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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]


AirCap -- Aerial Outdoor Motion Capture
AirCap – Aerial Outdoor Motion Capture

Ahmad, A., Price, E., Tallamraju, R., Saini, N., Lawless, G., Ludwig, R., Martinovic, I., Bülthoff, H. H., Black, M. J.

IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS 2019), Workshop on Aerial Swarms, November 2019 (misc)

Abstract
This paper presents an overview of the Grassroots project Aerial Outdoor Motion Capture (AirCap) running at the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems. AirCap's goal is to achieve markerless, unconstrained, human motion capture (mocap) in unknown and unstructured outdoor environments. To that end, we have developed an autonomous flying motion capture system using a team of aerial vehicles (MAVs) with only on-board, monocular RGB cameras. We have conducted several real robot experiments involving up to 3 aerial vehicles autonomously tracking and following a person in several challenging scenarios using our approach of active cooperative perception developed in AirCap. Using the images captured by these robots during the experiments, we have demonstrated a successful offline body pose and shape estimation with sufficiently high accuracy. Overall, we have demonstrated the first fully autonomous flying motion capture system involving multiple robots for outdoor scenarios.

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Talk slides Project Page Project Page [BibTex]

Talk slides Project Page Project Page [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]


Method for providing a three dimensional body model
Method for providing a three dimensional body model

Loper, M., Mahmood, N., Black, M.

September 2019, U.S.~Patent 10,417,818 (misc)

Abstract
A method for providing a three-dimensional body model which may be applied for an animation, based on a moving body, wherein the method comprises providing a parametric three-dimensional body model, which allows shape and pose variations; applying a standard set of body markers; optimizing the set of body markers by generating an additional set of body markers and applying the same for providing 3D coordinate marker signals for capturing shape and pose of the body and dynamics of soft tissue; and automatically providing an animation by processing the 3D coordinate marker signals in order to provide a personalized three-dimensional body model, based on estimated shape and an estimated pose of the body by means of predicted marker locations.

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MoSh Project pdf [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.

arxiv preprint arXiv:1909.01815, September 2019 (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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paper project page [BibTex]

paper project page [BibTex]


Series Elastic Behavior of Biarticular Muscle-Tendon Structure in a Robotic Leg
Series Elastic Behavior of Biarticular Muscle-Tendon Structure in a Robotic Leg

Ruppert, F., Badri-Spröwitz, A.

Frontiers in Neurorobotics, 64, pages: 13, 13, August 2019 (article)

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Frontiers YouTube link (url) DOI [BibTex]

Frontiers YouTube link (url) DOI [BibTex]


Beyond Basins of Attraction: Quantifying Robustness of Natural Dynamics
Beyond Basins of Attraction: Quantifying Robustness of Natural Dynamics

Steve Heim, , Spröwitz, A.

IEEE Transactions on Robotics (T-RO) , 35(4), pages: 939-952, August 2019 (article)

Abstract
Properly designing a system to exhibit favorable natural dynamics can greatly simplify designing or learning the control policy. However, it is still unclear what constitutes favorable natural dynamics and how to quantify its effect. Most studies of simple walking and running models have focused on the basins of attraction of passive limit cycles and the notion of self-stability. We instead emphasize the importance of stepping beyond basins of attraction. In this paper, we show an approach based on viability theory to quantify robust sets in state-action space. These sets are valid for the family of all robust control policies, which allows us to quantify the robustness inherent to the natural dynamics before designing the control policy or specifying a control objective. We illustrate our formulation using spring-mass models, simple low-dimensional models of running systems. We then show an example application by optimizing robustness of a simulated planar monoped, using a gradient-free optimization scheme. Both case studies result in a nonlinear effective stiffness providing more robustness.

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arXiv preprint arXiv:1806.08081 T-RO link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]

arXiv preprint arXiv:1806.08081 T-RO link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]


Learning Variable Impedance Control for Contact Sensitive Tasks
Learning Variable Impedance Control for Contact Sensitive Tasks

Bogdanovic, M., Khadiv, M., Righetti, L.

arXiv preprint, arXiv:1907.07500, July 2019 (article)

Abstract
Reinforcement learning algorithms have shown great success in solving different problems ranging from playing video games to robotics. However, they struggle to solve delicate robotic problems, especially those involving contact interactions. Though in principle a policy outputting joint torques should be able to learn these tasks, in practice we see that they have difficulty to robustly solve the problem without any structure in the action space. In this paper, we investigate how the choice of action space can give robust performance in presence of contact uncertainties. We propose to learn a policy that outputs impedance and desired position in joint space as a function of system states without imposing any other structure to the problem. We compare the performance of this approach to torque and position control policies under different contact uncertainties. Extensive simulation results on two different systems, a hopper (floating-base) with intermittent contacts and a manipulator (fixed-base) wiping a table, show that our proposed approach outperforms policies outputting torque or position in terms of both learning rate and robustness to environment uncertainty.

