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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]


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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, October 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 link (url) [BibTex]

https://arxiv.org/abs/1907.04616 link (url) [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]


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Efficient Humanoid Contact Planning using Learned Centroidal Dynamics Prediction

Lin, Y., Ponton, B., Righetti, L., Berenson, D.

International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA), pages: 5280-5286, IEEE, May 2019 (conference)

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [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]

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]


Chapter 8 - Micro- and nanorobots in Newtonian and biological viscoelastic fluids
Chapter 8 - Micro- and nanorobots in Newtonian and biological viscoelastic fluids

Palagi, S., (Walker) Schamel, D., Qiu, T., Fischer, P.

In Microbiorobotics, pages: 133 - 162, 8, Micro and Nano Technologies, Second edition, Elsevier, Boston, March 2017 (incollection)

Abstract
Swimming microorganisms are a source of inspiration for small scale robots that are intended to operate in fluidic environments including complex biomedical fluids. Nature has devised swimming strategies that are effective at small scales and at low Reynolds number. These include the rotary corkscrew motion that, for instance, propels a flagellated bacterial cell, as well as the asymmetric beat of appendages that sperm cells or ciliated protozoa use to move through fluids. These mechanisms can overcome the reciprocity that governs the hydrodynamics at small scale. The complex molecular structure of biologically important fluids presents an additional challenge for the effective propulsion of microrobots. In this chapter it is shown how physical and chemical approaches are essential in realizing engineered abiotic micro- and nanorobots that can move in biomedically important environments. Interestingly, we also describe a microswimmer that is effective in biological viscoelastic fluids that does not have a natural analogue.

pf

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) 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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Momentum-Centered Control of Contact Interactions

Righetti, L., Herzog, A.

In Geometric and Numerical Foundations of Movements, 117, pages: 339-359, Springer Tracts in Advanced Robotics, Springer, Cham, 2017 (incollection)

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link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [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]


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Pattern generators with sensory feedback for the control of quadruped locomotion

Righetti, L., Ijspeert, A.

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

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

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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

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

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

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

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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

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

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

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

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Passive compliant quadruped robot using central pattern generators for locomotion control

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

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

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

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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

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

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

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

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]