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2018


Role of symmetry in driven propulsion at low Reynolds number
Role of symmetry in driven propulsion at low Reynolds number

Sachs, J., Morozov, K. I., Kenneth, O., Qiu, T., Segreto, N., Fischer, P., Leshansky, A. M.

Phys. Rev. E, 98(6):063105, American Physical Society, December 2018 (article)

Abstract
We theoretically and experimentally investigate low-Reynolds-number propulsion of geometrically achiral planar objects that possess a dipole moment and that are driven by a rotating magnetic field. Symmetry considerations (involving parity, $\widehat{P}$, and charge conjugation, $\widehat{C}$) establish correspondence between propulsive states depending on orientation of the dipolar moment. Although basic symmetry arguments do not forbid individual symmetric objects to efficiently propel due to spontaneous symmetry breaking, they suggest that the average ensemble velocity vanishes. Some additional arguments show, however, that highly symmetrical ($\widehat{P}$-even) objects exhibit no net propulsion while individual less symmetrical ($\widehat{C}\widehat{P}$-even) propellers do propel. Particular magnetization orientation, rendering the shape $\widehat{C}\widehat{P}$-odd, yields unidirectional motion typically associated with chiral structures, such as helices. If instead of a structure with a permanent dipole we consider a polarizable object, some of the arguments have to be modified. For instance, we demonstrate a truly achiral ($\widehat{P}$- and $\widehat{C}\widehat{P}$-even) planar shape with an induced electric dipole that can propel by electro-rotation. We thereby show that chirality is not essential for propulsion due to rotation-translation coupling at low Reynolds number.

pf

link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]

2018


link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]


Optical and Thermophoretic Control of Janus Nanopen Injection into Living Cells
Optical and Thermophoretic Control of Janus Nanopen Injection into Living Cells

Maier, C. M., Huergo, M. A., Milosevic, S., Pernpeintner, C., Li, M., Singh, D. P., Walker, D., Fischer, P., Feldmann, J., Lohmüller, T.

Nano Letters, 18, pages: 7935–7941, November 2018 (article) Accepted

Abstract
Devising strategies for the controlled injection of functional nanoparticles and reagents into living cells paves the way for novel applications in nanosurgery, sensing, and drug delivery. Here, we demonstrate the light-controlled guiding and injection of plasmonic Janus nanopens into living cells. The pens are made of a gold nanoparticle attached to a dielectric alumina shaft. Balancing optical and thermophoretic forces in an optical tweezer allows single Janus nanopens to be trapped and positioned on the surface of living cells. While the optical injection process involves strong heating of the plasmonic side, the temperature of the alumina stays significantly lower, thus allowing the functionalization with fluorescently labeled, single-stranded DNA and, hence, the spatially controlled injection of genetic material with an untethered nanocarrier.

pf

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


A swarm of slippery micropropellers penetrates the vitreous body of the eye
A swarm of slippery micropropellers penetrates the vitreous body of the eye

Wu, Z., Troll, J., Jeong, H. H., Wei, Q., Stang, M., Ziemssen, F., Wang, Z., Dong, M., Schnichels, S., Qiu, T., Fischer, P.

Science Advances, 4(11):eaat4388, November 2018 (article)

Abstract
The intravitreal delivery of therapeutic agents promises major benefits in the field of ocular medicine. Traditional delivery methods rely on the random, passive diffusion of molecules, which do not allow for the rapid delivery of a concentrated cargo to a defined region at the posterior pole of the eye. The use of particles promises targeted delivery but faces the challenge that most tissues including the vitreous have a tight macromolecular matrix that acts as a barrier and prevents its penetration. Here, we demonstrate novel intravitreal delivery microvehicles slippery micropropellers that can be actively propelled through the vitreous humor to reach the retina. The propulsion is achieved by helical magnetic micropropellers that have a liquid layer coating to minimize adhesion to the surrounding biopolymeric network. The submicrometer diameter of the propellers enables the penetration of the biopolymeric network and the propulsion through the porcine vitreous body of the eye over centimeter distances. Clinical optical coherence tomography is used to monitor the movement of the propellers and confirm their arrival on the retina near the optic disc. Overcoming the adhesion forces and actively navigating a swarm of micropropellers in the dense vitreous humor promise practical applications in ophthalmology.

pf

Video: Nanorobots propel through the eye link (url) DOI [BibTex]

Video: Nanorobots propel through the eye link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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

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

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

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

am

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


Nanoscale robotic agents in biological fluids and tissues
Nanoscale robotic agents in biological fluids and tissues

Palagi, S., Walker, D. Q. T., Fischer, P.

