headset and a Large-Screen Immersive Display

van der Veer, A. H., Longo, M. R., Alsmith, A. J. T., Wong, H. Y., Mohler, B. J.

Frontiers in Robotics and AI, 6(33), 2019 (article)

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


The Virtual Caliper: Rapid Creation of Metrically Accurate Avatars from {3D} Measurements
The Virtual Caliper: Rapid Creation of Metrically Accurate Avatars from 3D Measurements

Pujades, S., Mohler, B., Thaler, A., Tesch, J., Mahmood, N., Hesse, N., Bülthoff, H. H., Black, M. J.

IEEE Transactions on Visualization and Computer Graphics, 25(5):1887-1897, IEEE, 2019 (article)

Abstract
Creating metrically accurate avatars is important for many applications such as virtual clothing try-on, ergonomics, medicine, immersive social media, telepresence, and gaming. Creating avatars that precisely represent a particular individual is challenging however, due to the need for expensive 3D scanners, privacy issues with photographs or videos, and difficulty in making accurate tailoring measurements. We overcome these challenges by creating “The Virtual Caliper”, which uses VR game controllers to make simple measurements. First, we establish what body measurements users can reliably make on their own body. We find several distance measurements to be good candidates and then verify that these are linearly related to 3D body shape as represented by the SMPL body model. The Virtual Caliper enables novice users to accurately measure themselves and create an avatar with their own body shape. We evaluate the metric accuracy relative to ground truth 3D body scan data, compare the method quantitatively to other avatar creation tools, and perform extensive perceptual studies. We also provide a software application to the community that enables novices to rapidly create avatars in fewer than five minutes. Not only is our approach more rapid than existing methods, it exports a metrically accurate 3D avatar model that is rigged and skinned.

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Project Page IEEE Open Access IEEE Open Access PDF DOI [BibTex]

Project Page IEEE Open Access IEEE Open Access PDF DOI [BibTex]

2012


Coupled Action Recognition and Pose Estimation from Multiple Views
Coupled Action Recognition and Pose Estimation from Multiple Views

Yao, A., Gall, J., van Gool, L.

International Journal of Computer Vision, 100(1):16-37, October 2012 (article)

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publisher's site code pdf Project Page Project Page Project Page [BibTex]

2012


publisher's site code pdf Project Page Project Page Project Page [BibTex]


{DRAPE: DRessing Any PErson}
DRAPE: DRessing Any PErson

Guan, P., Reiss, L., Hirshberg, D., Weiss, A., Black, M. J.

ACM Trans. on Graphics (Proc. SIGGRAPH), 31(4):35:1-35:10, July 2012 (article)

Abstract
We describe a complete system for animating realistic clothing on synthetic bodies of any shape and pose without manual intervention. The key component of the method is a model of clothing called DRAPE (DRessing Any PErson) that is learned from a physics-based simulation of clothing on bodies of different shapes and poses. The DRAPE model has the desirable property of "factoring" clothing deformations due to body shape from those due to pose variation. This factorization provides an approximation to the physical clothing deformation and greatly simplifies clothing synthesis. Given a parameterized model of the human body with known shape and pose parameters, we describe an algorithm that dresses the body with a garment that is customized to fit and possesses realistic wrinkles. DRAPE can be used to dress static bodies or animated sequences with a learned model of the cloth dynamics. Since the method is fully automated, it is appropriate for dressing large numbers of virtual characters of varying shape. The method is significantly more efficient than physical simulation.

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YouTube pdf talk Project Page Project Page [BibTex]

YouTube pdf talk Project Page Project Page [BibTex]


Visual Orientation and Directional Selectivity Through Thalamic Synchrony
Visual Orientation and Directional Selectivity Through Thalamic Synchrony

Stanley, G., Jin, J., Wang, Y., Desbordes, G., Wang, Q., Black, M., Alonso, J.

