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2019


Learning to Explore in Motion and Interaction Tasks
Learning to Explore in Motion and Interaction Tasks

Bogdanovic, M., Righetti, L.

IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS), IEEE, November 2019 (conference)

Abstract
Model free reinforcement learning suffers from the high sampling complexity inherent to robotic manipulation or locomotion tasks. Most successful approaches typically use random sampling strategies which leads to slow policy convergence. In this paper we present a novel approach for efficient exploration that leverages previously learned tasks. We exploit the fact that the same system is used across many tasks and build a generative model for exploration based on data from previously solved tasks to improve learning new tasks. The approach also enables continuous learning of improved exploration strategies as novel tasks are learned. Extensive simulations on a robot manipulator performing a variety of motion and contact interaction tasks demonstrate the capabilities of the approach. In particular, our experiments suggest that the exploration strategy can more than double learning speed, especially when rewards are sparse. Moreover, the algorithm is robust to task variations and parameter tuning, making it beneficial for complex robotic problems.

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arXiv [BibTex]

2019


arXiv [BibTex]


EM-Fusion: Dynamic Object-Level SLAM With Probabilistic Data Association
EM-Fusion: Dynamic Object-Level SLAM With Probabilistic Data Association

Strecke, M., Stückler, J.

In International Conference on Computer Vision, October 2019, arXiv:1904.11781 (inproceedings)

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preprint Project page Poster [BibTex]

preprint Project page Poster [BibTex]


Soft Continuous Surface for Micromanipulation driven by Light-controlled Hydrogels
Soft Continuous Surface for Micromanipulation driven by Light-controlled Hydrogels

Choi, E., Jeong, H., Qiu, T., Fischer, P., Palagi, S.

4th IEEE International Conference on Manipulation, Automation and Robotics at Small Scales (MARSS), July 2019 (conference)

Abstract
Remotely controlled, automated actuation and manipulation at the microscale is essential for a number of micro-manufacturing, biology, and lab-on-a-chip applications. To transport and manipulate micro-objects, arrays of remotely controlled micro-actuators are required, which, in turn, typically require complex and expensive solid-state chips. Here, we show that a continuous surface can function as a highly parallel, many-degree of freedom, wirelessly-controlled microactuator with seamless deformation. The soft continuous surface is based on a hydrogel that undergoes a volume change in response to applied light. The fabrication of the hydrogels and the characterization of their optical and thermomechanical behaviors are reported. The temperature-dependent localized deformation of the hydrogel is also investigated by numerical simulations. Static and dynamic deformations are obtained in the soft material by projecting light fields at high spatial resolution onto the surface. By controlling such deformations in open loop and especially closed loop, automated photoactuation is achieved. The surface deformations are then exploited to examine how inert microbeads can be manipulated autonomously on the surface. We believe that the proposed approach suggests ways to implement universal 2D micromanipulation schemes that can be useful for automation in microfabrication and lab-on-a-chip applications.

pf

[BibTex]

[BibTex]


Soft Phantom for the Training of Renal Calculi Diagnostics and  Lithotripsy
Soft Phantom for the Training of Renal Calculi Diagnostics and Lithotripsy

Li., D., Suarez-Ibarrola, R., Choi, E., Jeong, M., Gratzke, C., Miernik, A., Fischer, P., Qiu, T.

41st Annual International Conference of the IEEE Engineering in Medicine & Biology Society (EMBC), July 2019 (conference)

Abstract
Organ models are important for medical training and surgical planning. With the fast development of additive fabrication technologies, including 3D printing, the fabrication of 3D organ phantoms with precise anatomical features becomes possible. Here, we develop the first high-resolution kidney phantom based on soft material assembly, by combining 3D printing and polymer molding techniques. The phantom exhibits both the detailed anatomy of a human kidney and the elasticity of soft tissues. The phantom assembly can be separated into two parts on the coronal plane, thus large renal calculi are readily placed at any desired location of the calyx. With our sealing method, the assembled phantom withstands a hydraulic pressure that is four times the normal intrarenal pressure, thus it allows the simulation of medical procedures under realistic pressure conditions. The medical diagnostics of the renal calculi is performed by multiple imaging modalities, including X-ray, ultrasound imaging and endoscopy. The endoscopic lithotripsy is also successfully performed on the phantom. The use of a multifunctional soft phantom assembly thus shows great promise for the simulation of minimally invasive medical procedures under realistic conditions.