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[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.

Transactions on Pattern Analysis and Machine Intelligence (TPAMI), 2019 (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]


 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]


Perceiving Systems (2016-2018)
Perceiving Systems (2016-2018)
Scientific Advisory Board Report, 2019 (misc)

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pdf [BibTex]

pdf [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, pages: 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]


Automated Generation of Reactive Programs from Human Demonstration for Orchestration of Robot Behaviors
Automated Generation of Reactive Programs from Human Demonstration for Orchestration of Robot Behaviors

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

ArXiv, 2019 (article)

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

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Support Video link (url) [BibTex]

2018


Deep Inertial Poser: Learning to Reconstruct Human Pose from Sparse Inertial Measurements in Real Time
Deep Inertial Poser: Learning to Reconstruct Human Pose from Sparse Inertial Measurements in Real Time

Huang, Y., Kaufmann, M., Aksan, E., Black, M. J., Hilliges, O., Pons-Moll, G.

ACM Transactions on Graphics, (Proc. SIGGRAPH Asia), 37, pages: 185:1-185:15, ACM, November 2018, Two first authors contributed equally (article)

Abstract
We demonstrate a novel deep neural network capable of reconstructing human full body pose in real-time from 6 Inertial Measurement Units (IMUs) worn on the user's body. In doing so, we address several difficult challenges. First, the problem is severely under-constrained as multiple pose parameters produce the same IMU orientations. Second, capturing IMU data in conjunction with ground-truth poses is expensive and difficult to do in many target application scenarios (e.g., outdoors). Third, modeling temporal dependencies through non-linear optimization has proven effective in prior work but makes real-time prediction infeasible. To address this important limitation, we learn the temporal pose priors using deep learning. To learn from sufficient data, we synthesize IMU data from motion capture datasets. A bi-directional RNN architecture leverages past and future information that is available at training time. At test time, we deploy the network in a sliding window fashion, retaining real time capabilities. To evaluate our method, we recorded DIP-IMU, a dataset consisting of 10 subjects wearing 17 IMUs for validation in 64 sequences with 330,000 time instants; this constitutes the largest IMU dataset publicly available. We quantitatively evaluate our approach on multiple datasets and show results from a real-time implementation. DIP-IMU and the code are available for research purposes.

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data code pdf preprint errata video DOI Project Page [BibTex]

2018


data code pdf preprint errata video DOI Project Page [BibTex]


A Value-Driven Eldercare Robot: Virtual and Physical Instantiations of a Case-Supported Principle-Based Behavior Paradigm
A Value-Driven Eldercare Robot: Virtual and Physical Instantiations of a Case-Supported Principle-Based Behavior Paradigm

Anderson, M., Anderson, S., Berenz, V.

Proceedings of the IEEE, pages: 1,15, October 2018 (article)

Abstract
In this paper, a case-supported principle-based behavior paradigm is proposed to help ensure ethical behavior of autonomous machines. We argue that ethically significant behavior of autonomous systems should be guided by explicit ethical principles determined through a consensus of ethicists. Such a consensus is likely to emerge in many areas in which autonomous systems are apt to be deployed and for the actions they are liable to undertake. We believe that this is the case since we are more likely to agree on how machines ought to treat us than on how human beings ought to treat one another. Given such a consensus, particular cases of ethical dilemmas where ethicists agree on the ethically relevant features and the right course of action can be used to help discover principles that balance these features when they are in conflict. Such principles not only help ensure ethical behavior of complex and dynamic systems but also can serve as a basis for justification of this behavior. The requirements, methods, implementation, and evaluation components of the paradigm are detailed as well as its instantiation in both a simulated and real robot functioning in the domain of eldercare.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]


Deep Neural Network-based Cooperative Visual Tracking through Multiple Micro Aerial Vehicles
Deep Neural Network-based Cooperative Visual Tracking through Multiple Micro Aerial Vehicles

Price, E., Lawless, G., Ludwig, R., Martinovic, I., Buelthoff, H. H., Black, M. J., Ahmad, A.