In The Encyclopedia of Medical Robotics, 2, pages: 19-42, 2, (Editors: Desai, J. P. and Ferreira, A.), World Scientific, October 2018 (inbook)

Abstract
Nanorobots are untethered structures of sub-micron size that can be controlled in a non-trivial way. Such nanoscale robotic agents are envisioned to revolutionize medicine by enabling minimally invasive diagnostic and therapeutic procedures. To be useful, nanorobots must be operated in complex biological fluids and tissues, which are often difficult to penetrate. In this chapter, we first discuss potential medical applications of motile nanorobots. We briefly present the challenges related to swimming at such small scales and we survey the rheological properties of some biological fluids and tissues. We then review recent experimental results in the development of nanorobots and in particular their design, fabrication, actuation, and propulsion in complex biological fluids and tissues. Recent work shows that their nanoscale dimension is a clear asset for operation in biological tissues, since many biological tissues consist of networks of macromolecules that prevent the passage of larger micron-scale structures, but contain dynamic pores through which nanorobots can move.

pf

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [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]


Fast spatial scanning of 3D ultrasound fields via thermography
Fast spatial scanning of 3D ultrasound fields via thermography

Melde, K., Qiu, T., Fischer, P.

Applied Physics Letters, 113(13):133503, September 2018 (article)

Abstract
We propose and demonstrate a thermographic method that allows rapid scanning of ultrasound fields in a volume to yield 3D maps of the sound intensity. A thin sound-absorbing membrane is continuously translated through a volume of interest while a thermal camera records the evolution of its surface temperature. The temperature rise is a function of the absorbed sound intensity, such that the thermal image sequence can be combined to reveal the sound intensity distribution in the traversed volume. We demonstrate the mapping of ultrasound fields, which is several orders of magnitude faster than scanning with a hydrophone. Our results are in very good agreement with theoretical simulations.

pf

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.

am

link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


Diffusion Measurements of Swimming Enzymes with Fluorescence Correlation Spectroscopy
Diffusion Measurements of Swimming Enzymes with Fluorescence Correlation Spectroscopy

Günther, J., Börsch, M., Fischer, P.

Accounts of Chemical Research, 51(9):1911-1920, August 2018 (article)

Abstract
Self-propelled chemical motors are chemically powered micro- or nanosized swimmers. The energy required for these motors’ active motion derives from catalytic chemical reactions and the transformation of a fuel dissolved in the solution. While self-propulsion is now well established for larger particles, it is still unclear if enzymes, nature’s nanometer-sized catalysts, are potentially also self-powered nanomotors. Because of its small size, any increase in an enzyme’s diffusion due to active self-propulsion must be observed on top of the enzyme’s passive Brownian motion, which dominates at this scale. Fluorescence correlation spectroscopy (FCS) is a sensitive method to quantify the diffusion properties of single fluorescently labeled molecules in solution. FCS experiments have shown a general increase in the diffusion constant of a number of enzymes when the enzyme is catalytically active. Diffusion enhancements after addition of the enzyme’s substrate (and sometimes its inhibitor) of up to 80\% have been reported, which is at least 1 order of magnitude higher than what theory would predict. However, many factors contribute to the FCS signal and in particular the shape of the autocorrelation function, which underlies diffusion measurements by fluorescence correlation spectroscopy. These effects need to be considered to establish if and by how much the catalytic activity changes an enzyme’s diffusion.We carefully review phenomena that can play a role in FCS experiments and the determination of enzyme diffusion, including the dissociation of enzyme oligomers upon interaction with the substrate, surface binding of the enzyme to glass during the experiment, conformational changes upon binding, and quenching of the fluorophore. We show that these effects can cause changes in the FCS signal that behave similar to an increase in diffusion. However, in the case of the enzymes F1-ATPase and alkaline phosphatase, we demonstrate that there is no measurable increase in enzyme diffusion. Rather, dissociation and conformational changes account for the changes in the FCS signal in the former and fluorophore quenching in the latter. Within the experimental accuracy of our FCS measurements, we do not observe any change in diffusion due to activity for the enzymes we have investigated.We suggest useful control experiments and additional tests for future FCS experiments that should help establish if the observed diffusion enhancement is real or if it is due to an experimental or data analysis artifact. We show that fluorescence lifetime and mean intensity measurements are essential in order to identify the nature of the observed changes in the autocorrelation function. While it is clear from theory that chemically active enzymes should also act as self-propelled nanomotors, our FCS measurements show that the associated increase in diffusion is much smaller than previously reported. Further experiments are needed to quantify the contribution of the enzymes’ catalytic activity to their self-propulsion. We hope that our findings help to establish a useful protocol for future FCS studies in this field and help establish by how much the diffusion of an enzyme is enhanced through catalytic activity.

