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2018


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.

am

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

2018



Probabilistic Solutions To Ordinary Differential Equations As Non-Linear Bayesian Filtering: A New Perspective
Probabilistic Solutions To Ordinary Differential Equations As Non-Linear Bayesian Filtering: A New Perspective

Tronarp, F., Kersting, H., Särkkä, S., Hennig, P.

ArXiv preprint 2018, arXiv:1810.03440 [stat.ME], October 2018 (article)

Abstract
We formulate probabilistic numerical approximations to solutions of ordinary differential equations (ODEs) as problems in Gaussian process (GP) regression with non-linear measurement functions. This is achieved by defining the measurement sequence to consists of the observations of the difference between the derivative of the GP and the vector field evaluated at the GP---which are all identically zero at the solution of the ODE. When the GP has a state-space representation, the problem can be reduced to a Bayesian state estimation problem and all widely-used approximations to the Bayesian filtering and smoothing problems become applicable. Furthermore, all previous GP-based ODE solvers, which were formulated in terms of generating synthetic measurements of the vector field, come out as specific approximations. We derive novel solvers, both Gaussian and non-Gaussian, from the Bayesian state estimation problem posed in this paper and compare them with other probabilistic solvers in illustrative experiments.

pn

link (url) Project Page [BibTex]


Softness, Warmth, and Responsiveness Improve Robot Hugs
Softness, Warmth, and Responsiveness Improve Robot Hugs

Block, A. E., Kuchenbecker, K. J.

International Journal of Social Robotics, 11(1):49-64, October 2018 (article)

Abstract
Hugs are one of the first forms of contact and affection humans experience. Due to their prevalence and health benefits, roboticists are naturally interested in having robots one day hug humans as seamlessly as humans hug other humans. This project's purpose is to evaluate human responses to different robot physical characteristics and hugging behaviors. Specifically, we aim to test the hypothesis that a soft, warm, touch-sensitive PR2 humanoid robot can provide humans with satisfying hugs by matching both their hugging pressure and their hugging duration. Thirty relatively young and rather technical participants experienced and evaluated twelve hugs with the robot, divided into three randomly ordered trials that focused on physical robot characteristics (single factor, three levels) and nine randomly ordered trials with low, medium, and high hug pressure and duration (two factors, three levels each). Analysis of the results showed that people significantly prefer soft, warm hugs over hard, cold hugs. Furthermore, users prefer hugs that physically squeeze them and release immediately when they are ready for the hug to end. Taking part in the experiment also significantly increased positive user opinions of robots and robot use.

hi

link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]

link (url) DOI Project Page [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]


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Task-Driven PCA-Based Design Optimization of Wearable Cutaneous Devices

Pacchierotti, C., Young, E. M., Kuchenbecker, K. J.

IEEE Robotics and Automation Letters, 3(3):2214-2221, July 2018, Presented at ICRA 2018 (article)

Abstract
Small size and low weight are critical requirements for wearable and portable haptic interfaces, making it essential to work toward the optimization of their sensing and actuation systems. This paper presents a new approach for task-driven design optimization of fingertip cutaneous haptic devices. Given one (or more) target tactile interactions to render and a cutaneous device to optimize, we evaluate the minimum number and best configuration of the device’s actuators to minimize the estimated haptic rendering error. First, we calculate the motion needed for the original cutaneous device to render the considered target interaction. Then, we run a principal component analysis (PCA) to search for possible couplings between the original motor inputs, looking also for the best way to reconfigure them. If some couplings exist, we can re-design our cutaneous device with fewer motors, optimally configured to render the target tactile sensation. The proposed approach is quite general and can be applied to different tactile sensors and cutaneous devices. We validated it using a BioTac tactile sensor and custom plate-based 3-DoF and 6-DoF fingertip cutaneous devices, considering six representative target tactile interactions. The algorithm was able to find couplings between each device’s motor inputs, proving it to be a viable approach to optimize the design of wearable and portable cutaneous devices. Finally, we present two examples of optimized designs for our 3-DoF fingertip cutaneous device.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Convergence Rates of Gaussian ODE Filters

Kersting, H., Sullivan, T. J., Hennig, P.

arXiv preprint 2018, arXiv:1807.09737 [math.NA], July 2018 (article)