IEEE Robotics and Automation Letters, Robotics and Automation Letters, 3(4):3193-3200, IEEE, October 2018, Also accepted and presented in the 2018 IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS). (article)

Abstract
Multi-camera tracking of humans and animals in outdoor environments is a relevant and challenging problem. Our approach to it involves a team of cooperating micro aerial vehicles (MAVs) with on-board cameras only. DNNs often fail at objects with small scale or far away from the camera, which are typical characteristics of a scenario with aerial robots. Thus, the core problem addressed in this paper is how to achieve on-board, online, continuous and accurate vision-based detections using DNNs for visual person tracking through MAVs. Our solution leverages cooperation among multiple MAVs and active selection of most informative regions of image. We demonstrate the efficiency of our approach through simulations with up to 16 robots and real robot experiments involving two aerial robots tracking a person, while maintaining an active perception-driven formation. ROS-based source code is provided for the benefit of the community.

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Published Version link (url) DOI [BibTex]

Published Version link (url) DOI [BibTex]


First Impressions of Personality Traits From Body Shapes
First Impressions of Personality Traits From Body Shapes

Hu, Y., Parde, C. J., Hill, M. Q., Mahmood, N., O’Toole, A. J.

Psychological Science, 29(12):1969-–1983, October 2018 (article)

Abstract
People infer the personalities of others from their facial appearance. Whether they do so from body shapes is less studied. We explored personality inferences made from body shapes. Participants rated personality traits for male and female bodies generated with a three-dimensional body model. Multivariate spaces created from these ratings indicated that people evaluate bodies on valence and agency in ways that directly contrast positive and negative traits from the Big Five domains. Body-trait stereotypes based on the trait ratings revealed a myriad of diverse body shapes that typify individual traits. Personality-trait profiles were predicted reliably from a subset of the body-shape features used to specify the three-dimensional bodies. Body features related to extraversion and conscientiousness were predicted with the highest consensus, followed by openness traits. This study provides the first comprehensive look at the range, diversity, and reliability of personality inferences that people make from body shapes.

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publisher site pdf DOI [BibTex]

publisher site pdf DOI [BibTex]


Playful: Reactive Programming for Orchestrating Robotic Behavior
Playful: Reactive Programming for Orchestrating Robotic Behavior

Berenz, V., Schaal, S.

IEEE Robotics Automation Magazine, 25(3):49-60, September 2018 (article) In press

Abstract
For many service robots, reactivity to changes in their surroundings is a must. However, developing software suitable for dynamic environments is difficult. Existing robotic middleware allows engineers to design behavior graphs by organizing communication between components. But because these graphs are structurally inflexible, they hardly support the development of complex reactive behavior. To address this limitation, we propose Playful, a software platform that applies reactive programming to the specification of robotic behavior.

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playful website playful_IEEE_RAM link (url) DOI [BibTex]


ClusterNet: Instance Segmentation in RGB-D Images
ClusterNet: Instance Segmentation in RGB-D Images

Shao, L., Tian, Y., Bohg, J.

arXiv, September 2018, Submitted to ICRA'19 (article) Submitted

Abstract
We propose a method for instance-level segmentation that uses RGB-D data as input and provides detailed information about the location, geometry and number of {\em individual\/} objects in the scene. This level of understanding is fundamental for autonomous robots. It enables safe and robust decision-making under the large uncertainty of the real-world. In our model, we propose to use the first and second order moments of the object occupancy function to represent an object instance. We train an hourglass Deep Neural Network (DNN) where each pixel in the output votes for the 3D position of the corresponding object center and for the object's size and pose. The final instance segmentation is achieved through clustering in the space of moments. The object-centric training loss is defined on the output of the clustering. Our method outperforms the state-of-the-art instance segmentation method on our synthesized dataset. We show that our method generalizes well on real-world data achieving visually better segmentation results.

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link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


Visual Perception and Evaluation of Photo-Realistic Self-Avatars From {3D} Body Scans in Males and Females
Visual Perception and Evaluation of Photo-Realistic Self-Avatars From 3D Body Scans in Males and Females

Thaler, A., Piryankova, I., Stefanucci, J. K., Pujades, S., de la Rosa, S., Streuber, S., Romero, J., Black, M. J., Mohler, B. J.

