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2013


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Hybrid nanocolloids with programmed three-dimensional shape and material composition

Mark, A. G., Gibbs, J. G., Lee, T., Fischer, P.

NATURE MATERIALS, 12(9):802-807, 2013, Max Planck Press Release. (article)

Abstract
Tuning the optical(1,2), electromagnetic(3,4) and mechanical properties of a material requires simultaneous control over its composition and shape(5). This is particularly challenging for complex structures at the nanoscale because surface-energy minimization generally causes small structures to be highly symmetric(5). Here we combine low-temperature shadow deposition with nanoscale patterning to realize nanocolloids with anisotropic three-dimensional shapes, feature sizes down to 20 nm and a wide choice of materials. We demonstrate the versatility of the fabrication scheme by growing three-dimensional hybrid nanostructures that contain several functional materials with the lowest possible symmetry, and by fabricating hundreds of billions of plasmonic nanohelices, which we use as chiral metafluids with record circular dichroism and tunable chiroptical properties.

Max Planck Press Release.

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Video - Fabrication of Designer Nanostructures DOI [BibTex]


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Chiral Colloidal Molecules And Observation of The Propeller Effect

Schamel, D., Pfeifer, M., Gibbs, J. G., Miksch, B., Mark, A. G., Fischer, P.

JOURNAL OF THE AMERICAN CHEMICAL SOCIETY, 135(33):12353-12359, 2013 (article)

Abstract
Chiral molecules play an important role in biological and chemical processes, but physical effects due to their symmetry-breaking are generally weak. Several physical chiral separation schemes which could potentially be useful, including the propeller effect, have therefore not yet been demonstrated at the molecular scale. However, it has been proposed that complex nonspherical colloidal particles could act as ``colloidal molecules{''} in mesoscopic model systems to permit the visualization of molecular phenomena that are otherwise difficult to observe. Unfortunately, it is difficult to synthesize such colloids because surface minimization generally favors the growth of symmetric particles. Here we demonstrate the production of large numbers of complex colloids with glancing angle physical vapor deposition. We use chiral colloids to demonstrate the Baranova and Zel'dovich (Baranova, N. B.; Zel'dovich, B. Y. Chem. Phys. Lett. 1978, 57, 435) propeller effect: the separation of a racemic mixture by application of a rotating field that couples to the dipole moment of the enantiomers and screw propels them in opposite directions. The handedness of the colloidal suspensions is monitored with circular differential light scattering. An exact solution for the colloid's propulsion is derived, and comparisons between the colloidal system and the corresponding effect at the molecular scale are made.

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Video - Nanospropellers DOI [BibTex]

Video - Nanospropellers DOI [BibTex]


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Indirect absorption spectroscopy using quantum cascade lasers: mid-infrared refractometry and photothermal spectroscopy

Pfeifer, M., Ruf, A., Fischer, P.

OPTICS EXPRESS, 21(22):25643-25654, 2013 (article)

Abstract
We record vibrational spectra with two indirect schemes that depend on the real part of the index of refraction: mid-infrared refractometry and photothermal spectroscopy. In the former, a quantum cascade laser (QCL) spot is imaged to determine the angles of total internal reflection, which yields the absorption line via a beam profile analysis. In the photothermal measurements, a tunable QCL excites vibrational resonances of a molecular monolayer, which heats the surrounding medium and changes its refractive index. This is observed with a probe laser in the visible. Sub-monolayer sensitivities are demonstrated. (C) 2013 Optical Society of America

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DOI [BibTex]


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Plasmonic nanohelix metamaterials with tailorable giant circular dichroism

Gibbs, J. G., Mark, A. G., Eslami, S., Fischer, P.

APPLIED PHYSICS LETTERS, 103(21), 2013, Featured cover article. (article)

Abstract
Plasmonic nanohelix arrays are shown to interact with electromagnetic fields in ways not typically seen with ordinary matter. Chiral metamaterials (CMMs) with feature sizes small with respect to the wavelength of visible light are a promising route to experimentally achieve such phenomena as negative refraction without the need for simultaneously negative e and mu. Here we not only show that giant circular dichroism in the visible is achievable with hexagonally arranged plasmonic nanohelix arrays, but that we can precisely tune the optical activity via morphology and lattice spacing. The discrete dipole approximation is implemented to support experimental data. (C) 2013 AIP Publishing LLC.

