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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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Behavior as broken symmetry in embodied self-organizing robots

Der, R., Martius, G.

In Advances in Artificial Life, ECAL 2013, pages: 601-608, MIT Press, 2013 (incollection)

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[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Information Driven Self-Organization of Complex Robotic Behaviors

Martius, G., Der, R., Ay, N.

PLoS ONE, 8(5):e63400, Public Library of Science, 2013 (article)

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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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Linear combination of one-step predictive information with an external reward in an episodic policy gradient setting: a critical analysis

Zahedi, K., Martius, G., Ay, N.

Frontiers in Psychology, 4(801), 2013 (article)

Abstract
One of the main challenges in the field of embodied artificial intelligence is the open-ended autonomous learning of complex behaviours. Our approach is to use task-independent, information-driven intrinsic motivation(s) to support task-dependent learning. The work presented here is a preliminary step in which we investigate the predictive information (the mutual information of the past and future of the sensor stream) as an intrinsic drive, ideally supporting any kind of task acquisition. Previous experiments have shown that the predictive information (PI) is a good candidate to support autonomous, open-ended learning of complex behaviours, because a maximisation of the PI corresponds to an exploration of morphology- and environment-dependent behavioural regularities. The idea is that these regularities can then be exploited in order to solve any given task. Three different experiments are presented and their results lead to the conclusion that the linear combination of the one-step PI with an external reward function is not generally recommended in an episodic policy gradient setting. Only for hard tasks a great speed-up can be achieved at the cost of an asymptotic performance lost.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Robustness of guided self-organization against sensorimotor disruptions

Martius, G.

Advances in Complex Systems, 16(02n03):1350001, 2013 (article)

Abstract
Self-organizing processes are crucial for the development of living beings. Practical applications in robots may benefit from the self-organization of behavior, e.g.~to increase fault tolerance and enhance flexibility, provided that external goals can also be achieved. We present results on the guidance of self-organizing control by visual target stimuli and show a remarkable robustness to sensorimotor disruptions. In a proof of concept study an autonomous wheeled robot is learning an object finding and ball-pushing task from scratch within a few minutes in continuous domains. The robustness is demonstrated by the rapid recovery of the performance after severe changes of the sensor configuration.

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DOI [BibTex]

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]

2012


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Fourier-transform photocurrent spectroscopy using a supercontinuum light source

Petermann, C., Beigang, R., Fischer, P.

APPLIED PHYSICS LETTERS, 100(6), 2012 (article)

Abstract
We demonstrate an implementation of frequency-encoded photocurrent spectroscopy using a super-continuum light source. The spectrally broad light is spatially dispersed and modulated with a special mechanical chopper design that permits a continuous wavelength-dependent modulation. After recombination, the light beam contains a frequency encoded spectrum which enables us to map the spectral response of a given sample in 60 ms and with a lateral resolution of 10 mu m. (C) 2012 American Institute of Physics.

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DOI [BibTex]

2012


DOI [BibTex]


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Eine neue Form von Cavity Enhanced Absorption Spectroscopy

Petermann, C., Fischer, P.

DE Gruyter, 79(1), 2012, Best paper award OPTO 2011 (article)

Abstract
Wir stellen eine Kopplungsmethode für resonatorgestützte Absorptionsmessungen vor, bei der Licht durch einen im Resonator platzierten akustooptischen Modulator aktiv ein- und ausgekoppelt wird. Dies ermöglicht es Cavity-Ring-Down-Spektroskopie (CRDS) mit breitbandigen und zeitlich inkohärenten Lichtquellen niedriger spektraler Leistungsdichte durchzuführen. Das Verfahren wird zum ersten Mal mit einer breitbandigen Superkontinuum-Quelle demonstriert.

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A new coupling scheme for cavity enhanced absorption spectroscopy makes use of an intracavity acousto-optical modulator to actively switch light into (and out of) a resonator. This allows cavity ringdown spectroscopy (CRDS) to be implemented with broadband temporally incoherent light sources with low spectral power densities. The method is demonstrated for the first time using a broadband supercontinuum source. Best paper award OPTO 2011.

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link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Variants of guided self-organization for robot control

Martius, G., Herrmann, J.

Theory in Biosci., 131(3):129-137, Springer Berlin / Heidelberg, 2012 (article)

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Encoding of Periodic and their Transient Motions by a Single Dynamic Movement Primitive

Ernesti, J., Righetti, L., Do, M., Asfour, T., Schaal, S.

In 2012 12th IEEE-RAS International Conference on Humanoid Robots (Humanoids 2012), pages: 57-64, IEEE, Osaka, Japan, November 2012 (inproceedings)

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Learning Force Control Policies for Compliant Robotic Manipulation

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

In ICML’12 Proceedings of the 29th International Coference on International Conference on Machine Learning, pages: 49-50, Edinburgh, Scotland, 2012 (inproceedings)

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[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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The Playful Machine - Theoretical Foundation and Practical Realization of Self-Organizing Robots

Der, R., Martius, G.