Frontiers in ICT, 5, pages: 1-14, September 2018 (article)

Abstract
The creation or streaming of photo-realistic self-avatars is important for virtual reality applications that aim for perception and action to replicate real world experience. The appearance and recognition of a digital self-avatar may be especially important for applications related to telepresence, embodied virtual reality, or immersive games. We investigated gender differences in the use of visual cues (shape, texture) of a self-avatar for estimating body weight and evaluating avatar appearance. A full-body scanner was used to capture each participant's body geometry and color information and a set of 3D virtual avatars with realistic weight variations was created based on a statistical body model. Additionally, a second set of avatars was created with an average underlying body shape matched to each participant’s height and weight. In four sets of psychophysical experiments, the influence of visual cues on the accuracy of body weight estimation and the sensitivity to weight changes was assessed by manipulating body shape (own, average) and texture (own photo-realistic, checkerboard). The avatars were presented on a large-screen display, and participants responded to whether the avatar's weight corresponded to their own weight. Participants also adjusted the avatar's weight to their desired weight and evaluated the avatar's appearance with regard to similarity to their own body, uncanniness, and their willingness to accept it as a digital representation of the self. The results of the psychophysical experiments revealed no gender difference in the accuracy of estimating body weight in avatars. However, males accepted a larger weight range of the avatars as corresponding to their own. In terms of the ideal body weight, females but not males desired a thinner body. With regard to the evaluation of avatar appearance, the questionnaire responses suggest that own photo-realistic texture was more important to males for higher similarity ratings, while own body shape seemed to be more important to females. These results argue for gender-specific considerations when creating self-avatars.

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pdf DOI [BibTex]

pdf DOI [BibTex]


Robust Physics-based Motion Retargeting with Realistic Body Shapes
Robust Physics-based Motion Retargeting with Realistic Body Shapes

Borno, M. A., Righetti, L., Black, M. J., Delp, S. L., Fiume, E., Romero, J.

Computer Graphics Forum, 37, pages: 6:1-12, July 2018 (article)

Abstract
Motion capture is often retargeted to new, and sometimes drastically different, characters. When the characters take on realistic human shapes, however, we become more sensitive to the motion looking right. This means adapting it to be consistent with the physical constraints imposed by different body shapes. We show how to take realistic 3D human shapes, approximate them using a simplified representation, and animate them so that they move realistically using physically-based retargeting. We develop a novel spacetime optimization approach that learns and robustly adapts physical controllers to new bodies and constraints. The approach automatically adapts the motion of the mocap subject to the body shape of a target subject. This motion respects the physical properties of the new body and every body shape results in a different and appropriate movement. This makes it easy to create a varied set of motions from a single mocap sequence by simply varying the characters. In an interactive environment, successful retargeting requires adapting the motion to unexpected external forces. We achieve robustness to such forces using a novel LQR-tree formulation. We show that the simulated motions look appropriate to each character’s anatomy and their actions are robust to perturbations.

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pdf video Project Page Project Page [BibTex]

pdf video Project Page Project Page [BibTex]


Real-time Perception meets Reactive Motion Generation
Real-time Perception meets Reactive Motion Generation

(Best Systems Paper Finalists - Amazon Robotics Best Paper Awards in Manipulation)

Kappler, D., Meier, F., Issac, J., Mainprice, J., Garcia Cifuentes, C., Wüthrich, M., Berenz, V., Schaal, S., Ratliff, N., Bohg, J.

IEEE Robotics and Automation Letters, 3(3):1864-1871, July 2018 (article)

Abstract
We address the challenging problem of robotic grasping and manipulation in the presence of uncertainty. This uncertainty is due to noisy sensing, inaccurate models and hard-to-predict environment dynamics. Our approach emphasizes the importance of continuous, real-time perception and its tight integration with reactive motion generation methods. We present a fully integrated system where real-time object and robot tracking as well as ambient world modeling provides the necessary input to feedback controllers and continuous motion optimizers. Specifically, they provide attractive and repulsive potentials based on which the controllers and motion optimizer can online compute movement policies at different time intervals. We extensively evaluate the proposed system on a real robotic platform in four scenarios that exhibit either challenging workspace geometry or a dynamic environment. We compare the proposed integrated system with a more traditional sense-plan-act approach that is still widely used. In 333 experiments, we show the robustness and accuracy of the proposed system.

