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2019


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Limitations of the empirical Fisher approximation for natural gradient descent

Kunstner, F., Hennig, P., Balles, L.

Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 32, pages: 4158-4169, (Editors: H. Wallach and H. Larochelle and A. Beygelzimer and F. d’Alché-Buc and E. Fox and R. Garnett), Curran Associates, Inc., 33rd Annual Conference on Neural Information Processing Systems, December 2019 (conference)

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link (url) [BibTex]

2019


link (url) [BibTex]


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Convergence Guarantees for Adaptive Bayesian Quadrature Methods

Kanagawa, M., Hennig, P.

Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 32, pages: 6234-6245, (Editors: H. Wallach and H. Larochelle and A. Beygelzimer and F. d’Alché-Buc and E. Fox and R. Garnett), Curran Associates, Inc., 33rd Annual Conference on Neural Information Processing Systems, December 2019 (conference)

ei pn

link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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]

arXiv [BibTex]


Learning Variable Impedance Control for Contact Sensitive Tasks
Learning Variable Impedance Control for Contact Sensitive Tasks

Bogdanovic, M., Khadiv, M., Righetti, L.

arXiv preprint, arXiv:1907.07500, July 2019 (article)

Abstract
Reinforcement learning algorithms have shown great success in solving different problems ranging from playing video games to robotics. However, they struggle to solve delicate robotic problems, especially those involving contact interactions. Though in principle a policy outputting joint torques should be able to learn these tasks, in practice we see that they have difficulty to robustly solve the problem without any structure in the action space. In this paper, we investigate how the choice of action space can give robust performance in presence of contact uncertainties. We propose to learn a policy that outputs impedance and desired position in joint space as a function of system states without imposing any other structure to the problem. We compare the performance of this approach to torque and position control policies under different contact uncertainties. Extensive simulation results on two different systems, a hopper (floating-base) with intermittent contacts and a manipulator (fixed-base) wiping a table, show that our proposed approach outperforms policies outputting torque or position in terms of both learning rate and robustness to environment uncertainty.

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[BibTex]


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DeepOBS: A Deep Learning Optimizer Benchmark Suite

Schneider, F., Balles, L., Hennig, P.

7th International Conference on Learning Representations (ICLR), May 2019 (conference)

ei pn

link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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

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

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

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

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video arXiv [BibTex]

video arXiv [BibTex]


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Fast and Robust Shortest Paths on Manifolds Learned from Data

Arvanitidis, G., Hauberg, S., Hennig, P., Schober, M.

Proceedings of the 22nd International Conference on Artificial Intelligence and Statistics (AISTATS), 89, pages: 1506-1515, (Editors: Kamalika Chaudhuri and Masashi Sugiyama), PMLR, April 2019 (conference)

ei pn

PDF link (url) [BibTex]

PDF link (url) [BibTex]


Active Probabilistic Inference on Matrices for Pre-Conditioning in Stochastic Optimization
Active Probabilistic Inference on Matrices for Pre-Conditioning in Stochastic Optimization

de Roos, F., Hennig, P.

Proceedings of the 22nd International Conference on Artificial Intelligence and Statistics (AISTATS), 89, pages: 1448-1457, (Editors: Kamalika Chaudhuri and Masashi Sugiyama), PMLR, April 2019 (conference)

Abstract
Pre-conditioning is a well-known concept that can significantly improve the convergence of optimization algorithms. For noise-free problems, where good pre-conditioners are not known a priori, iterative linear algebra methods offer one way to efficiently construct them. For the stochastic optimization problems that dominate contemporary machine learning, however, this approach is not readily available. We propose an iterative algorithm inspired by classic iterative linear solvers that uses a probabilistic model to actively infer a pre-conditioner in situations where Hessian-projections can only be constructed with strong Gaussian noise. The algorithm is empirically demonstrated to efficiently construct effective pre-conditioners for stochastic gradient descent and its variants. Experiments on problems of comparably low dimensionality show improved convergence. In very high-dimensional problems, such as those encountered in deep learning, the pre-conditioner effectively becomes an automatic learning-rate adaptation scheme, which we also empirically show to work well.