Featured cover article.

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


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AGILITY – Dynamic Full Body Locomotion and Manipulation with Autonomous Legged Robots

Hutter, M., Bloesch, M., Buchli, J., Semini, C., Bazeille, S., Righetti, L., Bohg, J.

In 2013 IEEE International Symposium on Safety, Security, and Rescue Robotics (SSRR), pages: 1-4, IEEE, Linköping, Sweden, 2013 (inproceedings)

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Learning Objective Functions for Manipulation

Kalakrishnan, M., Pastor, P., Righetti, L., Schaal, S.

In 2013 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation, IEEE, Karlsruhe, Germany, 2013 (inproceedings)

Abstract
We present an approach to learning objective functions for robotic manipulation based on inverse reinforcement learning. Our path integral inverse reinforcement learning algorithm can deal with high-dimensional continuous state-action spaces, and only requires local optimality of demonstrated trajectories. We use L 1 regularization in order to achieve feature selection, and propose an efficient algorithm to minimize the resulting convex objective function. We demonstrate our approach by applying it to two core problems in robotic manipulation. First, we learn a cost function for redundancy resolution in inverse kinematics. Second, we use our method to learn a cost function over trajectories, which is then used in optimization-based motion planning for grasping and manipulation tasks. Experimental results show that our method outperforms previous algorithms in high-dimensional settings.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Using Torque Redundancy to Optimize Contact Forces in Legged Robots

Righetti, L., Buchli, J., Mistry, M., Kalakrishnan, M., Schaal, S.

In Redundancy in Robot Manipulators and Multi-Robot Systems, 57, pages: 35-51, Lecture Notes in Electrical Engineering, Springer Berlin Heidelberg, 2013 (incollection)

Abstract
The development of legged robots for complex environments requires controllers that guarantee both high tracking performance and compliance with the environment. More specifically the control of contact interaction with the environment is of crucial importance to ensure stable, robust and safe motions. In the following, we present an inverse dynamics controller that exploits torque redundancy to directly and explicitly minimize any combination of linear and quadratic costs in the contact constraints and in the commands. Such a result is particularly relevant for legged robots as it allows to use torque redundancy to directly optimize contact interactions. For example, given a desired locomotion behavior, it can guarantee the minimization of contact forces to reduce slipping on difficult terrains while ensuring high tracking performance of the desired motion. The proposed controller is very simple and computationally efficient, and most importantly it can greatly improve the performance of legged locomotion on difficult terrains as can be seen in the experimental results.

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link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Optimal distribution of contact forces with inverse-dynamics control

Righetti, L., Buchli, J., Mistry, M., Kalakrishnan, M., Schaal, S.

The International Journal of Robotics Research, 32(3):280-298, March 2013 (article)

Abstract
The development of legged robots for complex environments requires controllers that guarantee both high tracking performance and compliance with the environment. More specifically the control of the contact interaction with the environment is of crucial importance to ensure stable, robust and safe motions. In this contribution we develop an inverse-dynamics controller for floating-base robots under contact constraints that can minimize any combination of linear and quadratic costs in the contact constraints and the commands. Our main result is the exact analytical derivation of the controller. Such a result is particularly relevant for legged robots as it allows us to use torque redundancy to directly optimize contact interactions. For example, given a desired locomotion behavior, we can guarantee the minimization of contact forces to reduce slipping on difficult terrains while ensuring high tracking performance of the desired motion. The main advantages of the controller are its simplicity, computational efficiency and robustness to model inaccuracies. We present detailed experimental results on simulated humanoid and quadruped robots as well as a real quadruped robot. The experiments demonstrate that the controller can greatly improve the robustness of locomotion of the robots.1

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Controlled Reduction with Unactuated Cyclic Variables: Application to 3D Bipedal Walking with Passive Yaw Rotation

Gregg, R., Righetti, L.