Journal of Neuroscience, 32(26):9073-9088, June 2012 (article)

Abstract
Thalamic neurons respond to visual scenes by generating synchronous spike trains on the timescale of 10–20 ms that are very effective at driving cortical targets. Here we demonstrate that this synchronous activity contains unexpectedly rich information about fundamental properties of visual stimuli. We report that the occurrence of synchronous firing of cat thalamic cells with highly overlapping receptive fields is strongly sensitive to the orientation and the direction of motion of the visual stimulus. We show that this stimulus selectivity is robust, remaining relatively unchanged under different contrasts and temporal frequencies (stimulus velocities). A computational analysis based on an integrate-and-fire model of the direct thalamic input to a layer 4 cortical cell reveals a strong correlation between the degree of thalamic synchrony and the nonlinear relationship between cortical membrane potential and the resultant firing rate. Together, these findings suggest a novel population code in the synchronous firing of neurons in the early visual pathway that could serve as the substrate for establishing cortical representations of the visual scene.

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preprint publisher's site Project Page [BibTex]

preprint publisher's site Project Page [BibTex]


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From Dynamic Movement Primitives to Associative Skill Memories

Pastor, P., Kalakrishnan, M., Meier, F., Stulp, F., Buchli, J., Theodorou, E., Schaal, S.

Robotics and Autonomous Systems, 2012 (article)

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Project Page [BibTex]

Project Page [BibTex]


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Model-free reinforcement learning of impedance control in stochastic environments

Stulp, Freek, Buchli, Jonas, Ellmer, Alice, Mistry, Michael, Theodorou, Evangelos A., Schaal, S.

Autonomous Mental Development, IEEE Transactions on, 4(4):330-341, 2012 (article)

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[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Reinforcement Learning with Sequences of Motion Primitives for Robust Manipulation

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

IEEE Transactions on Robotics, 2012 (article)

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[BibTex]

[BibTex]

2011


Loose-limbed People: Estimating {3D} Human Pose and Motion Using Non-parametric Belief Propagation
Loose-limbed People: Estimating 3D Human Pose and Motion Using Non-parametric Belief Propagation

Sigal, L., Isard, M., Haussecker, H., Black, M. J.

International Journal of Computer Vision, 98(1):15-48, Springer Netherlands, May 2011 (article)

Abstract
We formulate the problem of 3D human pose estimation and tracking as one of inference in a graphical model. Unlike traditional kinematic tree representations, our model of the body is a collection of loosely-connected body-parts. In particular, we model the body using an undirected graphical model in which nodes correspond to parts and edges to kinematic, penetration, and temporal constraints imposed by the joints and the world. These constraints are encoded using pair-wise statistical distributions, that are learned from motion-capture training data. Human pose and motion estimation is formulated as inference in this graphical model and is solved using Particle Message Passing (PaMPas). PaMPas is a form of non-parametric belief propagation that uses a variation of particle filtering that can be applied over a general graphical model with loops. The loose-limbed model and decentralized graph structure allow us to incorporate information from "bottom-up" visual cues, such as limb and head detectors, into the inference process. These detectors enable automatic initialization and aid recovery from transient tracking failures. We illustrate the method by automatically tracking people in multi-view imagery using a set of calibrated cameras and present quantitative evaluation using the HumanEva dataset.

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pdf publisher's site link (url) Project Page Project Page [BibTex]

2011


pdf publisher's site link (url) Project Page Project Page [BibTex]


Point-and-Click Cursor Control With an Intracortical Neural Interface System by Humans With Tetraplegia
Point-and-Click Cursor Control With an Intracortical Neural Interface System by Humans With Tetraplegia

Kim, S., Simeral, J. D., Hochberg, L. R., Donoghue, J. P., Friehs, G. M., Black, M. J.