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PDF link (url) [BibTex]

PDF link (url) [BibTex]


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Robust Humanoid Locomotion Using Trajectory Optimization and Sample-Efficient Learning

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

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

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

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

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


Probabilistic Linear Solvers: A Unifying View
Probabilistic Linear Solvers: A Unifying View

Bartels, S., Cockayne, J., Ipsen, I. C. F., Hennig, P.

Statistics and Computing, 2019 (article) Accepted

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link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]

2017


On the Design of {LQR} Kernels for Efficient Controller Learning
On the Design of LQR Kernels for Efficient Controller Learning

Marco, A., Hennig, P., Schaal, S., Trimpe, S.

Proceedings of the 56th IEEE Annual Conference on Decision and Control (CDC), pages: 5193-5200, IEEE, IEEE Conference on Decision and Control, December 2017 (conference)

Abstract
Finding optimal feedback controllers for nonlinear dynamic systems from data is hard. Recently, Bayesian optimization (BO) has been proposed as a powerful framework for direct controller tuning from experimental trials. For selecting the next query point and finding the global optimum, BO relies on a probabilistic description of the latent objective function, typically a Gaussian process (GP). As is shown herein, GPs with a common kernel choice can, however, lead to poor learning outcomes on standard quadratic control problems. For a first-order system, we construct two kernels that specifically leverage the structure of the well-known Linear Quadratic Regulator (LQR), yet retain the flexibility of Bayesian nonparametric learning. Simulations of uncertain linear and nonlinear systems demonstrate that the LQR kernels yield superior learning performance.

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arXiv PDF On the Design of LQR Kernels for Efficient Controller Learning - CDC presentation DOI Project Page [BibTex]

2017


arXiv PDF On the Design of LQR Kernels for Efficient Controller Learning - CDC presentation DOI Project Page [BibTex]


Probabilistic Line Searches for Stochastic Optimization
Probabilistic Line Searches for Stochastic Optimization

Mahsereci, M., Hennig, P.

Journal of Machine Learning Research, 18(119):1-59, November 2017 (article)

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link (url) Project Page [BibTex]

link (url) Project Page [BibTex]


Coupling Adaptive Batch Sizes with Learning Rates
Coupling Adaptive Batch Sizes with Learning Rates

Balles, L., Romero, J., Hennig, P.

In Proceedings Conference on Uncertainty in Artificial Intelligence (UAI) 2017, pages: 410-419, (Editors: Gal Elidan and Kristian Kersting), Association for Uncertainty in Artificial Intelligence (AUAI), Conference on Uncertainty in Artificial Intelligence (UAI), August 2017 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Mini-batch stochastic gradient descent and variants thereof have become standard for large-scale empirical risk minimization like the training of neural networks. These methods are usually used with a constant batch size chosen by simple empirical inspection. The batch size significantly influences the behavior of the stochastic optimization algorithm, though, since it determines the variance of the gradient estimates. This variance also changes over the optimization process; when using a constant batch size, stability and convergence is thus often enforced by means of a (manually tuned) decreasing learning rate schedule. We propose a practical method for dynamic batch size adaptation. It estimates the variance of the stochastic gradients and adapts the batch size to decrease the variance proportionally to the value of the objective function, removing the need for the aforementioned learning rate decrease. In contrast to recent related work, our algorithm couples the batch size to the learning rate, directly reflecting the known relationship between the two. On three image classification benchmarks, our batch size adaptation yields faster optimization convergence, while simultaneously simplifying learning rate tuning. A TensorFlow implementation is available.

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Code link (url) Project Page [BibTex]

Code link (url) Project Page [BibTex]


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Dynamic Time-of-Flight

Schober, M., Adam, A., Yair, O., Mazor, S., Nowozin, S.