IEEE Transactions on Automatic Control, 58(10):2679-2685, October 2013 (article)

Abstract
This technical note shows that viscous damping can shape momentum conservation laws in a manner that stabilizes yaw rotation and enables steering for underactuated 3D walking. We first show that unactuated cyclic variables can be controlled by passively shaped conservation laws given a stabilizing controller in the actuated coordinates. We then exploit this result to realize controlled geometric reduction with multiple unactuated cyclic variables. We apply this underactuated control strategy to a five-link 3D biped to produce exponentially stable straight-ahead walking and steering in the presence of passive yawing.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Learning Task Error Models for Manipulation

Pastor, P., Kalakrishnan, M., Binney, J., Kelly, J., Righetti, L., Sukhatme, G. S., Schaal, S.

In 2013 IEEE Conference on Robotics and Automation, IEEE, Karlsruhe, Germany, 2013 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Precise kinematic forward models are important for robots to successfully perform dexterous grasping and manipulation tasks, especially when visual servoing is rendered infeasible due to occlusions. A lot of research has been conducted to estimate geometric and non-geometric parameters of kinematic chains to minimize reconstruction errors. However, kinematic chains can include non-linearities, e.g. due to cable stretch and motor-side encoders, that result in significantly different errors for different parts of the state space. Previous work either does not consider such non-linearities or proposes to estimate non-geometric parameters of carefully engineered models that are robot specific. We propose a data-driven approach that learns task error models that account for such unmodeled non-linearities. We argue that in the context of grasping and manipulation, it is sufficient to achieve high accuracy in the task relevant state space. We identify this relevant state space using previously executed joint configurations and learn error corrections for those. Therefore, our system is developed to generate subsequent executions that are similar to previous ones. The experiments show that our method successfully captures the non-linearities in the head kinematic chain (due to a counterbalancing spring) and the arm kinematic chains (due to cable stretch) of the considered experimental platform, see Fig. 1. The feasibility of the presented error learning approach has also been evaluated in independent DARPA ARM-S testing contributing to successfully complete 67 out of 72 grasping and manipulation tasks.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

2008


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Voltage-Controllable Magnetic Composite Based on Multifunctional Polyethylene Microparticles

Ghosh, A., Sheridon, N. K., Fischer, P.

SMALL, 4(11):1956-1958, 2008 (article)

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DOI [BibTex]

2008



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Pattern generators with sensory feedback for the control of quadruped locomotion

Righetti, L., Ijspeert, A.

In 2008 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation, pages: 819-824, IEEE, Pasadena, USA, 2008 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Central pattern generators (CPGs) are becoming a popular model for the control of locomotion of legged robots. Biological CPGs are neural networks responsible for the generation of rhythmic movements, especially locomotion. In robotics, a systematic way of designing such CPGs as artificial neural networks or systems of coupled oscillators with sensory feedback inclusion is still missing. In this contribution, we present a way of designing CPGs with coupled oscillators in which we can independently control the ascending and descending phases of the oscillations (i.e. the swing and stance phases of the limbs). Using insights from dynamical system theory, we construct generic networks of oscillators able to generate several gaits under simple parameter changes. Then we introduce a systematic way of adding sensory feedback from touch sensors in the CPG such that the controller is strongly coupled with the mechanical system it controls. Finally we control three different simulated robots (iCub, Aibo and Ghostdog) using the same controller to show the effectiveness of the approach. Our simulations prove the importance of independent control of swing and stance duration. The strong mutual coupling between the CPG and the robot allows for more robust locomotion, even under non precise parameters and non-flat environment.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Experimental Study of Limit Cycle and Chaotic Controllers for the Locomotion of Centipede Robots

Matthey, L., Righetti, L., Ijspeert, A.

In 2008 IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems, pages: 1860-1865, IEEE, Nice, France, sep 2008 (inproceedings)

Abstract
In this contribution we present a CPG (central pattern generator) controller based on coupled Rossler systems. It is able to generate both limit cycle and chaotic behaviors through bifurcation. We develop an experimental test bench to measure quantitatively the performance of different controllers on unknown terrains of increasing difficulty. First, we show that for flat terrains, open loop limit cycle systems are the most efficient (in terms of speed of locomotion) but that they are quite sensitive to environmental changes. Second, we show that sensory feedback is a crucial addition for unknown terrains. Third, we show that the chaotic controller with sensory feedback outperforms the other controllers in very difficult terrains and actually promotes the emergence of short synchronized movement patterns. All that is done using an unified framework for the generation of limit cycle and chaotic behaviors, where a simple parameter change can switch from one behavior to the other through bifurcation. Such flexibility would allow the automatic adaptation of the robot locomotion strategy to the terrain uncertainty.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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A Dynamical System for Online Learning of Periodic Movements of Unknown Waveform and Frequency

Gams, A., Righetti, L., Ijspeert, A., Lenarčič, J.