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arxiv video video link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]


Oncilla robot: a versatile open-source quadruped research robot with compliant pantograph legs
Oncilla robot: a versatile open-source quadruped research robot with compliant pantograph legs

Sproewitz, A., Tuleu, A., Ajallooeian, M., Vespignani, M., Moeckel, R., Eckert, P., D’Haene, M., Degrave, J., Nordmann, A., Schrauwen, B., Steil, J., Ijspeert, A. J.

Frontiers in Robotics and AI, 5(67), June 2018, arXiv: 1803.06259 (article)

Abstract
We present Oncilla robot, a novel mobile, quadruped legged locomotion machine. This large-cat sized, 5.1 robot is one of a kind of a recent, bioinspired legged robot class designed with the capability of model-free locomotion control. Animal legged locomotion in rough terrain is clearly shaped by sensor feedback systems. Results with Oncilla robot show that agile and versatile locomotion is possible without sensory signals to some extend, and tracking becomes robust when feedback control is added (Ajaoolleian 2015). By incorporating mechanical and control blueprints inspired from animals, and by observing the resulting robot locomotion characteristics, we aim to understand the contribution of individual components. Legged robots have a wide mechanical and control design parameter space, and a unique potential as research tools to investigate principles of biomechanics and legged locomotion control. But the hardware and controller design can be a steep initial hurdle for academic research. To facilitate the easy start and development of legged robots, Oncilla-robot's blueprints are available through open-source. [...]

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link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]

link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]


Assessing body image in anorexia nervosa using biometric self-avatars in virtual reality: Attitudinal components rather than visual body size estimation are distorted
Assessing body image in anorexia nervosa using biometric self-avatars in virtual reality: Attitudinal components rather than visual body size estimation are distorted

Mölbert, S. C., Thaler, A., Mohler, B. J., Streuber, S., Romero, J., Black, M. J., Zipfel, S., Karnath, H., Giel, K. E.

Psychological Medicine, 48(4):642-653, March 2018 (article)

Abstract
Background: Body image disturbance (BID) is a core symptom of anorexia nervosa (AN), but as yet distinctive features of BID are unknown. The present study aimed at disentangling perceptual and attitudinal components of BID in AN. Methods: We investigated n=24 women with AN and n=24 controls. Based on a 3D body scan, we created realistic virtual 3D bodies (avatars) for each participant that were varied through a range of ±20% of the participants' weights. Avatars were presented in a virtual reality mirror scenario. Using different psychophysical tasks, participants identified and adjusted their actual and their desired body weight. To test for general perceptual biases in estimating body weight, a second experiment investigated perception of weight and shape matched avatars with another identity. Results: Women with AN and controls underestimated their weight, with a trend that women with AN underestimated more. The average desired body of controls had normal weight while the average desired weight of women with AN corresponded to extreme AN (DSM-5). Correlation analyses revealed that desired body weight, but not accuracy of weight estimation, was associated with eating disorder symptoms. In the second experiment, both groups estimated accurately while the most attractive body was similar to Experiment 1. Conclusions: Our results contradict the widespread assumption that patients with AN overestimate their body weight due to visual distortions. Rather, they illustrate that BID might be driven by distorted attitudes with regard to the desired body. Clinical interventions should aim at helping patients with AN to change their desired weight.

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doi pdf DOI Project Page [BibTex]


Body size estimation of self and others in females varying in {BMI}
Body size estimation of self and others in females varying in BMI

Thaler, A., Geuss, M. N., Mölbert, S. C., Giel, K. E., Streuber, S., Romero, J., Black, M. J., Mohler, B. J.

PLoS ONE, 13(2), Febuary 2018 (article)

Abstract
Previous literature suggests that a disturbed ability to accurately identify own body size may contribute to overweight. Here, we investigated the influence of personal body size, indexed by body mass index (BMI), on body size estimation in a non-clinical population of females varying in BMI. We attempted to disentangle general biases in body size estimates and attitudinal influences by manipulating whether participants believed the body stimuli (personalized avatars with realistic weight variations) represented their own body or that of another person. Our results show that the accuracy of own body size estimation is predicted by personal BMI, such that participants with lower BMI underestimated their body size and participants with higher BMI overestimated their body size. Further, participants with higher BMI were less likely to notice the same percentage of weight gain than participants with lower BMI. Importantly, these results were only apparent when participants were judging a virtual body that was their own identity (Experiment 1), but not when they estimated the size of a body with another identity and the same underlying body shape (Experiment 2a). The different influences of BMI on accuracy of body size estimation and sensitivity to weight change for self and other identity suggests that effects of BMI on visual body size estimation are self-specific and not generalizable to other bodies.