Proceedings IEEE Conference on Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition (CVPR) 2017, pages: 170-179, IEEE, Piscataway, NJ, USA, IEEE Conference on Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition (CVPR), July 2017 (conference)

ei pn

DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


Virtual vs. {R}eal: Trading Off Simulations and Physical Experiments in Reinforcement Learning with {B}ayesian Optimization
Virtual vs. Real: Trading Off Simulations and Physical Experiments in Reinforcement Learning with Bayesian Optimization

Marco, A., Berkenkamp, F., Hennig, P., Schoellig, A. P., Krause, A., Schaal, S., Trimpe, S.

In Proceedings of the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA), pages: 1557-1563, IEEE, Piscataway, NJ, USA, IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA), May 2017 (inproceedings)

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PDF arXiv ICRA 2017 Spotlight presentation Virtual vs. Real - Video explanation DOI Project Page [BibTex]

PDF arXiv ICRA 2017 Spotlight presentation Virtual vs. Real - Video explanation DOI Project Page [BibTex]


Fast Bayesian Optimization of Machine Learning Hyperparameters on Large Datasets
Fast Bayesian Optimization of Machine Learning Hyperparameters on Large Datasets

Klein, A., Falkner, S., Bartels, S., Hennig, P., Hutter, F.

Proceedings of the 20th International Conference on Artificial Intelligence and Statistics (AISTATS 2017), 54, pages: 528-536, Proceedings of Machine Learning Research, (Editors: Sign, Aarti and Zhu, Jerry), PMLR, April 2017 (conference)

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pdf link (url) Project Page [BibTex]

pdf link (url) Project Page [BibTex]


Early Stopping Without a Validation Set
Early Stopping Without a Validation Set

Mahsereci, M., Balles, L., Lassner, C., Hennig, P.

arXiv preprint arXiv:1703.09580, 2017 (article)

Abstract
Early stopping is a widely used technique to prevent poor generalization performance when training an over-expressive model by means of gradient-based optimization. To find a good point to halt the optimizer, a common practice is to split the dataset into a training and a smaller validation set to obtain an ongoing estimate of the generalization performance. In this paper we propose a novel early stopping criterion which is based on fast-to-compute, local statistics of the computed gradients and entirely removes the need for a held-out validation set. Our experiments show that this is a viable approach in the setting of least-squares and logistic regression as well as neural networks.

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link (url) Project Page Project Page [BibTex]


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Krylov Subspace Recycling for Fast Iterative Least-Squares in Machine Learning

Roos, F. D., Hennig, P.

arXiv preprint arXiv:1706.00241, 2017 (article)

Abstract
Solving symmetric positive definite linear problems is a fundamental computational task in machine learning. The exact solution, famously, is cubicly expensive in the size of the matrix. To alleviate this problem, several linear-time approximations, such as spectral and inducing-point methods, have been suggested and are now in wide use. These are low-rank approximations that choose the low-rank space a priori and do not refine it over time. While this allows linear cost in the data-set size, it also causes a finite, uncorrected approximation error. Authors from numerical linear algebra have explored ways to iteratively refine such low-rank approximations, at a cost of a small number of matrix-vector multiplications. This idea is particularly interesting in the many situations in machine learning where one has to solve a sequence of related symmetric positive definite linear problems. From the machine learning perspective, such deflation methods can be interpreted as transfer learning of a low-rank approximation across a time-series of numerical tasks. We study the use of such methods for our field. Our empirical results show that, on regression and classification problems of intermediate size, this approach can interpolate between low computational cost and numerical precision.

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link (url) Project Page [BibTex]


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Convergence Analysis of Deterministic Kernel-Based Quadrature Rules in Misspecified Settings

Kanagawa, M., Sriperumbudur, B. K., Fukumizu, K.