pf

[BibTex]

[BibTex]


A Magnetic Actuation System for the  Active Microrheology in Soft Biomaterials
A Magnetic Actuation System for the Active Microrheology in Soft Biomaterials

Jeong, M., Choi, E., Li., D., Palagi, S., Fischer, P., Qiu, T.

4th IEEE International Conference on Manipulation, Automation and Robotics at Small Scales (MARSS), July 2019 (conference)

Abstract
Microrheology is a key technique to characterize soft materials at small scales. The microprobe is wirelessly actuated and therefore typically only low forces or torques can be applied, which limits the range of the applied strain. Here, we report a new magnetic actuation system for microrheology consisting of an array of rotating permanent magnets, which achieves a rotating magnetic field with a spatially homogeneous high field strength of ~100 mT in a working volume of ~20×20×20 mm3. Compared to a traditional electromagnetic coil system, the permanent magnet assembly is portable and does not require cooling, and it exerts a large magnetic torque on the microprobe that is an order of magnitude higher than previous setups. Experimental results demonstrate that the measurement range of the soft gels’ elasticity covers at least five orders of magnitude. With the large actuation torque, it is also possible to study the fracture mechanics of soft biomaterials at small scales.

pf

[BibTex]

[BibTex]


Leveraging Contact Forces for Learning to Grasp
Leveraging Contact Forces for Learning to Grasp

Merzic, H., Bogdanovic, M., Kappler, D., Righetti, L., Bohg, J.

In Proceedings of the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA) 2019, IEEE, International Conference on Robotics and Automation, May 2019 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Grasping objects under uncertainty remains an open problem in robotics research. This uncertainty is often due to noisy or partial observations of the object pose or shape. To enable a robot to react appropriately to unforeseen effects, it is crucial that it continuously takes sensor feedback into account. While visual feedback is important for inferring a grasp pose and reaching for an object, contact feedback offers valuable information during manipulation and grasp acquisition. In this paper, we use model-free deep reinforcement learning to synthesize control policies that exploit contact sensing to generate robust grasping under uncertainty. We demonstrate our approach on a multi-fingered hand that exhibits more complex finger coordination than the commonly used two- fingered grippers. We conduct extensive experiments in order to assess the performance of the learned policies, with and without contact sensing. While it is possible to learn grasping policies without contact sensing, our results suggest that contact feedback allows for a significant improvement of grasping robustness under object pose uncertainty and for objects with a complex shape.

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video arXiv [BibTex]

video arXiv [BibTex]


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Learning to Disentangle Latent Physical Factors for Video Prediction

Zhu, D., Munderloh, M., Rosenhahn, B., Stückler, J.

In German Conference on Pattern Recognition (GCPR), 2019, to appear (inproceedings)

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dataset & evaluation code video preprint [BibTex]

dataset & evaluation code video preprint [BibTex]


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Robust Humanoid Locomotion Using Trajectory Optimization and Sample-Efficient Learning

Yeganegi, M. H., Khadiv, M., Moosavian, S. A. A., Zhu, J., Prete, A. D., Righetti, L.

Proceedings International Conference on Humanoid Robots, IEEE, 2019 IEEE-RAS International Conference on Humanoid Robots, 2019 (conference)

Abstract
Trajectory optimization (TO) is one of the most powerful tools for generating feasible motions for humanoid robots. However, including uncertainties and stochasticity in the TO problem to generate robust motions can easily lead to intractable problems. Furthermore, since the models used in TO have always some level of abstraction, it can be hard to find a realistic set of uncertainties in the model space. In this paper we leverage a sample-efficient learning technique (Bayesian optimization) to robustify TO for humanoid locomotion. The main idea is to use data from full-body simulations to make the TO stage robust by tuning the cost weights. To this end, we split the TO problem into two phases. The first phase solves a convex optimization problem for generating center of mass (CoM) trajectories based on simplified linear dynamics. The second stage employs iterative Linear-Quadratic Gaussian (iLQG) as a whole-body controller to generate full body control inputs. Then we use Bayesian optimization to find the cost weights to use in the first stage that yields robust performance in the simulation/experiment, in the presence of different disturbance/uncertainties. The results show that the proposed approach is able to generate robust motions for different sets of disturbances and uncertainties.