pf

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


Uphill production of dihydrogen by enzymatic oxidation of glucose without an external energy source
Uphill production of dihydrogen by enzymatic oxidation of glucose without an external energy source

Suraniti, E., Merzeau, P., Roche, J., Gounel, S., Mark, A. G., Fischer, P., Mano, N., Kuhn, A.

Nature Communications, 9(1):3229, August 2018 (article)

Abstract
Chemical systems do not allow the coupling of energy from several simple reactions to drive a subsequent reaction, which takes place in the same medium and leads to a product with a higher energy than the one released during the first reaction. Gibbs energy considerations thus are not favorable to drive e.g., water splitting by the direct oxidation of glucose as a model reaction. Here, we show that it is nevertheless possible to carry out such an energetically uphill reaction, if the electrons released in the oxidation reaction are temporarily stored in an electromagnetic system, which is then used to raise the electrons' potential energy so that they can power the electrolysis of water in a second step. We thereby demonstrate the general concept that lower energy delivering chemical reactions can be used to enable the formation of higher energy consuming reaction products in a closed system.

pf

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


Chemical micromotors self-assemble and self-propel by spontaneous symmetry breaking
Chemical micromotors self-assemble and self-propel by spontaneous symmetry breaking

Yu, T., Chuphal, P., Thakur, S., Reigh, S. Y., Singh, D. P., Fischer, P.

Chem. Comm., 54, pages: 11933-11936, August 2018 (article)

Abstract
Self-propelling chemical motors have thus far required the fabrication of Janus particles with an asymmetric catalyst distribution. Here, we demonstrate that simple, isotropic colloids can spontaneously assemble to yield dimer motors that self-propel. In a mixture of isotropic titanium dioxide colloids with photo-chemical catalytic activity and passive silica colloids, light illumination causes diffusiophoretic attractions between the active and passive particles and leads to the formation of dimers. The dimers constitute a symmetry-broken motor, whose dynamics can be fully controlled by the illumination conditions. Computer simulations reproduce the dynamics of the colloids and are in good agreement with experiments. The current work presents a simple route to obtain large numbers of self-propelling chemical motors from a dispersion of spherically symmetric colloids through spontaneous symmetry breaking.

pf

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


Chemotaxis of Active Janus Nanoparticles
Chemotaxis of Active Janus Nanoparticles

Popescu, M. N., Uspal, W. E., Bechinger, C., Fischer, P.

Nano Letters, 18(9):5345–5349, July 2018 (article)

Abstract
While colloids and molecules in solution exhibit passive Brownian motion, particles that are partially covered with a catalyst, which promotes the transformation of a fuel dissolved in the solution, can actively move. These active Janus particles are known as “chemical nanomotors” or self-propelling “swimmers” and have been realized with a range of catalysts, sizes, and particle geometries. Because their active translation depends on the fuel concentration, one expects that active colloidal particles should also be able to swim toward a fuel source. Synthesizing and engineering nanoparticles with distinct chemotactic properties may enable important developments, such as particles that can autonomously swim along a pH gradient toward a tumor. Chemotaxis requires that the particles possess an active coupling of their orientation to a chemical gradient. In this Perspective we provide a simple, intuitive description of the underlying mechanisms for chemotaxis, as well as the means to analyze and classify active particles that can show positive or negative chemotaxis. The classification provides guidance for engineering a specific response and is a useful organizing framework for the quantitative analysis and modeling of chemotactic behaviors. Chemotaxis is emerging as an important focus area in the field of active colloids and promises a number of fascinating applications for nanoparticles and particle-based delivery.

pf

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [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.

hi

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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

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

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

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

mg ps

pdf video Project Page Project Page [BibTex]

pdf video Project Page 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.

am

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


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

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

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

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

dlg

link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]

link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]


Bioinspired microrobots
Bioinspired microrobots

Palagi, S., Fischer, P.