In 2008 2nd IEEE RAS & EMBS International Conference on Biomedical Robotics and Biomechatronics, pages: 85-90, IEEE, Scottsdale, USA, October 2008 (inproceedings)

Abstract
The paper presents a two-layered system for learning and encoding a periodic signal onto a limit cycle without any knowledge on the waveform and the frequency of the signal, and without any signal processing. The first dynamical system is responsible for extracting the main frequency of the input signal. It is based on adaptive frequency phase oscillators in a feedback structure, enabling us to extract separate frequency components without any signal processing, as all of the processing is embedded in the dynamics of the system itself. The second dynamical system is responsible for learning of the waveform. It has a built-in learning algorithm based on locally weighted regression, which adjusts the weights according to the amplitude of the input signal. By combining the output of the first system with the input of the second system we can rapidly teach new trajectories to robots. The systems works online for any periodic signal and can be applied in parallel to multiple dimensions. Furthermore, it can adapt to changes in frequency and shape, e.g. to non-stationary signals, and is computationally inexpensive. Results using simulated and hand-generated input signals, along with applying the algorithm to a HOAP-2 humanoid robot are presented.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Passive compliant quadruped robot using central pattern generators for locomotion control

Rutishauser, S., Sproewitz, A., Righetti, L., Ijspeert, A.

In 2008 IEEE International Conference on Biomedical Robotics and Biomechatronics, pages: 710-715, IEEE, Scottsdale, USA, October 2008 (inproceedings)

Abstract
We present a new quadruped robot, ldquoCheetahrdquo, featuring three-segment pantographic legs with passive compliant knee joints. Each leg has two degrees of freedom - knee and hip joint can be actuated using proximal mounted RC servo motors, force transmission to the knee is achieved by means of a bowden cable mechanism. Simple electronics to command the actuators from a desktop computer have been designed in order to test the robot. A Central Pattern Generator (CPG) network has been implemented to generate different gaits. A parameter space search was performed and tested on the robot to optimize forward velocity.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Frequency analysis with coupled nonlinear oscillators

Buchli, J., Righetti, L., Ijspeert, A.

Physica D: Nonlinear Phenomena, 237(13):1705-1718, August 2008 (article)

Abstract
We present a method to obtain the frequency spectrum of a signal with a nonlinear dynamical system. The dynamical system is composed of a pool of adaptive frequency oscillators with negative mean-field coupling. For the frequency analysis, the synchronization and adaptation properties of the component oscillators are exploited. The frequency spectrum of the signal is reflected in the statistics of the intrinsic frequencies of the oscillators. The frequency analysis is completely embedded in the dynamics of the system. Thus, no pre-processing or additional parameters, such as time windows, are needed. Representative results of the numerical integration of the system are presented. It is shown, that the oscillators tune to the correct frequencies for both discrete and continuous spectra. Due to its dynamic nature the system is also capable to track non-stationary spectra. Further, we show that the system can be modeled in a probabilistic manner by means of a nonlinear Fokker–Planck equation. The probabilistic treatment is in good agreement with the numerical results, and provides a useful tool to understand the underlying mechanisms leading to convergence.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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A modular bio-inspired architecture for movement generation for the infant-like robot iCub

Degallier, S., Righetti, L., Natale, L., Nori, F., Metta, G., Ijspeert, A.

In 2008 2nd IEEE RAS & EMBS International Conference on Biomedical Robotics and Biomechatronics, pages: 795-800, IEEE, Scottsdale, USA, October 2008 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Movement generation in humans appears to be processed through a three-layered architecture, where each layer corresponds to a different level of abstraction in the representation of the movement. In this article, we will present an architecture reflecting this organization and based on a modular approach to human movement generation. We will show that our architecture is well suited for the online generation and modulation of motor behaviors, but also for switching between motor behaviors. This will be illustrated respectively through an interactive drumming task and through switching between reaching and crawling.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]