Abstract
A recently-introduced class of probabilistic (uncertainty-aware) solvers for ordinary differential equations (ODEs) applies Gaussian (Kalman) filtering to initial value problems. These methods model the true solution $x$ and its first $q$ derivatives a priori as a Gauss--Markov process $\boldsymbol{X}$, which is then iteratively conditioned on information about $\dot{x}$. We prove worst-case local convergence rates of order $h^{q+1}$ for a wide range of versions of this Gaussian ODE filter, as well as global convergence rates of order $h^q$ in the case of $q=1$ and an integrated Brownian motion prior, and analyse how inaccurate information on $\dot{x}$ coming from approximate evaluations of $f$ affects these rates. Moreover, we present explicit formulas for the steady states and show that the posterior confidence intervals are well calibrated in all considered cases that exhibit global convergence---in the sense that they globally contract at the same rate as the truncation error.

pn

link (url) Project Page [BibTex]

link (url) Project Page [BibTex]


Teaching a Robot Bimanual Hand-Clapping Games via Wrist-Worn {IMU}s
Teaching a Robot Bimanual Hand-Clapping Games via Wrist-Worn IMUs

Fitter, N. T., Kuchenbecker, K. J.

Frontiers in Robotics and Artificial Intelligence, 5(85), July 2018 (article)

Abstract
Colleagues often shake hands in greeting, friends connect through high fives, and children around the world rejoice in hand-clapping games. As robots become more common in everyday human life, they will have the opportunity to join in these social-physical interactions, but few current robots are intended to touch people in friendly ways. This article describes how we enabled a Baxter Research Robot to both teach and learn bimanual hand-clapping games with a human partner. Our system monitors the user's motions via a pair of inertial measurement units (IMUs) worn on the wrists. We recorded a labeled library of 10 common hand-clapping movements from 10 participants; this dataset was used to train an SVM classifier to automatically identify hand-clapping motions from previously unseen participants with a test-set classification accuracy of 97.0%. Baxter uses these sensors and this classifier to quickly identify the motions of its human gameplay partner, so that it can join in hand-clapping games. This system was evaluated by N = 24 naïve users in an experiment that involved learning sequences of eight motions from Baxter, teaching Baxter eight-motion game patterns, and completing a free interaction period. The motion classification accuracy in this less structured setting was 85.9%, primarily due to unexpected variations in motion timing. The quantitative task performance results and qualitative participant survey responses showed that learning games from Baxter was significantly easier than teaching games to Baxter, and that the teaching role caused users to consider more teamwork aspects of the gameplay. Over the course of the experiment, people felt more understood by Baxter and became more willing to follow the example of the robot. Users felt uniformly safe interacting with Baxter, and they expressed positive opinions of Baxter and reported fun interacting with the robot. Taken together, the results indicate that this robot achieved credible social-physical interaction with humans and that its ability to both lead and follow systematically changed the human partner's experience.

hi

DOI [BibTex]

DOI [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]


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Automatically Rating Trainee Skill at a Pediatric Laparoscopic Suturing Task

Oquendo, Y. A., Riddle, E. W., Hiller, D., Blinman, T. A., Kuchenbecker, K. J.

Surgical Endoscopy, 32(4):1840-1857, April 2018 (article)

hi

DOI [BibTex]

DOI [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)

am ics

arXiv (extended version) DOI Project Page [BibTex]

arXiv (extended version) DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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Gaussian Processes and Kernel Methods: A Review on Connections and Equivalences

Kanagawa, M., Hennig, P., Sejdinovic, D., Sriperumbudur, B. K.

Arxiv e-prints, arXiv:1805.08845v1 [stat.ML], 2018 (article)

Abstract
This paper is an attempt to bridge the conceptual gaps between researchers working on the two widely used approaches based on positive definite kernels: Bayesian learning or inference using Gaussian processes on the one side, and frequentist kernel methods based on reproducing kernel Hilbert spaces on the other. It is widely known in machine learning that these two formalisms are closely related; for instance, the estimator of kernel ridge regression is identical to the posterior mean of Gaussian process regression. However, they have been studied and developed almost independently by two essentially separate communities, and this makes it difficult to seamlessly transfer results between them. Our aim is to overcome this potential difficulty. To this end, we review several old and new results and concepts from either side, and juxtapose algorithmic quantities from each framework to highlight close similarities. We also provide discussions on subtle philosophical and theoretical differences between the two approaches.

pn ei

arXiv [BibTex]

arXiv [BibTex]


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Immersive Low-Cost Virtual Reality Treatment for Phantom Limb Pain: Evidence from Two Cases

Ambron, E., Miller, A., Kuchenbecker, K. J., Buxbaum, L. J., Coslett, H. B.