Nature Reviews Materials, 3, pages: 113–124, May 2018 (article)

Abstract
Microorganisms can move in complex media, respond to the environment and self-organize. The field of microrobotics strives to achieve these functions in mobile robotic systems of sub-millimetre size. However, miniaturization of traditional robots and their control systems to the microscale is not a viable approach. A promising alternative strategy in developing microrobots is to implement sensing, actuation and control directly in the materials, thereby mimicking biological matter. In this Review, we discuss design principles and materials for the implementation of robotic functionalities in microrobots. We examine different biological locomotion strategies, and we discuss how they can be artificially recreated in magnetic microrobots and how soft materials improve control and performance. We show that smart, stimuli-responsive materials can act as on-board sensors and actuators and that ‘active matter’ enables autonomous motion, navigation and collective behaviours. Finally, we provide a critical outlook for the field of microrobotics and highlight the challenges that need to be overcome to realize sophisticated microrobots, which one day might rival biological machines.

pf

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Haptics and Haptic Interfaces

Kuchenbecker, K. J.

In Encyclopedia of Robotics, (Editors: Marcelo H. Ang and Oussama Khatib and Bruno Siciliano), Springer, May 2018 (incollection)

Abstract
Haptics is an interdisciplinary field that seeks to both understand and engineer touch-based interaction. Although a wide range of systems and applications are being investigated, haptics researchers often concentrate on perception and manipulation through the human hand. A haptic interface is a mechatronic system that modulates the physical interaction between a human and his or her tangible surroundings. Haptic interfaces typically involve mechanical, electrical, and computational layers that work together to sense user motions or forces, quickly process these inputs with other information, and physically respond by actuating elements of the user’s surroundings, thereby enabling him or her to act on and feel a remote and/or virtual environment.

hi

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


Graphene-silver hybrid devices for sensitive photodetection in the ultraviolet
Graphene-silver hybrid devices for sensitive photodetection in the ultraviolet

Paria, D., Jeong, H. H., Vadakkumbatt, V., Deshpande, P., Fischer, P., Ghosh, A., Ghosh, A.

Nanoscale, 10, pages: 7685-7693, April 2018 (article)

Abstract
The weak light-matter interaction in graphene can be enhanced with a number of strategies, among which sensitization with plasmonic nanostructures is particularly attractive. This has resulted in the development of graphene-plasmonic hybrid systems with strongly enhanced photodetection efficiencies in the visible and the IR, but none in the UV. Here, we describe a silver nanoparticle-graphene stacked optoelectronic device that shows strong enhancement of its photoresponse across the entire UV spectrum. The device fabrication strategy is scalable and modular. Self-assembly techniques are combined with physical shadow growth techniques to fabricate a regular large-area array of 50 nm silver nanoparticles onto which CVD graphene is transferred. The presence of the silver nanoparticles resulted in a plasmonically enhanced photoresponse as high as 3.2 A W-1 in the wavelength range from 330 nm to 450 nm. At lower wavelengths, close to the Van Hove singularity of the density of states in graphene, we measured an even higher responsivity of 14.5 A W-1 at 280 nm, which corresponds to a more than 10 000-fold enhancement over the photoresponse of native graphene.

pf

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


Nanoparticles on the move for medicine
Nanoparticles on the move for medicine

Fischer, P.

Physics World Focus on Nanotechnology, pages: 26028, (Editors: Margaret Harris), IOP Publishing Ltd and individual contributors, April 2018 (article)

Abstract
Peer Fischer outlines the prospects for creating “nanoswimmers” that can be steered through the body to deliver drugs directly to their targets Molecules don’t move very fast on their own. If they had to rely solely on diffusion – a slow and inefficient process linked to the Brownian motion of small particles and molecules in solution – then a protein mole­cule, for instance, would take around three weeks to travel a single centimetre down a nerve fibre. This is why active transport mechanisms exist in cells and in the human body: without them, all the processes of life would happen at a pace that would make snails look speedy.

pf

link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [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)

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


Photogravitactic Microswimmers
Photogravitactic Microswimmers

Singh, D. P., Uspal, W. E., Popescu, M. N., Wilson, L. G., Fischer, P.