Springer, Berlin Heidelberg, 2012 (book)

Abstract
Autonomous robots may become our closest companions in the near future. While the technology for physically building such machines is already available today, a problem lies in the generation of the behavior for such complex machines. Nature proposes a solution: young children and higher animals learn to master their complex brain-body systems by playing. Can this be an option for robots? How can a machine be playful? The book provides answers by developing a general principle---homeokinesis, the dynamical symbiosis between brain, body, and environment---that is shown to drive robots to self-determined, individual development in a playful and obviously embodiment-related way: a dog-like robot starts playing with a barrier, eventually jumping or climbing over it; a snakebot develops coiling and jumping modes; humanoids develop climbing behaviors when fallen into a pit, or engage in wrestling-like scenarios when encountering an opponent. The book also develops guided self-organization, a new method that helps to make the playful machines fit for fulfilling tasks in the real world.

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link (url) [BibTex]


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Quadratic programming for inverse dynamics with optimal distribution of contact forces

Righetti, L., Schaal, S.

In 2012 12th IEEE-RAS International Conference on Humanoid Robots (Humanoids 2012), pages: 538-543, IEEE, Osaka, Japan, November 2012 (inproceedings)

Abstract
In this contribution we propose an inverse dynamics controller for a humanoid robot that exploits torque redundancy to minimize any combination of linear and quadratic costs in the contact forces and the commands. In addition the controller satisfies linear equality and inequality constraints in the contact forces and the commands such as torque limits, unilateral contacts or friction cones limits. The originality of our approach resides in the formulation of the problem as a quadratic program where we only need to solve for the control commands and where the contact forces are optimized implicitly. Furthermore, we do not need a structured representation of the dynamics of the robot (i.e. an explicit computation of the inertia matrix). It is in contrast with existing methods based on quadratic programs. The controller is then robust to uncertainty in the estimation of the dynamics model and the optimization is fast enough to be implemented in high bandwidth torque control loops that are increasingly available on humanoid platforms. We demonstrate properties of our controller with simulations of a human size humanoid robot.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Towards Associative Skill Memories

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

In 2012 12th IEEE-RAS International Conference on Humanoid Robots (Humanoids 2012), pages: 309-315, IEEE, Osaka, Japan, November 2012 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Movement primitives as basis of movement planning and control have become a popular topic in recent years. The key idea of movement primitives is that a rather small set of stereotypical movements should suffice to create a large set of complex manipulation skills. An interesting side effect of stereotypical movement is that it also creates stereotypical sensory events, e.g., in terms of kinesthetic variables, haptic variables, or, if processed appropriately, visual variables. Thus, a movement primitive executed towards a particular object in the environment will associate a large number of sensory variables that are typical for this manipulation skill. These association can be used to increase robustness towards perturbations, and they also allow failure detection and switching towards other behaviors. We call such movement primitives augmented with sensory associations Associative Skill Memories (ASM). This paper addresses how ASMs can be acquired by imitation learning and how they can create robust manipulation skill by determining subsequent ASMs online to achieve a particular manipulation goal. Evaluation for grasping and manipulation with a Barrett WAM/Hand illustrate our approach.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Template-based learning of grasp selection

Herzog, A., Pastor, P., Kalakrishnan, M., Righetti, L., Asfour, T., Schaal, S.

In 2012 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation, pages: 2379-2384, IEEE, Saint Paul, USA, 2012 (inproceedings)

Abstract
The ability to grasp unknown objects is an important skill for personal robots, which has been addressed by many present and past research projects, but still remains an open problem. A crucial aspect of grasping is choosing an appropriate grasp configuration, i.e. the 6d pose of the hand relative to the object and its finger configuration. Finding feasible grasp configurations for novel objects, however, is challenging because of the huge variety in shape and size of these objects. Moreover, possible configurations also depend on the specific kinematics of the robotic arm and hand in use. In this paper, we introduce a new grasp selection algorithm able to find object grasp poses based on previously demonstrated grasps. Assuming that objects with similar shapes can be grasped in a similar way, we associate to each demonstrated grasp a grasp template. The template is a local shape descriptor for a possible grasp pose and is constructed using 3d information from depth sensors. For each new object to grasp, the algorithm then finds the best grasp candidate in the library of templates. The grasp selection is also able to improve over time using the information of previous grasp attempts to adapt the ranking of the templates. We tested the algorithm on two different platforms, the Willow Garage PR2 and the Barrett WAM arm which have very different hands. Our results show that the algorithm is able to find good grasp configurations for a large set of objects from a relatively small set of demonstrations, and does indeed improve its performance over time.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Probabilistic depth image registration incorporating nonvisual information

Wüthrich, M., Pastor, P., Righetti, L., Billard, A., Schaal, S.

In 2012 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation, pages: 3637-3644, IEEE, Saint Paul, USA, 2012 (inproceedings)

Abstract
In this paper, we derive a probabilistic registration algorithm for object modeling and tracking. In many robotics applications, such as manipulation tasks, nonvisual information about the movement of the object is available, which we will combine with the visual information. Furthermore we do not only consider observations of the object, but we also take space into account which has been observed to not be part of the object. Furthermore we are computing a posterior distribution over the relative alignment and not a point estimate as typically done in for example Iterative Closest Point (ICP). To our knowledge no existing algorithm meets these three conditions and we thus derive a novel registration algorithm in a Bayesian framework. Experimental results suggest that the proposed methods perform favorably in comparison to PCL [1] implementations of feature mapping and ICP, especially if nonvisual information is available.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]