IEEE Transactions on Neural Systems and Rehabilitation Engineering, 19(2):193-203, April 2011 (article)

Abstract
We present a point-and-click intracortical neural interface system (NIS) that enables humans with tetraplegia to volitionally move a 2D computer cursor in any desired direction on a computer screen, hold it still and click on the area of interest. This direct brain-computer interface extracts both discrete (click) and continuous (cursor velocity) signals from a single small population of neurons in human motor cortex. A key component of this system is a multi-state probabilistic decoding algorithm that simultaneously decodes neural spiking activity and outputs either a click signal or the velocity of the cursor. The algorithm combines a linear classifier, which determines whether the user is intending to click or move the cursor, with a Kalman filter that translates the neural population activity into cursor velocity. We present a paradigm for training the multi-state decoding algorithm using neural activity observed during imagined actions. Two human participants with tetraplegia (paralysis of the four limbs) performed a closed-loop radial target acquisition task using the point-and-click NIS over multiple sessions. We quantified point-and-click performance using various human-computer interaction measurements for pointing devices. We found that participants were able to control the cursor motion accurately and click on specified targets with a small error rate (< 3% in one participant). This study suggests that signals from a small ensemble of motor cortical neurons (~40) can be used for natural point-and-click 2D cursor control of a personal computer.

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pdf publishers's site pub med link (url) Project Page [BibTex]

pdf publishers's site pub med link (url) Project Page [BibTex]


A Database and Evaluation Methodology for Optical Flow
A Database and Evaluation Methodology for Optical Flow

Baker, S., Scharstein, D., Lewis, J. P., Roth, S., Black, M. J., Szeliski, R.

International Journal of Computer Vision, 92(1):1-31, March 2011 (article)

Abstract
The quantitative evaluation of optical flow algorithms by Barron et al. (1994) led to significant advances in performance. The challenges for optical flow algorithms today go beyond the datasets and evaluation methods proposed in that paper. Instead, they center on problems associated with complex natural scenes, including nonrigid motion, real sensor noise, and motion discontinuities. We propose a new set of benchmarks and evaluation methods for the next generation of optical flow algorithms. To that end, we contribute four types of data to test different aspects of optical flow algorithms: (1) sequences with nonrigid motion where the ground-truth flow is determined by tracking hidden fluorescent texture, (2) realistic synthetic sequences, (3) high frame-rate video used to study interpolation error, and (4) modified stereo sequences of static scenes. In addition to the average angular error used by Barron et al., we compute the absolute flow endpoint error, measures for frame interpolation error, improved statistics, and results at motion discontinuities and in textureless regions. In October 2007, we published the performance of several well-known methods on a preliminary version of our data to establish the current state of the art. We also made the data freely available on the web at http://vision.middlebury.edu/flow/ . Subsequently a number of researchers have uploaded their results to our website and published papers using the data. A significant improvement in performance has already been achieved. In this paper we analyze the results obtained to date and draw a large number of conclusions from them.

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pdf pdf from publisher Middlebury Flow Evaluation Website [BibTex]

pdf pdf from publisher Middlebury Flow Evaluation Website [BibTex]


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

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

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

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[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Bayesian robot system identification with input and output noise

Ting, J., D’Souza, A., Schaal, S.

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

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

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link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Learning variable impedance control

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

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

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

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link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


Neural control of cursor trajectory and click by a human with tetraplegia 1000 days after implant of an intracortical microelectrode array
Neural control of cursor trajectory and click by a human with tetraplegia 1000 days after implant of an intracortical microelectrode array

(J. Neural Engineering Highlights of 2011 Collection. JNE top 10 cited papers of 2010-2011.)

Simeral, J. D., Kim, S., Black, M. J., Donoghue, J. P., Hochberg, L. R.

J. of Neural Engineering, 8(2):025027, 2011 (article)

Abstract
The ongoing pilot clinical trial of the BrainGate neural interface system aims in part to assess the feasibility of using neural activity obtained from a small-scale, chronically implanted, intracortical microelectrode array to provide control signals for a neural prosthesis system. Critical questions include how long implanted microelectrodes will record useful neural signals, how reliably those signals can be acquired and decoded, and how effectively they can be used to control various assistive technologies such as computers and robotic assistive devices, or to enable functional electrical stimulation of paralyzed muscles. Here we examined these questions by assessing neural cursor control and BrainGate system characteristics on five consecutive days 1000 days after implant of a 4 × 4 mm array of 100 microelectrodes in the motor cortex of a human with longstanding tetraplegia subsequent to a brainstem stroke. On each of five prospectively-selected days we performed time-amplitude sorting of neuronal spiking activity, trained a population-based Kalman velocity decoding filter combined with a linear discriminant click state classifier, and then assessed closed-loop point-and-click cursor control. The participant performed both an eight-target center-out task and a random target Fitts metric task which was adapted from a human-computer interaction ISO standard used to quantify performance of computer input devices. The neural interface system was further characterized by daily measurement of electrode impedances, unit waveforms and local field potentials. Across the five days, spiking signals were obtained from 41 of 96 electrodes and were successfully decoded to provide neural cursor point-and-click control with a mean task performance of 91.3% ± 0.1% (mean ± s.d.) correct target acquisition. Results across five consecutive days demonstrate that a neural interface system based on an intracortical microelectrode array can provide repeatable, accurate point-and-click control of a computer interface to an individual with tetraplegia 1000 days after implantation of this sensor.