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https://arxiv.org/abs/1907.04616 [BibTex]

https://arxiv.org/abs/1907.04616 [BibTex]


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3D Birds-Eye-View Instance Segmentation

Elich, C., Engelmann, F., Kontogianni, T., Leibe, B.

In German Conference on Pattern Recognition (GCPR), 2019, arXiv:1904.02199, to appear (inproceedings)

ev

[BibTex]

[BibTex]

2018


Gait learning for soft microrobots controlled by light fields
Gait learning for soft microrobots controlled by light fields

Rohr, A. V., Trimpe, S., Marco, A., Fischer, P., Palagi, S.

In International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS) 2018, pages: 6199-6206, International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems 2018, October 2018 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Soft microrobots based on photoresponsive materials and controlled by light fields can generate a variety of different gaits. This inherent flexibility can be exploited to maximize their locomotion performance in a given environment and used to adapt them to changing environments. However, because of the lack of accurate locomotion models, and given the intrinsic variability among microrobots, analytical control design is not possible. Common data-driven approaches, on the other hand, require running prohibitive numbers of experiments and lead to very sample-specific results. Here we propose a probabilistic learning approach for light-controlled soft microrobots based on Bayesian Optimization (BO) and Gaussian Processes (GPs). The proposed approach results in a learning scheme that is highly data-efficient, enabling gait optimization with a limited experimental budget, and robust against differences among microrobot samples. These features are obtained by designing the learning scheme through the comparison of different GP priors and BO settings on a semisynthetic data set. The developed learning scheme is validated in microrobot experiments, resulting in a 115% improvement in a microrobot’s locomotion performance with an experimental budget of only 20 tests. These encouraging results lead the way toward self-adaptive microrobotic systems based on lightcontrolled soft microrobots and probabilistic learning control.

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arXiv IEEE Xplore DOI Project Page [BibTex]

2018


arXiv IEEE Xplore DOI Project Page [BibTex]


Soft Miniaturized Linear Actuators Wirelessly Powered by Rotating Permanent Magnets
Soft Miniaturized Linear Actuators Wirelessly Powered by Rotating Permanent Magnets

Qiu, T., Palagi, S., Sachs, J., Fischer, P.

In 2018 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA), pages: 3595-3600, May 2018 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Wireless actuation by magnetic fields allows for the operation of untethered miniaturized devices, e.g. in biomedical applications. Nevertheless, generating large controlled forces over relatively large distances is challenging. Magnetic torques are easier to generate and control, but they are not always suitable for the tasks at hand. Moreover, strong magnetic fields are required to generate a sufficient torque, which are difficult to achieve with electromagnets. Here, we demonstrate a soft miniaturized actuator that transforms an externally applied magnetic torque into a controlled linear force. We report the design, fabrication and characterization of both the actuator and the magnetic field generator. We show that the magnet assembly, which is based on a set of rotating permanent magnets, can generate strong controlled oscillating fields over a relatively large workspace. The actuator, which is 3D-printed, can lift a load of more than 40 times its weight. Finally, we show that the actuator can be further miniaturized, paving the way towards strong, wirelessly powered microactuators.

pf

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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On Time Optimization of Centroidal Momentum Dynamics