Arxiv e-prints, arXiv:1709.00147v1 [math.NA], 2017 (article)

Abstract
This paper presents convergence analysis of kernel-based quadrature rules in misspecified settings, focusing on deterministic quadrature in Sobolev spaces. In particular, we deal with misspecified settings where a test integrand is less smooth than a Sobolev RKHS based on which a quadrature rule is constructed. We provide convergence guarantees based on two different assumptions on a quadrature rule: one on quadrature weights, and the other on design points. More precisely, we show that convergence rates can be derived (i) if the sum of absolute weights remains constant (or does not increase quickly), or (ii) if the minimum distance between distance design points does not decrease very quickly. As a consequence of the latter result, we derive a rate of convergence for Bayesian quadrature in misspecified settings. We reveal a condition on design points to make Bayesian quadrature robust to misspecification, and show that, under this condition, it may adaptively achieve the optimal rate of convergence in the Sobolev space of a lesser order (i.e., of the unknown smoothness of a test integrand), under a slightly stronger regularity condition on the integrand.

pn

arXiv [BibTex]

arXiv [BibTex]


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New Directions for Learning with Kernels and Gaussian Processes (Dagstuhl Seminar 16481)

Gretton, A., Hennig, P., Rasmussen, C., Schölkopf, B.

Dagstuhl Reports, 6(11):142-167, 2017 (book)

ei pn

DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


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Efficiency of analytical and sampling-based uncertainty propagation in intensity-modulated proton therapy

Wahl, N., Hennig, P., Wieser, H. P., Bangert, M.

Physics in Medicine & Biology, 62(14):5790-5807, 2017 (article)

Abstract
The sensitivity of intensity-modulated proton therapy (IMPT) treatment plans to uncertainties can be quantified and mitigated with robust/min-max and stochastic/probabilistic treatment analysis and optimization techniques. Those methods usually rely on sparse random, importance, or worst-case sampling. Inevitably, this imposes a trade-off between computational speed and accuracy of the uncertainty propagation. Here, we investigate analytical probabilistic modeling (APM) as an alternative for uncertainty propagation and minimization in IMPT that does not rely on scenario sampling. APM propagates probability distributions over range and setup uncertainties via a Gaussian pencil-beam approximation into moments of the probability distributions over the resulting dose in closed form. It supports arbitrary correlation models and allows for efficient incorporation of fractionation effects regarding random and systematic errors. We evaluate the trade-off between run-time and accuracy of APM uncertainty computations on three patient datasets. Results are compared against reference computations facilitating importance and random sampling. Two approximation techniques to accelerate uncertainty propagation and minimization based on probabilistic treatment plan optimization are presented. Runtimes are measured on CPU and GPU platforms, dosimetric accuracy is quantified in comparison to a sampling-based benchmark (5000 random samples). APM accurately propagates range and setup uncertainties into dose uncertainties at competitive run-times (GPU ##IMG## [http://ej.iop.org/images/0031-9155/62/14/5790/pmbaa6ec5ieqn001.gif] {$\leqslant {5}$} min). The resulting standard deviation (expectation value) of dose show average global ##IMG## [http://ej.iop.org/images/0031-9155/62/14/5790/pmbaa6ec5ieqn002.gif] {$\gamma_{{3}\% / {3}~{\rm mm}}$} pass rates between 94.2% and 99.9% (98.4% and 100.0%). All investigated importance sampling strategies provided less accuracy at higher run-times considering only a single fraction. Considering fractionation, APM uncertainty propagation and treatment plan optimization was proven to be possible at constant time complexity, while run-times of sampling-based computations are linear in the number of fractions. Using sum sampling within APM, uncertainty propagation can only be accelerated at the cost of reduced accuracy in variance calculations. For probabilistic plan optimization, we were able to approximate the necessary pre-computations within seconds, yielding treatment plans of similar quality as gained from exact uncertainty propagation. APM is suited to enhance the trade-off between speed and accuracy in uncertainty propagation and probabilistic treatment plan optimization, especially in the context of fractionation. This brings fully-fledged APM computations within reach of clinical application.

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link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Analytical probabilistic modeling of RBE-weighted dose for ion therapy

Wieser, H., Hennig, P., Wahl, N., Bangert, M.

Physics in Medicine and Biology (PMB), 62(23):8959-8982, 2017 (article)

pn

link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [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]

2011


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Optimal Reinforcement Learning for Gaussian Systems

Hennig, P.

In Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 24, pages: 325-333, (Editors: J Shawe-Taylor and RS Zemel and P Bartlett and F Pereira and KQ Weinberger), Twenty-Fifth Annual Conference on Neural Information Processing Systems (NIPS), 2011 (inproceedings)

Abstract
The exploration-exploitation trade-off is among the central challenges of reinforcement learning. The optimal Bayesian solution is intractable in general. This paper studies to what extent analytic statements about optimal learning are possible if all beliefs are Gaussian processes. A first order approximation of learning of both loss and dynamics, for nonlinear, time-varying systems in continuous time and space, subject to a relatively weak restriction on the dynamics, is described by an infinite-dimensional partial differential equation. An approximate finitedimensional projection gives an impression for how this result may be helpful.

ei pn

PDF Web [BibTex]

2011


PDF Web [BibTex]


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Toward simple control for complex, autonomous robotic applications: combining discrete and rhythmic motor primitives

Degallier, S., Righetti, L., Gay, S., Ijspeert, A.

Autonomous Robots, 31(2-3):155-181, October 2011 (article)

Abstract
Vertebrates are able to quickly adapt to new environments in a very robust, seemingly effortless way. To explain both this adaptivity and robustness, a very promising perspective in neurosciences is the modular approach to movement generation: Movements results from combinations of a finite set of stable motor primitives organized at the spinal level. In this article we apply this concept of modular generation of movements to the control of robots with a high number of degrees of freedom, an issue that is challenging notably because planning complex, multidimensional trajectories in time-varying environments is a laborious and costly process. We thus propose to decrease the complexity of the planning phase through the use of a combination of discrete and rhythmic motor primitives, leading to the decoupling of the planning phase (i.e. the choice of behavior) and the actual trajectory generation. Such implementation eases the control of, and the switch between, different behaviors by reducing the dimensionality of the high-level commands. Moreover, since the motor primitives are generated by dynamical systems, the trajectories can be smoothly modulated, either by high-level commands to change the current behavior or by sensory feedback information to adapt to environmental constraints. In order to show the generality of our approach, we apply the framework to interactive drumming and infant crawling in a humanoid robot. These experiments illustrate the simplicity of the control architecture in terms of planning, the integration of different types of feedback (vision and contact) and the capacity of autonomously switching between different behaviors (crawling and simple reaching).

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Learning Force Control Policies for Compliant Manipulation

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

In 2011 IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems, pages: 4639-4644, IEEE, San Francisco, USA, sep 2011 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Developing robots capable of fine manipulation skills is of major importance in order to build truly assistive robots. These robots need to be compliant in their actuation and control in order to operate safely in human environments. Manipulation tasks imply complex contact interactions with the external world, and involve reasoning about the forces and torques to be applied. Planning under contact conditions is usually impractical due to computational complexity, and a lack of precise dynamics models of the environment. We present an approach to acquiring manipulation skills on compliant robots through reinforcement learning. The initial position control policy for manipulation is initialized through kinesthetic demonstration. We augment this policy with a force/torque profile to be controlled in combination with the position trajectories. We use the Policy Improvement with Path Integrals (PI2) algorithm to learn these force/torque profiles by optimizing a cost function that measures task success. We demonstrate our approach on the Barrett WAM robot arm equipped with a 6-DOF force/torque sensor on two different manipulation tasks: opening a door with a lever door handle, and picking up a pen off the table. We show that the learnt force control policies allow successful, robust execution of the tasks.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Control of legged robots with optimal distribution of contact forces

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

In 2011 11th IEEE-RAS International Conference on Humanoid Robots, pages: 318-324, IEEE, Bled, Slovenia, 2011 (inproceedings)