Adv. Func. Mat., 28, pages: 1706660, Febuary 2018 (article)

Abstract
Abstract Phototactic microorganisms are commonly observed to respond to natural sunlight by swimming upward against gravity. This study demonstrates that synthetic photochemically active microswimmers can also swim against gravity. The particles initially sediment and, when illuminated at low light intensities exhibit wall‐bound states of motion near the bottom surface. Upon increasing the intensity of light, the artificial swimmers lift off from the wall and swim against gravity and away from the light source. This motion in the bulk has been further confirmed using holographic microscopy. A theoretical model is presented within the framework of self‐diffusiophoresis, which allows to unequivocally identify the photochemical activity and the phototactic response as key mechanisms in the observed phenomenology. Since the lift‐off threshold intensity depends on the particle size, it can be exploited to selectively address particles with the same density from a polydisperse mixture of active particles and move them in or out of the boundary region. This study provides a simple design strategy to fabricate artificial microswimmers whose two‐ or three‐dimensional swimming behavior can be controlled with light.

pf

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


Chiral Plasmonic Hydrogen Sensors
Chiral Plasmonic Hydrogen Sensors

Matuschek, M., Singh, D. P., Hyeon-Ho, J., Nesterov, M., Weiss, T., Fischer, P., Neubrech, F., Na Liu, L.

Small, 14(7):1702990, Febuary 2018 (article)

Abstract
In this article, a chiral plasmonic hydrogen‐sensing platform using palladium‐based nanohelices is demonstrated. Such 3D chiral nanostructures fabricated by nanoglancing angle deposition exhibit strong circular dichroism both experimentally and theoretically. The chiroptical properties of the palladium nanohelices are altered upon hydrogen uptake and sensitively depend on the hydrogen concentration. Such properties are well suited for remote and spark‐free hydrogen sensing in the flammable range. Hysteresis is reduced, when an increasing amount of gold is utilized in the palladium‐gold hybrid helices. As a result, the linearity of the circular dichroism in response to hydrogen is significantly improved. The chiral plasmonic sensor scheme is of potential interest for hydrogen‐sensing applications, where good linearity and high sensitivity are required.

pf

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


Acoustic Fabrication via the Assembly and Fusion of Particles
Acoustic Fabrication via the Assembly and Fusion of Particles

Melde, K., Choi, E., Wu, Z., Palagi, S., Qiu, T., Fischer, P.

Advanced Materials, 30(3):1704507, January 2018 (article)

Abstract
Acoustic assembly promises a route toward rapid parallel fabrication of whole objects directly from solution. This study reports the contact-free and maskless assembly, and fixing of silicone particles into arbitrary 2D shapes using ultrasound fields. Ultrasound passes through an acoustic hologram to form a target image. The particles assemble from a suspension along lines of high pressure in the image due to acoustic radiation forces and are then fixed (crosslinked) in a UV-triggered reaction. For this, the particles are loaded with a photoinitiator by solvent-induced swelling. This localizes the reaction and allows the bulk suspension to be reused. The final fabricated parts are mechanically stable and self-supporting.

pf

link (url) DOI Project Page [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]


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

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

arXiv, 2018 (article) Submitted

Abstract
One of the most basic skills a robot should possess is predicting the effect of physical interactions with objects in the environment. This enables optimal action selection to reach a certain goal state. Traditionally, dynamics are approximated by physics-based analytical models. These models rely on specific state representations that may be hard to obtain from raw sensory data, especially if no knowledge of the object shape is assumed. More recently, we have seen learning approaches that can predict the effect of complex physical interactions directly from sensory input. It is however an open question how far these models generalize beyond their training data. In this work, we investigate the advantages and limitations of neural network based learning approaches for predicting the effects of actions based on sensory input and show how analytical and learned models can be combined to leverage the best of both worlds. As physical interaction task, we use planar pushing, for which there exists a well-known analytical model and a large real-world dataset. We propose to use a convolutional neural network to convert raw depth images or organized point clouds into a suitable representation for the analytical model and compare this approach to using neural networks for both, perception and prediction. A systematic evaluation of the proposed approach on a very large real-world dataset shows two main advantages of the hybrid architecture. Compared to a pure neural network, it significantly (i) reduces required training data and (ii) improves generalization to novel physical interaction.