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

In 2018 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA), pages: 5776-5782, IEEE, Brisbane, Australia, 2018 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Recently, the centroidal momentum dynamics has received substantial attention to plan dynamically consistent motions for robots with arms and legs in multi-contact scenarios. However, it is also non convex which renders any optimization approach difficult and timing is usually kept fixed in most trajectory optimization techniques to not introduce additional non convexities to the problem. But this can limit the versatility of the algorithms. In our previous work, we proposed a convex relaxation of the problem that allowed to efficiently compute momentum trajectories and contact forces. However, our approach could not minimize a desired angular momentum objective which seriously limited its applicability. Noticing that the non-convexity introduced by the time variables is of similar nature as the centroidal dynamics one, we propose two convex relaxations to the problem based on trust regions and soft constraints. The resulting approaches can compute time-optimized dynamically consistent trajectories sufficiently fast to make the approach realtime capable. The performance of the algorithm is demonstrated in several multi-contact scenarios for a humanoid robot. In particular, we show that the proposed convex relaxation of the original problem finds solutions that are consistent with the original non-convex problem and illustrate how timing optimization allows to find motion plans that would be difficult to plan with fixed timing † †Implementation details and demos can be found in the source code available at https://git-amd.tuebingen.mpg.de/bponton/timeoptimization.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Unsupervised Contact Learning for Humanoid Estimation and Control

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

In 2018 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA), pages: 411-417, IEEE, Brisbane, Australia, 2018 (inproceedings)

Abstract
This work presents a method for contact state estimation using fuzzy clustering to learn contact probability for full, six-dimensional humanoid contacts. The data required for training is solely from proprioceptive sensors - endeffector contact wrench sensors and inertial measurement units (IMUs) - and the method is completely unsupervised. The resulting cluster means are used to efficiently compute the probability of contact in each of the six endeffector degrees of freedom (DoFs) independently. This clustering-based contact probability estimator is validated in a kinematics-based base state estimator in a simulation environment with realistic added sensor noise for locomotion over rough, low-friction terrain on which the robot is subject to foot slip and rotation. The proposed base state estimator which utilizes these six DoF contact probability estimates is shown to perform considerably better than that which determines kinematic contact constraints purely based on measured normal force.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Learning Task-Specific Dynamics to Improve Whole-Body Control

Gams, A., Mason, S., Ude, A., Schaal, S., Righetti, L.

In Hua, IEEE, Beijing, China, November 2018 (inproceedings)

Abstract
In task-based inverse dynamics control, reference accelerations used to follow a desired plan can be broken down into feedforward and feedback trajectories. The feedback term accounts for tracking errors that are caused from inaccurate dynamic models or external disturbances. On underactuated, free-floating robots, such as humanoids, high feedback terms can be used to improve tracking accuracy; however, this can lead to very stiff behavior or poor tracking accuracy due to limited control bandwidth. In this paper, we show how to reduce the required contribution of the feedback controller by incorporating learned task-space reference accelerations. Thus, we i) improve the execution of the given specific task, and ii) offer the means to reduce feedback gains, providing for greater compliance of the system. With a systematic approach we also reduce heuristic tuning of the model parameters and feedback gains, often present in real-world experiments. In contrast to learning task-specific joint-torques, which might produce a similar effect but can lead to poor generalization, our approach directly learns the task-space dynamics of the center of mass of a humanoid robot. Simulated and real-world results on the lower part of the Sarcos Hermes humanoid robot demonstrate the applicability of the approach.

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link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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An MPC Walking Framework With External Contact Forces

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

In 2018 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA), pages: 1785-1790, IEEE, Brisbane, Australia, May 2018 (inproceedings)

Abstract
In this work, we present an extension to a linear Model Predictive Control (MPC) scheme that plans external contact forces for the robot when given multiple contact locations and their corresponding friction cone. To this end, we set up a two-step optimization problem. In the first optimization, we compute the Center of Mass (CoM) trajectory, foot step locations, and introduce slack variables to account for violating the imposed constraints on the Zero Moment Point (ZMP). We then use the slack variables to trigger the second optimization, in which we calculate the optimal external force that compensates for the ZMP tracking error. This optimization considers multiple contacts positions within the environment by formulating the problem as a Mixed Integer Quadratic Program (MIQP) that can be solved at a speed between 100-300 Hz. Once contact is created, the MIQP reduces to a single Quadratic Program (QP) that can be solved in real-time ({\textless}; 1kHz). Simulations show that the presented walking control scheme can withstand disturbances 2-3× larger with the additional force provided by a hand contact.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

2017


Locomotion of light-driven soft microrobots through a hydrogel via local melting
Locomotion of light-driven soft microrobots through a hydrogel via local melting

Palagi, S., Mark, A. G., Melde, K., Qiu, T., Zeng, H., Parmeggiani, C., Martella, D., Wiersma, D. S., Fischer, P.