Abstract
The development of agile and safe humanoid robots require controllers that guarantee both high tracking performance and compliance with the environment. More specifically, the control of contact interaction is of crucial importance for robots that will actively interact with their environment. Model-based controllers such as inverse dynamics or operational space control are very appealing as they offer both high tracking performance and compliance. However, while widely used for fully actuated systems such as manipulators, they are not yet standard controllers for legged robots such as humanoids. Indeed such robots are fundamentally different from manipulators as they are underactuated due to their floating-base and subject to switching contact constraints. In this paper we present an inverse dynamics controller for legged robots that use torque redundancy to create an optimal distribution of contact constraints. The resulting controller is able to minimize, given a desired motion, any quadratic cost of the contact constraints at each instant of time. In particular we show how this can be used to minimize tangential forces during locomotion, therefore significantly improving the locomotion of legged robots on difficult terrains. In addition to the theoretical result, we present simulations of a humanoid and a quadruped robot, as well as experiments on a real quadruped robot that demonstrate the advantages of the controller.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Learning Motion Primitive Goals for Robust Manipulation

Stulp, F., Theodorou, E., Kalakrishnan, M., Pastor, P., Righetti, L., Schaal, S.

In IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems, pages: 325-331, IEEE, San Francisco, USA, sep 2011 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Applying model-free reinforcement learning to manipulation remains challenging for several reasons. First, manipulation involves physical contact, which causes discontinuous cost functions. Second, in manipulation, the end-point of the movement must be chosen carefully, as it represents a grasp which must be adapted to the pose and shape of the object. Finally, there is uncertainty in the object pose, and even the most carefully planned movement may fail if the object is not at the expected position. To address these challenges we 1) present a simplified, computationally more efficient version of our model-free reinforcement learning algorithm PI2; 2) extend PI2 so that it simultaneously learns shape parameters and goal parameters of motion primitives; 3) use shape and goal learning to acquire motion primitives that are robust to object pose uncertainty. We evaluate these contributions on a manipulation platform consisting of a 7-DOF arm with a 4-DOF hand.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Inverse Dynamics Control of Floating-Base Robots with External Constraints: a Unified View

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

In 2011 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation, pages: 1085-1090, IEEE, Shanghai, China, 2011 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Inverse dynamics controllers and operational space controllers have proved to be very efficient for compliant control of fully actuated robots such as fixed base manipulators. However legged robots such as humanoids are inherently different as they are underactuated and subject to switching external contact constraints. Recently several methods have been proposed to create inverse dynamics controllers and operational space controllers for these robots. In an attempt to compare these different approaches, we develop a general framework for inverse dynamics control and show that these methods lead to very similar controllers. We are then able to greatly simplify recent whole-body controllers based on operational space approaches using kinematic projections, bringing them closer to efficient practical implementations. We also generalize these controllers such that they can be optimal under an arbitrary quadratic cost in the commands.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Operational Space Control of Constrained and Underactuated Systems

Mistry, M., Righetti, L.

In Proceedings of Robotics: Science and Systems, Los Angeles, CA, USA, June 2011 (inproceedings)

Abstract
The operational space formulation (Khatib, 1987), applied to rigid-body manipulators, describes how to decouple task-space and null-space dynamics, and write control equations that correspond only to forces at the end-effector or, alternatively, only to motion within the null-space. We would like to apply this useful theory to modern humanoids and other legged systems, for manipulation or similar tasks, however these systems present additional challenges due to their underactuated floating bases and contact states that can dynamically change. In recent work, Sentis et al. derived controllers for such systems by implementing a task Jacobian projected into a space consistent with the supporting constraints and underactuation (the so called "support consistent reduced Jacobian"). Here, we take a new approach to derive operational space controllers for constrained underactuated systems, by first considering the operational space dynamics within "projected inverse-dynamics" (Aghili, 2005), and subsequently resolving underactuation through the addition of dynamically consistent control torques. Doing so results in a simplified control solution compared with previous results, and importantly yields several new insights into the underlying problem of operational space control in constrained environments: 1) Underactuated systems, such as humanoid robots, cannot in general completely decouple task and null-space dynamics. However, 2) there may exist an infinite number of control solutions to realize desired task-space dynamics, and 3) these solutions involve the addition of dynamically consistent null-space motion or constraint forces (or combinations of both). In light of these findings, we present several possible control solutions, with varying optimization criteria, and highlight some of their practical consequences.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Online movement adaptation based on previous sensor experiences