Frontiers in Neurology, 9(67):1-7, 2018 (article)

hi

DOI Project Page [BibTex]

DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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Counterfactual Mean Embedding: A Kernel Method for Nonparametric Causal Inference

Muandet, K., Kanagawa, M., Saengkyongam, S., Marukata, S.

Arxiv e-prints, arXiv:1805.08845v1 [stat.ML], 2018 (article)

Abstract
This paper introduces a novel Hilbert space representation of a counterfactual distribution---called counterfactual mean embedding (CME)---with applications in nonparametric causal inference. Counterfactual prediction has become an ubiquitous tool in machine learning applications, such as online advertisement, recommendation systems, and medical diagnosis, whose performance relies on certain interventions. To infer the outcomes of such interventions, we propose to embed the associated counterfactual distribution into a reproducing kernel Hilbert space (RKHS) endowed with a positive definite kernel. Under appropriate assumptions, the CME allows us to perform causal inference over the entire landscape of the counterfactual distribution. The CME can be estimated consistently from observational data without requiring any parametric assumption about the underlying distributions. We also derive a rate of convergence which depends on the smoothness of the conditional mean and the Radon-Nikodym derivative of the underlying marginal distributions. Our framework can deal with not only real-valued outcome, but potentially also more complex and structured outcomes such as images, sequences, and graphs. Lastly, our experimental results on off-policy evaluation tasks demonstrate the advantages of the proposed estimator.

ei pn

arXiv [BibTex]

arXiv [BibTex]


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Model-based Kernel Sum Rule: Kernel Bayesian Inference with Probabilistic Models

Nishiyama, Y., Kanagawa, M., Gretton, A., Fukumizu, K.

Arxiv e-prints, arXiv:1409.5178v2 [stat.ML], 2018 (article)

Abstract
Kernel Bayesian inference is a powerful nonparametric approach to performing Bayesian inference in reproducing kernel Hilbert spaces or feature spaces. In this approach, kernel means are estimated instead of probability distributions, and these estimates can be used for subsequent probabilistic operations (as for inference in graphical models) or in computing the expectations of smooth functions, for instance. Various algorithms for kernel Bayesian inference have been obtained by combining basic rules such as the kernel sum rule (KSR), kernel chain rule, kernel product rule and kernel Bayes' rule. However, the current framework only deals with fully nonparametric inference (i.e., all conditional relations are learned nonparametrically), and it does not allow for flexible combinations of nonparametric and parametric inference, which are practically important. Our contribution is in providing a novel technique to realize such combinations. We introduce a new KSR referred to as the model-based KSR (Mb-KSR), which employs the sum rule in feature spaces under a parametric setting. Incorporating the Mb-KSR into existing kernel Bayesian framework provides a richer framework for hybrid (nonparametric and parametric) kernel Bayesian inference. As a practical application, we propose a novel filtering algorithm for state space models based on the Mb-KSR, which combines the nonparametric learning of an observation process using kernel mean embedding and the additive Gaussian noise model for a state transition process. While we focus on additive Gaussian noise models in this study, the idea can be extended to other noise models, such as the Cauchy and alpha-stable noise models.

pn

arXiv [BibTex]

arXiv [BibTex]


A probabilistic model for the numerical solution of initial value problems
A probabilistic model for the numerical solution of initial value problems

Schober, M., Särkkä, S., Philipp Hennig,

Statistics and Computing, Springer US, 2018 (article)

Abstract
We study connections between ordinary differential equation (ODE) solvers and probabilistic regression methods in statistics. We provide a new view of probabilistic ODE solvers as active inference agents operating on stochastic differential equation models that estimate the unknown initial value problem (IVP) solution from approximate observations of the solution derivative, as provided by the ODE dynamics. Adding to this picture, we show that several multistep methods of Nordsieck form can be recast as Kalman filtering on q-times integrated Wiener processes. Doing so provides a family of IVP solvers that return a Gaussian posterior measure, rather than a point estimate. We show that some such methods have low computational overhead, nontrivial convergence order, and that the posterior has a calibrated concentration rate. Additionally, we suggest a step size adaptation algorithm which completes the proposed method to a practically useful implementation, which we experimentally evaluate using a representative set of standard codes in the DETEST benchmark set.

pn

PDF Code DOI Project Page [BibTex]

2016


A New Perspective and Extension of the Gaussian Filter
A New Perspective and Extension of the Gaussian Filter

Wüthrich, M., Trimpe, S., Garcia Cifuentes, C., Kappler, D., Schaal, S.