In 2017 International Conference on Manipulation, Automation and Robotics at Small Scales (MARSS), pages: 1-5, July 2017 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Soft mobile microrobots whose deformation can be directly controlled by an external field can adapt to move in different environments. This is the case for the light-driven microrobots based on liquid-crystal elastomers (LCEs). Here we show that the soft microrobots can move through an agarose hydrogel by means of light-controlled travelling-wave motions. This is achieved by exploiting the inherent rise of the LCE temperature above the melting temperature of the agarose gel, which facilitates penetration of the microrobot through the hydrogel. The locomotion performance is investigated as a function of the travelling-wave parameters, showing that effective propulsion can be obtained by adapting the generated motion to the specific environmental conditions.

pf

DOI [BibTex]

2017


DOI [BibTex]


Wireless micro-robots for endoscopic applications in urology
Wireless micro-robots for endoscopic applications in urology

Adams, F., Qiu, T., Mark, A. G., Melde, K., Palagi, S., Miernik, A., Fischer, P.

In Eur Urol Suppl, 16(3):e1914, March 2017 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Endoscopy is an essential and common method for both diagnostics and therapy in Urology. Current flexible endoscope is normally cable-driven, thus it is hard to be miniaturized and its reachability is restricted as only one bending section near the tip with one degree of freedom (DoF) is allowed. Recent progresses in micro-robotics offer a unique opportunity for medical inspections in minimally invasive surgery. Micro-robots are active devices that has a feature size smaller than one millimeter and can normally be actuated and controlled wirelessly. Magnetically actuated micro-robots have been demonstrated to propel through biological fluids.Here, we report a novel micro robotic arm, which is actuated wirelessly by ultrasound. It works as a miniaturized endoscope with a side length of ~1 mm, which fits through the 3 Fr. tool channel of a cystoscope, and successfully performs an active cystoscopy in a rabbit bladder.

pf

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Pattern Generation for Walking on Slippery Terrains

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

In 2017 5th International Conference on Robotics and Mechatronics (ICROM), Iran, August 2017 (inproceedings)

Abstract
In this paper, we extend state of the art Model Predictive Control (MPC) approaches to generate safe bipedal walking on slippery surfaces. In this setting, we formulate walking as a trade off between realizing a desired walking velocity and preserving robust foot-ground contact. Exploiting this for- mulation inside MPC, we show that safe walking on various flat terrains can be achieved by compromising three main attributes, i. e. walking velocity tracking, the Zero Moment Point (ZMP) modulation, and the Required Coefficient of Friction (RCoF) regulation. Simulation results show that increasing the walking velocity increases the possibility of slippage, while reducing the slippage possibility conflicts with reducing the tip-over possibility of the contact and vice versa.

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link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]

2003


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Evolution of Fault-tolerant Self-replicating Structures

Righetti, L., Shokur, S., Capcarre, M.

In Advances in Artificial Life, pages: 278-288, Lecture Notes in Computer Science, Springer Berlin Heidelberg, 2003 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Designed and evolved self-replicating structures in cellular automata have been extensively studied in the past as models of Artificial Life. However, CAs, unlike their biological counterpart, are very brittle: any faulty cell usually leads to the complete destruction of any emerging structures, let alone self-replicating structures. A way to design fault-tolerant structures based on error-correcting-code has been presented recently [1], but it required a cumbersome work to be put into practice. In this paper, we get back to the original inspiration for these works, nature, and propose a way to evolve self-replicating structures, faults here being only an idiosyncracy of the environment.

mg

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

2003


link (url) DOI [BibTex]