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pdf DOI Project Page [BibTex]


Co-Registration -- Simultaneous Alignment and Modeling of Articulated {3D} Shapes
Co-Registration – Simultaneous Alignment and Modeling of Articulated 3D Shapes

Black, M., Hirshberg, D., Loper, M., Rachlin, E., Weiss, A.

Febuary 2018, U.S.~Patent 9,898,848 (misc)

Abstract
Present application refers to a method, a model generation unit and a computer program (product) for generating trained models (M) of moving persons, based on physically measured person scan data (S). The approach is based on a common template (T) for the respective person and on the measured person scan data (S) in different shapes and different poses. Scan data are measured with a 3D laser scanner. A generic personal model is used for co-registering a set of person scan data (S) aligning the template (T) to the set of person scans (S) while simultaneously training the generic personal model to become a trained person model (M) by constraining the generic person model to be scan-specific, person-specific and pose-specific and providing the trained model (M), based on the co registering of the measured object scan data (S).

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text [BibTex]


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Distributed Event-Based State Estimation for Networked Systems: An LMI Approach

Muehlebach, M., Trimpe, S.

IEEE Transactions on Automatic Control, 63(1):269-276, January 2018 (article)

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arXiv (extended version) DOI Project Page [BibTex]

arXiv (extended version) DOI Project Page [BibTex]


Combining learned and analytical models for predicting action effects
Combining learned and analytical models for predicting action effects

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

arXiv, 2018 (article) Submitted

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) [BibTex]


Temporal Human Action Segmentation via Dynamic Clustering
Temporal Human Action Segmentation via Dynamic Clustering

Zhang, Y., Sun, H., Tang, S., Neumann, H.

arXiv preprint arXiv:1803.05790, 2018 (article)

Abstract
We present an effective dynamic clustering algorithm for the task of temporal human action segmentation, which has comprehensive applications such as robotics, motion analysis, and patient monitoring. Our proposed algorithm is unsupervised, fast, generic to process various types of features, and applica- ble in both the online and offline settings. We perform extensive experiments of processing data streams, and show that our algorithm achieves the state-of- the-art results for both online and offline settings.

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link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


Motion Segmentation & Multiple Object Tracking by Correlation Co-Clustering
Motion Segmentation & Multiple Object Tracking by Correlation Co-Clustering

Keuper, M., Tang, S., Andres, B., Brox, T., Schiele, B.

IEEE Transactions on Pattern Analysis and Machine Intelligence, 2018 (article)

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pdf DOI Project Page [BibTex]

pdf DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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Learning a Structured Neural Network Policy for a Hopping Task.

Viereck, J., Kozolinsky, J., Herzog, A., Righetti, L.

IEEE Robotics and Automation Letters, 3(4):4092-4099, October 2018 (article)

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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The Impact of Robotics and Automation on Working Conditions and Employment [Ethical, Legal, and Societal Issues]

Pham, Q., Madhavan, R., Righetti, L., Smart, W., Chatila, R.

IEEE Robotics and Automation Magazine, 25(2):126-128, June 2018 (article)

mg

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Lethal Autonomous Weapon Systems [Ethical, Legal, and Societal Issues]

Righetti, L., Pham, Q., Madhavan, R., Chatila, R.

IEEE Robotics \& Automation Magazine, 25(1):123-126, March 2018 (article)

Abstract
The topic of lethal autonomous weapon systems has recently caught public attention due to extensive news coverage and apocalyptic declarations from famous scientists and technologists. Weapon systems with increasing autonomy are being developed due to fast improvements in machine learning, robotics, and automation in general. These developments raise important and complex security, legal, ethical, societal, and technological issues that are being extensively discussed by scholars, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), militaries, governments, and the international community. Unfortunately, the robotics community has stayed out of the debate, for the most part, despite being the main provider of autonomous technologies. In this column, we review the main issues raised by the increase of autonomy in weapon systems and the state of the international discussion. We argue that the robotics community has a fundamental role to play in these discussions, for its own sake, to provide the often-missing technical expertise necessary to frame the debate and promote technological development in line with the IEEE Robotics and Automation Society (RAS) objective of advancing technology to benefit humanity.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

2004


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Discovering optimal imitation strategies

Billard, A., Epars, Y., Calinon, S., Cheng, G., Schaal, S.