The International Journal of Robotics Research, 35(14):1731-1749, December 2016 (article)

Abstract
The Gaussian Filter (GF) is one of the most widely used filtering algorithms; instances are the Extended Kalman Filter, the Unscented Kalman Filter and the Divided Difference Filter. The GF represents the belief of the current state by a Gaussian distribution, whose mean is an affine function of the measurement. We show that this representation can be too restrictive to accurately capture the dependences in systems with nonlinear observation models, and we investigate how the GF can be generalized to alleviate this problem. To this end, we view the GF as the solution to a constrained optimization problem. From this new perspective, the GF is seen as a special case of a much broader class of filters, obtained by relaxing the constraint on the form of the approximate posterior. On this basis, we outline some conditions which potential generalizations have to satisfy in order to maintain the computational efficiency of the GF. We propose one concrete generalization which corresponds to the standard GF using a pseudo measurement instead of the actual measurement. Extending an existing GF implementation in this manner is trivial. Nevertheless, we show that this small change can have a major impact on the estimation accuracy.

am ics

PDF DOI Project Page [BibTex]

2016


PDF DOI Project Page [BibTex]


Gaussian Process-Based Predictive Control for Periodic Error Correction
Gaussian Process-Based Predictive Control for Periodic Error Correction

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

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

ei pn

PDF DOI [BibTex]

PDF DOI [BibTex]


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Probabilistic Inference for Determining Options in Reinforcement Learning

Daniel, C., van Hoof, H., Peters, J., Neumann, G.

Machine Learning, Special Issue, 104(2):337-357, (Editors: Gärtner, T., Nanni, M., Passerini, A. and Robardet, C.), European Conference on Machine Learning im Machine Learning, Journal Track, 2016, Best Student Paper Award of ECML-PKDD 2016 (article)

am ei

DOI Project Page [BibTex]

DOI Project Page [BibTex]


Dual Control for Approximate Bayesian Reinforcement Learning
Dual Control for Approximate Bayesian Reinforcement Learning

Klenske, E. D., Hennig, P.

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

ei pn

PDF link (url) [BibTex]

PDF link (url) [BibTex]


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Event-based Sampling for Reducing Communication Load in Realtime Human Motion Analysis by Wireless Inertial Sensor Networks

Laidig, D., Trimpe, S., Seel, T.

Current Directions in Biomedical Engineering, 2(1):711-714, De Gruyter, 2016 (article)

am ics

PDF DOI [BibTex]

PDF DOI [BibTex]


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

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

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

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

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Bioinspired Motor Control for Articulated Robots [From the Guest Editors]

Vitiello, Nicola, Ijspeert, Auke J, Schaal, S.

IEEE Robotics {\&} Automation Magazine, 23(1):20-21, 2016 (article)

am

[BibTex]

[BibTex]

2012


Entropy Search for Information-Efficient Global Optimization
Entropy Search for Information-Efficient Global Optimization

Hennig, P., Schuler, C.

Journal of Machine Learning Research, 13, pages: 1809-1837, -, June 2012 (article)

Abstract
Contemporary global optimization algorithms are based on local measures of utility, rather than a probability measure over location and value of the optimum. They thus attempt to collect low function values, not to learn about the optimum. The reason for the absence of probabilistic global optimizers is that the corresponding inference problem is intractable in several ways. This paper develops desiderata for probabilistic optimization algorithms, then presents a concrete algorithm which addresses each of the computational intractabilities with a sequence of approximations and explicitly adresses the decision problem of maximizing information gain from each evaluation.

ei pn

PDF Web Project Page [BibTex]

2012


PDF Web 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)

am

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)

am

[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)

am

[BibTex]

[BibTex]

2011


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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)

am

[BibTex]

2011


[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

am

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.

am

link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [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)

am

[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)

am

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.

am

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.

am

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.

am

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.

am

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.

am

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.

am

link (url) Project Page [BibTex]

link (url) Project Page [BibTex]

2001


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Synchronized robot drumming by neural oscillator

Kotosaka, S., Schaal, S.

Journal of the Robotics Society of Japan, 19(1):116-123, 2001, clmc (article)

Abstract
Sensory-motor integration is one of the key issues in robotics. In this paper, we propose an approach to rhythmic arm movement control that is synchronized with an external signal based on exploiting a simple neural oscillator network. Trajectory generation by the neural oscillator is a biologically inspired method that can allow us to generate a smooth and continuous trajectory. The parameter tuning of the oscillators is used to generate a synchronized movement with wide intervals. We adopted the method for the drumming task as an example task. By using this method, the robot can realize synchronized drumming with wide drumming intervals in real time. The paper also shows the experimental results of drumming by a humanoid robot.

am

[BibTex]

2001


[BibTex]


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Origins and violations of the 2/3 power law in rhythmic 3D movements

Schaal, S., Sternad, D.