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pdf pdf from publisher link (url) Project Page [BibTex]


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Understanding haptics by evolving mechatronic systems

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

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

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[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Intelligent Mobility—Autonomous Outdoor Robotics at the DFKI

Joyeux, S., Schwendner, J., Kirchner, F., Babu, A., Grimminger, F., Machowinski, J., Paranhos, P., Gaudig, C.

KI, 25(2):133-139, May 2011 (article)

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]

2010


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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]


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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]


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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 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]

2009


Valero-Cuevas, F., Hoffmann, H., Kurse, M. U., Kutch, J. J., Theodorou, E. A.

IEEE Reviews in Biomedical Engineering – (All authors have equally contributed), (2):110?135, 2009, clmc (article)

Abstract
Computational models of the neuromuscular system hold the potential to allow us to reach a deeper understanding of neuromuscular function and clinical rehabilitation by complementing experimentation. By serving as a means to distill and explore specific hypotheses, computational models emerge from prior experimental data and motivate future experimental work. Here we review computational tools used to understand neuromuscular function including musculoskeletal modeling, machine learning, control theory, and statistical model analysis. We conclude that these tools, when used in combination, have the potential to further our understanding of neuromuscular function by serving as a rigorous means to test scientific hypotheses in ways that complement and leverage experimental data.

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link (url) [BibTex]

2009


link (url) [BibTex]


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Adaptive compliance control of a multi-legged stair-climbing robot based on proprioceptive data

Waldron, K. J., Eich, M., Grimminger, F., Kirchner, F.

Industrial Robot: An International Journal, 36, pages: 331-339, Emerald Group Publishing Limited, June 2009 (article)

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


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On-line learning and modulation of periodic movements with nonlinear dynamical systems

Gams, A., Ijspeert, A., Schaal, S., Lenarčič, J.

Autonomous Robots, 27(1):3-23, 2009, clmc (article)

Abstract
Abstract  The paper presents a two-layered system for (1) learning and encoding a periodic signal without any knowledge on its frequency and waveform, and (2) modulating the learned periodic trajectory in response to external events. The system is used to learn periodic tasks on a humanoid HOAP-2 robot. The first layer of the system is a dynamical system responsible for extracting the fundamental frequency of the input signal, based on adaptive frequency oscillators. The second layer is a dynamical system responsible for learning of the waveform based on a built-in learning algorithm. By combining the two dynamical systems into one system we can rapidly teach new trajectories to robots without any knowledge of the frequency of the demonstration signal. The system extracts and learns only one period of the demonstration signal. Furthermore, the trajectories are robust to perturbations and can be modulated to cope with a dynamic environment. The system is computationally inexpensive, works on-line for any periodic signal, requires no additional signal processing to determine the frequency of the input signal and can be applied in parallel to multiple dimensions. Additionally, it can adapt to changes in frequency and shape, e.g. to non-stationary signals, such as hand-generated signals and human demonstrations.

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link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Local dimensionality reduction for non-parametric regression

Hoffman, H., Schaal, S., Vijayakumar, S.