Robotics and Autonomous Systems, 47(2-3):68-77, 2004, clmc (article)

Abstract
This paper develops a general policy for learning relevant features of an imitation task. We restrict our study to imitation of manipulative tasks or of gestures. The imitation process is modeled as a hierarchical optimization system, which minimizes the discrepancy between two multi-dimensional datasets. To classify across manipulation strategies, we apply a probabilistic analysis to data in Cartesian and joint spaces. We determine a general metric that optimizes the policy of task reproduction, following strategy determination. The model successfully discovers strategies in six different imitative tasks and controls task reproduction by a full body humanoid robot.

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[BibTex]

2004


[BibTex]


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Rhythmic movement is not discrete

Schaal, S., Sternad, D., Osu, R., Kawato, M.

Nature Neuroscience, 7(10):1137-1144, 2004, clmc (article)

Abstract
Rhythmic movements, like walking, chewing, or scratching, are phylogenetically old mo-tor behaviors found in many organisms, ranging from insects to primates. In contrast, discrete movements, like reaching, grasping, or kicking, are behaviors that have reached sophistication primarily in younger species, particularly in primates. Neurophysiological and computational research on arm motor control has focused almost exclusively on dis-crete movements, essentially assuming similar neural circuitry for rhythmic tasks. In con-trast, many behavioral studies focused on rhythmic models, subsuming discrete move-ment as a special case. Here, using a human functional neuroimaging experiment, we show that in addition to areas activated in rhythmic movement, discrete movement in-volves several higher cortical planning areas, despite both movement conditions were confined to the same single wrist joint. These results provide the first neuroscientific evi-dence that rhythmic arm movement cannot be part of a more general discrete movement system, and may require separate neurophysiological and theoretical treatment.

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link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Learning from demonstration and adaptation of biped locomotion

Nakanishi, J., Morimoto, J., Endo, G., Cheng, G., Schaal, S., Kawato, M.

Robotics and Autonomous Systems, 47(2-3):79-91, 2004, clmc (article)

Abstract
In this paper, we introduce a framework for learning biped locomotion using dynamical movement primitives based on non-linear oscillators. Our ultimate goal is to establish a design principle of a controller in order to achieve natural human-like locomotion. We suggest dynamical movement primitives as a central pattern generator (CPG) of a biped robot, an approach we have previously proposed for learning and encoding complex human movements. Demonstrated trajectories are learned through movement primitives by locally weighted regression, and the frequency of the learned trajectories is adjusted automatically by a novel frequency adaptation algorithmbased on phase resetting and entrainment of coupled oscillators. Numerical simulations and experimental implementation on a physical robot demonstrate the effectiveness of the proposed locomotioncontroller.

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link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Feedback error learning and nonlinear adaptive control

Nakanishi, J., Schaal, S.

Neural Networks, 17(10):1453-1465, 2004, clmc (article)

Abstract
In this paper, we present our theoretical investigations of the technique of feedback error learning (FEL) from the viewpoint of adaptive control. We first discuss the relationship between FEL and nonlinear adaptive control with adaptive feedback linearization, and show that FEL can be interpreted as a form of nonlinear adaptive control. Second, we present a Lyapunov analysis suggesting that the condition of strictly positive realness (SPR) associated with the tracking error dynamics is a sufficient condition for asymptotic stability of the closed-loop dynamics. Specifically, for a class of second order SISO systems, we show that this condition reduces to KD^2 > KP; where KP and KD are positive position and velocity feedback gains, respectively. Moreover, we provide a ÔpassivityÕ-based stability analysis which suggests that SPR of the tracking error dynamics is a necessary and sufficient condition for asymptotic hyperstability. Thus, the condition KD^2>KP mentioned above is not only a sufficient but also necessary condition to guarantee asymptotic hyperstability of FEL, i.e. the tracking error is bounded and asymptotically converges to zero. As a further point, we explore the adaptive control and FEL framework for feedforward control formulations, and derive an additional sufficient condition for asymptotic stability in the sense of Lyapunov. Finally, we present numerical simulations to illustrate the stability properties of FEL obtained from our mathematical analysis.

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link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]