Experimental Brain Research, 136, pages: 60-72, 2001, clmc (article)

Abstract
The 2/3 power law, the nonlinear relationship between tangential velocity and radius of curvature of the endeffector trajectory, has been suggested as a fundamental constraint of the central nervous system in the formation of rhythmic endpoint trajectories. However, studies on the 2/3 power law have largely been confined to planar drawing patterns of relatively small size. With the hypothesis that this strategy overlooks nonlinear effects that are constitutive in movement generation, the present experiments tested the validity of the power law in elliptical patterns which were not confined to a planar surface and which were performed by the unconstrained 7-DOF arm with significant variations in pattern size and workspace orientation. Data were recorded from five human subjects where the seven joint angles and the endpoint trajectories were analyzed. Additionally, an anthropomorphic 7-DOF robot arm served as a "control subject" whose endpoint trajectories were generated on the basis of the human joint angle data, modeled as simple harmonic oscillations. Analyses of the endpoint trajectories demonstrate that the power law is systematically violated with increasing pattern size, in both exponent and the goodness of fit. The origins of these violations can be explained analytically based on smooth rhythmic trajectory formation and the kinematic structure of the human arm. We conclude that in unconstrained rhythmic movements, the power law seems to be a by-product of a movement system that favors smooth trajectories, and that it is unlikely to serve as a primary movement generating principle. Our data rather suggests that subjects employed smooth oscillatory pattern generators in joint space to realize the required movement patterns.

am

link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Graph-matching vs. entropy-based methods for object detection
Neural Networks, 14(3):345-354, 2001, clmc (article)

Abstract
Labeled Graph Matching (LGM) has been shown successful in numerous ob-ject vision tasks. This method is the basis for arguably the best face recognition system in the world. We present an algorithm for visual pattern recognition that is an extension of LGM ("LGM+"). We compare the performance of LGM and LGM+ algorithms with a state of the art statistical method based on Mutual Information Maximization (MIM). We present an adaptation of the MIM method for multi-dimensional Gabor wavelet features. The three pattern recognition methods were evaluated on an object detection task, using a set of stimuli on which none of the methods had been tested previously. The results indicate that while the performance of the MIM method operating upon Gabor wavelets is superior to the same method operating on pixels and to LGM, it is surpassed by LGM+. LGM+ offers a significant improvement in performance over LGM without losing LGMâ??s virtues of simplicity, biological plausibility, and a computational cost that is 2-3 orders of magnitude lower than that of the MIM algorithm. 

am

link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Biomimetic gaze stabilization based on feedback-error learning with nonparametric regression networks

Shibata, T., Schaal, S.

Neural Networks, 14(2):201-216, 2001, clmc (article)

Abstract
Oculomotor control in a humanoid robot faces similar problems as biological oculomotor systems, i.e. the stabilization of gaze in face of unknown perturbations of the body, selective attention, stereo vision, and dealing with large information processing delays. Given the nonlinearities of the geometry of binocular vision as well as the possible nonlinearities of the oculomotor plant, it is desirable to accomplish accurate control of these behaviors through learning approaches. This paper develops a learning control system for the phylogenetically oldest behaviors of oculomotor control, the stabilization reflexes of gaze. In a step-wise procedure, we demonstrate how control theoretic reasonable choices of control components result in an oculomotor control system that resembles the known functional anatomy of the primate oculomotor system. The core of the learning system is derived from the biologically inspired principle of feedback-error learning combined with a state-of-the-art non-parametric statistical learning network. With this circuitry, we demonstrate that our humanoid robot is able to acquire high performance visual stabilization reflexes after about 40 s of learning despite significant nonlinearities and processing delays in the system.

am

link (url) [BibTex]


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Fast learning of biomimetic oculomotor control with nonparametric regression networks (in Japanese)

Shibata, T., Schaal, S.

Journal of the Robotics Society of Japan, 19(4):468-479, 2001, clmc (article)

am

[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Bouncing a ball: Tuning into dynamic stability

Sternad, D., Duarte, M., Katsumata, H., Schaal, S.

Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 27(5):1163-1184, 2001, clmc (article)

Abstract
Rhythmically bouncing a ball with a racket was investigated and modeled with a nonlinear map. Model analyses provided a variable defining a dynamically stable solution that obviates computationally expensive corrections. Three experiments evaluated whether dynamic stability is optimized and what perceptual support is necessary for stable behavior. Two hypotheses were tested: (a) Performance is stable if racket acceleration is negative at impact, and (b) variability is lowest at an impact acceleration between -4 and -1 m/s2. In Experiment 1 participants performed the task, eyes open or closed, bouncing a ball confined to a 1-dimensional trajectory. Experiment 2 eliminated constraints on racket and ball trajectory. Experiment 3 excluded visual or haptic information. Movements were performed with negative racket accelerations in the range of highest stability. Performance with eyes closed was more variable, leaving acceleration unaffected. With haptic information, performance was more stable than with visual information alone.

am

[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Biomimetic oculomotor control

Shibata, T., Vijayakumar, S., Conradt, J., Schaal, S.

Adaptive Behavior, 9(3/4):189-207, 2001, clmc (article)

Abstract
Oculomotor control in a humanoid robot faces similar problems as biological oculomotor systems, i.e., capturing targets accurately on a very narrow fovea, dealing with large delays in the control system, the stabilization of gaze in face of unknown perturbations of the body, selective attention, and the complexity of stereo vision. In this paper, we suggest control circuits to realize three of the most basic oculomotor behaviors and their integration - the vestibulo-ocular and optokinetic reflex (VOR-OKR) for gaze stabilization, smooth pursuit for tracking moving objects, and saccades for overt visual attention. Each of these behaviors and the mechanism for their integration was derived with inspiration from computational theories as well as behavioral and physiological data in neuroscience. Our implementations on a humanoid robot demonstrate good performance of the oculomotor behaviors, which proves to be a viable strategy to explore novel control mechanisms for humanoid robotics. Conversely, insights gained from our models have been able to directly influence views and provide new directions for computational neuroscience research.

am

link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]

1996


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A Kendama learning robot based on bi-directional theory

Miyamoto, H., Schaal, S., Gandolfo, F., Koike, Y., Osu, R., Nakano, E., Wada, Y., Kawato, M.

Neural Networks, 9(8):1281-1302, 1996, clmc (article)

Abstract
A general theory of movement-pattern perception based on bi-directional theory for sensory-motor integration can be used for motion capture and learning by watching in robotics. We demonstrate our methods using the game of Kendama, executed by the SARCOS Dextrous Slave Arm, which has a very similar kinematic structure to the human arm. Three ingredients have to be integrated for the successful execution of this task. The ingredients are (1) to extract via-points from a human movement trajectory using a forward-inverse relaxation model, (2) to treat via-points as a control variable while reconstructing the desired trajectory from all the via-points, and (3) to modify the via-points for successful execution. In order to test the validity of the via-point representation, we utilized a numerical model of the SARCOS arm, and examined the behavior of the system under several conditions.

am

link (url) [BibTex]

1996


link (url) [BibTex]


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One-handed juggling: A dynamical approach to a rhythmic movement task

Schaal, S., Sternad, D., Atkeson, C. G.

Journal of Motor Behavior, 28(2):165-183, 1996, clmc (article)

Abstract
The skill of rhythmic juggling a ball on a racket is investigated from the viewpoint of nonlinear dynamics. The difference equations that model the dynamical system are analyzed by means of local and non-local stability analyses. These analyses yield that the task dynamics offer an economical juggling pattern which is stable even for open-loop actuator motion. For this pattern, two types of pre dictions are extracted: (i) Stable periodic bouncing is sufficiently characterized by a negative acceleration of the racket at the moment of impact with the ball; (ii) A nonlinear scaling relation maps different juggling trajectories onto one topologically equivalent dynamical system. The relevance of these results for the human control of action was evaluated in an experiment where subjects performed a comparable task of juggling a ball on a paddle. Task manipulations involved different juggling heights and gravity conditions of the ball. The predictions were confirmed: (i) For stable rhythmic performance the paddle's acceleration at impact is negative and fluctuations of the impact acceleration follow predictions from global stability analysis; (ii) For each subject, the realizations of juggling for the different experimental conditions are related by the scaling relation. These results allow the conclusion that for the given task, humans reliably exploit the stable solutions inherent to the dynamics of the task and do not overrule these dynamics by other control mechanisms. The dynamical scaling serves as an efficient principle to generate different movement realizations from only a few parameter changes and is discussed as a dynamical formalization of the principle of motor equivalence.

am

link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]