Neural Processing Letters, 2009, clmc (article)

Abstract
Locally-weighted regression is a computationally-efficient technique for non-linear regression. However, for high-dimensional data, this technique becomes numerically brittle and computationally too expensive if many local models need to be maintained simultaneously. Thus, local linear dimensionality reduction combined with locally-weighted regression seems to be a promising solution. In this context, we review linear dimensionality-reduction methods, compare their performance on nonparametric locally-linear regression, and discuss their ability to extend to incremental learning. The considered methods belong to the following three groups: (1) reducing dimensionality only on the input data, (2) modeling the joint input-output data distribution, and (3) optimizing the correlation between projection directions and output data. Group 1 contains principal component regression (PCR); group 2 contains principal component analysis (PCA) in joint input and output space, factor analysis, and probabilistic PCA; and group 3 contains reduced rank regression (RRR) and partial least squares (PLS) regression. Among the tested methods, only group 3 managed to achieve robust performance even for a non-optimal number of components (factors or projection directions). In contrast, group 1 and 2 failed for fewer components since these methods rely on the correct estimate of the true intrinsic dimensionality. In group 3, PLS is the only method for which a computationally-efficient incremental implementation exists. Thus, PLS appears to be ideally suited as a building block for a locally-weighted regressor in which projection directions are incrementally added on the fly.

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link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Incorporating Muscle Activation-Contraction dynamics to an optimal control framework for finger movements

Theodorou, Evangelos A., Valero-Cuevas, Francisco J.

Abstracts of Neural Control of Movement Conference (NCM 2009), 2009, clmc (article)

Abstract
Recent experimental and theoretical work [1] investigated the neural control of contact transition between motion and force during tapping with the index finger as a nonlinear optimization problem. Such transitions from motion to well-directed contact force are a fundamental part of dexterous manipulation. There are 3 alternative hypotheses of how this transition could be accomplished by the nervous system as a function of changes in direction and magnitude of the torque vector controlling the finger. These hypotheses are 1) an initial change in direction with a subsequent change in magnitude of the torque vector; 2) an initial change in magnitude with a subsequent directional change of the torque vector; and 3) a simultaneous and proportionally equal change of both direction and magnitude of the torque vector. Experimental work in [2] shows that the nervous system selects the first strategy, and in [1] we suggest that this may in fact be the optimal strategy. In [4] the framework of Iterative Linear Quadratic Optimal Regulator (ILQR) was extended to incorporate motion and force control. However, our prior simulation work assumed direct and instantaneous control of joint torques, which ignores the known delays and filtering properties of skeletal muscle. In this study, we implement an ILQR controller for a more biologically plausible biomechanical model of the index finger than [4], and add activation-contraction dynamics to the system to simulate muscle function. The planar biomechanical model includes the kinematics of the 3 joints while the applied torques are driven by activation?contraction dynamics with biologically plausible time constants [3]. In agreement with our experimental work [2], the task is to, within 500 ms, move the finger from a given resting configuration to target configuration with a desired terminal velocity. ILQR does not only stabilize the finger dynamics according to the objective function, but it also generates smooth joint space trajectories with minimal tuning and without an a-priori initial control policy (which is difficult to find for highly dimensional biomechanical systems). Furthemore, the use of this optimal control framework and the addition of activation-contraction dynamics considers the full nonlinear dynamics of the index finger and produces a sequence of postures which are compatible with experimental motion data [2]. These simulations combined with prior experimental results suggest that optimal control is a strong candidate for the generation of finger movements prior to abrupt motion-to-force transitions. This work is funded in part by grants NIH R01 0505520 and NSF EFRI-0836042 to Dr. Francisco J. Valero- Cuevas 1 Venkadesan M, Valero-Cuevas FJ. 
Effects of neuromuscular lags on controlling contact transitions. 
Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A: 2008. 2 Venkadesan M, Valero-Cuevas FJ. 
Neural Control of Motion-to-Force Transitions with the Fingertip. 
J. Neurosci., Feb 2008; 28: 1366 - 1373; 3 Zajac. Muscle and tendon: properties, models, scaling, and application to biomechanics and motor control. Crit Rev Biomed Eng, 17 4. Weiwei Li., Francisco Valero Cuevas: ?Linear Quadratic Optimal Control of Contact Transition with Fingertip ? ACC 2009

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PDF [BibTex]

PDF [BibTex]