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

In 2011 IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems, pages: 365-371, IEEE, San Francisco, USA, sep 2011 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Personal robots can only become widespread if they are capable of safely operating among humans. In uncertain and highly dynamic environments such as human households, robots need to be able to instantly adapt their behavior to unforseen events. In this paper, we propose a general framework to achieve very contact-reactive motions for robotic grasping and manipulation. Associating stereotypical movements to particular tasks enables our system to use previous sensor experiences as a predictive model for subsequent task executions. We use dynamical systems, named Dynamic Movement Primitives (DMPs), to learn goal-directed behaviors from demonstration. We exploit their dynamic properties by coupling them with the measured and predicted sensor traces. This feedback loop allows for online adaptation of the movement plan. Our system can create a rich set of possible motions that account for external perturbations and perception uncertainty to generate truly robust behaviors. As an example, we present an application to grasping with the WAM robot arm.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

2007


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Hand placement during quadruped locomotion in a humanoid robot: A dynamical system approach

Degallier, S., Righetti, L., Ijspeert, A.

In 2007 IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems, pages: 2047-2052, IEEE, San Diego, USA, 2007 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Locomotion on an irregular surface is a challenging task in robotics. Among different problems to solve to obtain robust locomotion, visually guided locomotion and accurate foot placement are of crucial importance. Robust controllers able to adapt to sensory-motor feedbacks, in particular to properly place feet on specific locations, are thus needed. Dynamical systems are well suited for this task as any online modification of the parameters leads to a smooth adaptation of the trajectories, allowing a safe integration of sensory-motor feedback. In this contribution, as a first step in the direction of locomotion on irregular surfaces, we present a controller that allows hand placement during crawling in a simulated humanoid robot. The goal of the controller is to superimpose rhythmic movements for crawling with discrete (i.e. short-term) modulations of the hand placements to reach specific marks on the ground.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

2007


link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Lower body realization of the baby humanoid - ‘iCub’

Tsagarakis, N., Becchi, F., Righetti, L., Ijspeert, A., Caldwell, D.

In 2007 IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems, pages: 3616-3622, IEEE, San Diego, USA, 2007 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Nowadays, the understanding of the human cognition and it application to robotic systems forms a great challenge of research. The iCub is a robotic platform that was developed within the RobotCub European project to provide the cognition research community with an open baby- humanoid platform for understanding and development of cognitive systems. In this paper we present the design requirements and mechanical realization of the lower body developed for the "iCub". In particular the leg and the waist mechanisms adopted for lower body to match the size and physical abilities of a 2 frac12 year old human baby are introduced.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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iCub - The Design and Realization of an Open Humanoid Platform for Cognitive and Neuroscience Research

Tsagarakis, N., Metta, G., Sandini, G., Vernon, D., Beira, R., Becchi, F., Righetti, L., Santos-Victor, J., Ijspeert, A., Carrozza, M., Caldwell, D.

Advanced Robotics, 21(10):1151-1175, 2007 (article)

Abstract
The development of robotic cognition and the advancement of understanding of human cognition form two of the current greatest challenges in robotics and neuroscience, respectively. The RobotCub project aims to develop an embodied robotic child (iCub) with the physical (height 90 cm and mass less than 23 kg) and ultimately cognitive abilities of a 2.5-year-old human child. The iCub will be a freely available open system which can be used by scientists in all cognate disciplines from developmental psychology to epigenetic robotics to enhance understanding of cognitive systems through the study of cognitive development. The iCub will be open both in software, but more importantly in all aspects of the hardware and mechanical design. In this paper the design of the mechanisms and structures forming the basic 'body' of the iCub are described. The papers considers kinematic structures dynamic design criteria, actuator specification and selection, and detailed mechanical and electronic design. The paper concludes with tests of the performance of sample joints, and comparison of these results with the design requirements and simulation projects.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]