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arXiv pdf link (url) [BibTex]


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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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Learning a Structured Neural Network Policy for a Hopping Task.

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

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

mg

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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

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

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

mg

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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

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

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

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

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

2013


3-D Object Reconstruction of Symmetric Objects by Fusing Visual and Tactile Sensing
3-D Object Reconstruction of Symmetric Objects by Fusing Visual and Tactile Sensing

Illonen, J., Bohg, J., Kyrki, V.

The International Journal of Robotics Research, 33(2):321-341, Sage, October 2013 (article)

Abstract
In this work, we propose to reconstruct a complete 3-D model of an unknown object by fusion of visual and tactile information while the object is grasped. Assuming the object is symmetric, a first hypothesis of its complete 3-D shape is generated. A grasp is executed on the object with a robotic manipulator equipped with tactile sensors. Given the detected contacts between the fingers and the object, the initial full object model including the symmetry parameters can be refined. This refined model will then allow the planning of more complex manipulation tasks. The main contribution of this work is an optimal estimation approach for the fusion of visual and tactile data applying the constraint of object symmetry. The fusion is formulated as a state estimation problem and solved with an iterative extended Kalman filter. The approach is validated experimentally using both artificial and real data from two different robotic platforms.

am

Web DOI Project Page [BibTex]

2013


Web DOI Project Page [BibTex]


Hybrid nanocolloids with programmed three-dimensional shape and material composition
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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Optimal control of reaching includes kinematic constraints

Mistry, M., Theodorou, E., Schaal, S., Kawato, M.

Journal of Neurophysiology, 2013, clmc (article)

Abstract
We investigate adaptation under a reaching task with an acceleration-based force field perturbation designed to alter the nominal straight hand trajectory in a potentially benign manner:pushing the hand of course in one direction before subsequently restoring towards the target. In this particular task, an explicit strategy to reduce motor effort requires a distinct deviation from the nominal rectilinear hand trajectory. Rather, our results display a clear directional preference during learning, as subjects adapted perturbed curved trajectories towards their initial baselines. We model this behavior using the framework of stochastic optimal control theory and an objective function that trades-of the discordant requirements of 1) target accuracy, 2) motor effort, and 3) desired trajectory. Our work addresses the underlying objective of a reaching movement, and we suggest that robustness, particularly against internal model uncertainly, is as essential to the reaching task as terminal accuracy and energy effciency.

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PDF [BibTex]

PDF [BibTex]


Chiral Colloidal Molecules And Observation of The Propeller Effect
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.

pf

Video - Nanospropellers DOI [BibTex]

Video - Nanospropellers DOI [BibTex]


Indirect absorption spectroscopy using quantum cascade lasers: mid-infrared refractometry and photothermal spectroscopy
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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Dynamical Movement Primitives: Learning Attractor Models for Motor Behaviors

Ijspeert, A., Nakanishi, J., Pastor, P., Hoffmann, H., Schaal, S.

Neural Computation, (25):328-373, 2013, clmc (article)

Abstract
Nonlinear dynamical systems have been used in many disciplines to model complex behaviors, including biological motor control, robotics, perception, economics, traffic prediction, and neuroscience. While often the unexpected emergent behavior of nonlinear systems is the focus of investigations, it is of equal importance to create goal-directed behavior (e.g., stable locomotion from a system of coupled oscillators under perceptual guidance). Modeling goal-directed behavior with nonlinear systems is, however, rather difficult due to the parameter sensitivity of these systems, their complex phase transitions in response to subtle parameter changes, and the difficulty of analyzing and predicting their long-term behavior; intuition and time-consuming parameter tuning play a major role. This letter presents and reviews dynamical movement primitives, a line of research for modeling attractor behaviors of autonomous nonlinear dynamical systems with the help of statistical learning techniques. The essence of our approach is to start with a simple dynamical system, such as a set of linear differential equations, and transform those into a weakly nonlinear system with prescribed attractor dynamics by meansof a learnable autonomous forcing term. Both point attractors and limit cycle attractors of almost arbitrary complexity can be generated. We explain the design principle of our approach and evaluate its properties in several example applications in motor control and robotics.

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link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


Plasmonic nanohelix metamaterials with tailorable giant circular dichroism
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.

pf

DOI [BibTex]

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.

am mg

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

am mg

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.

mg

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]