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2019


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A Learnable Safety Measure

Heim, S., Rohr, A. V., Trimpe, S., Badri-Spröwitz, A.

Conference on Robot Learning, November 2019 (conference) Accepted

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Arxiv [BibTex]

2019


Arxiv [BibTex]


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Trunk Pitch Oscillations for Joint Load Redistribution in Humans and Humanoid Robots

Drama, Ö., Badri-Spröwitz, A.

Proceedings International Conference on Humanoid Robots, Humanoids, September 2019 (conference) Accepted

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link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Series Elastic Behavior of Biarticular Muscle-Tendon Structure in a Robotic Leg

Ruppert, F., Badri-Spröwitz, A.

Frontiers in Neurorobotics, 64, pages: 13, 13, August 2019 (article)

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Frontiers YouTube link (url) DOI [BibTex]

Frontiers YouTube link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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The positive side of damping

Heim, S., Millard, M., Le Mouel, C., Sproewitz, A.

Proceedings of AMAM, The 9th International Symposium on Adaptive Motion of Animals and Machines, August 2019 (conference) Accepted

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[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Beyond Basins of Attraction: Quantifying Robustness of Natural Dynamics

Steve Heim, , Spröwitz, A.

IEEE Transactions on Robotics (T-RO) , 35(4), pages: 939-952, August 2019 (article)

Abstract
Properly designing a system to exhibit favorable natural dynamics can greatly simplify designing or learning the control policy. However, it is still unclear what constitutes favorable natural dynamics and how to quantify its effect. Most studies of simple walking and running models have focused on the basins of attraction of passive limit cycles and the notion of self-stability. We instead emphasize the importance of stepping beyond basins of attraction. In this paper, we show an approach based on viability theory to quantify robust sets in state-action space. These sets are valid for the family of all robust control policies, which allows us to quantify the robustness inherent to the natural dynamics before designing the control policy or specifying a control objective. We illustrate our formulation using spring-mass models, simple low-dimensional models of running systems. We then show an example application by optimizing robustness of a simulated planar monoped, using a gradient-free optimization scheme. Both case studies result in a nonlinear effective stiffness providing more robustness.

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arXiv preprint arXiv:1806.08081 T-RO link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]

arXiv preprint arXiv:1806.08081 T-RO link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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Variational Autoencoders Recover PCA Directions (by Accident)

Rolinek, M., Zietlow, D., Martius, G.

In Proceedings IEEE Conf. on Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition (CVPR), IEEE International Conference on Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition (CVPR) 2019, June 2019 (inproceedings)

Abstract
The Variational Autoencoder (VAE) is a powerful architecture capable of representation learning and generative modeling. When it comes to learning interpretable (disentangled) representations, VAE and its variants show unparalleled performance. However, the reasons for this are unclear, since a very particular alignment of the latent embedding is needed but the design of the VAE does not encourage it in any explicit way. We address this matter and offer the following explanation: the diagonal approximation in the encoder together with the inherent stochasticity force local orthogonality of the decoder. The local behavior of promoting both reconstruction and orthogonality matches closely how the PCA embedding is chosen. Alongside providing an intuitive understanding, we justify the statement with full theoretical analysis as well as with experiments.

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arXiv link (url) Project Page [BibTex]

arXiv link (url) Project Page [BibTex]


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Control What You Can: Intrinsically Motivated Task-Planning Agent

Blaes, S., Vlastelica, M., Zhu, J., Martius, G.

In Advances in Neural Information Processing (NeurIPS’19), pages: 12520-12531, Curran Associates, Inc., NeurIPS'19, 2019 (inproceedings)

Abstract
We present a novel intrinsically motivated agent that learns how to control the environment in the fastest possible manner by optimizing learning progress. It learns what can be controlled, how to allocate time and attention, and the relations between objects using surprise based motivation. The effectiveness of our method is demonstrated in a synthetic as well as a robotic manipulation environment yielding considerably improved performance and smaller sample complexity. In a nutshell, our work combines several task-level planning agent structures (backtracking search on task graph, probabilistic road-maps, allocation of search efforts) with intrinsic motivation to achieve learning from scratch.

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link (url) Project Page [BibTex]

link (url) Project Page [BibTex]


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Autonomous Identification and Goal-Directed Invocation of Event-Predictive Behavioral Primitives

Gumbsch, C., Butz, M. V., Martius, G.

IEEE Transactions on Cognitive and Developmental Systems, 2019 (article)

Abstract
Voluntary behavior of humans appears to be composed of small, elementary building blocks or behavioral primitives. While this modular organization seems crucial for the learning of complex motor skills and the flexible adaption of behavior to new circumstances, the problem of learning meaningful, compositional abstractions from sensorimotor experiences remains an open challenge. Here, we introduce a computational learning architecture, termed surprise-based behavioral modularization into event-predictive structures (SUBMODES), that explores behavior and identifies the underlying behavioral units completely from scratch. The SUBMODES architecture bootstraps sensorimotor exploration using a self-organizing neural controller. While exploring the behavioral capabilities of its own body, the system learns modular structures that predict the sensorimotor dynamics and generate the associated behavior. In line with recent theories of event perception, the system uses unexpected prediction error signals, i.e., surprise, to detect transitions between successive behavioral primitives. We show that, when applied to two robotic systems with completely different body kinematics, the system manages to learn a variety of complex behavioral primitives. Moreover, after initial self-exploration the system can use its learned predictive models progressively more effectively for invoking model predictive planning and goal-directed control in different tasks and environments.

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arXiv PDF video link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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Quantifying the Robustness of Natural Dynamics: a Viability Approach

Heim, S., Sproewitz, A.

Proceedings of Dynamic Walking , Dynamic Walking , 2019 (conference) Accepted

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Submission DW2019 [BibTex]

Submission DW2019 [BibTex]


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Machine Learning for Haptics: Inferring Multi-Contact Stimulation From Sparse Sensor Configuration

Sun, H., Martius, G.

Frontiers in Neurorobotics, 13, pages: 51, 2019 (article)

Abstract
Robust haptic sensation systems are essential for obtaining dexterous robots. Currently, we have solutions for small surface areas such as fingers, but affordable and robust techniques for covering large areas of an arbitrary 3D surface are still missing. Here, we introduce a general machine learning framework to infer multi-contact haptic forces on a 3D robot’s limb surface from internal deformation measured by only a few physical sensors. The general idea of this framework is to predict first the whole surface deformation pattern from the sparsely placed sensors and then to infer number, locations and force magnitudes of unknown contact points. We show how this can be done even if training data can only be obtained for single-contact points using transfer learning at the example of a modified limb of the Poppy robot. With only 10 strain-gauge sensors we obtain a high accuracy also for multiple-contact points. The method can be applied to arbitrarily shaped surfaces and physical sensor types, as long as training data can be obtained.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

2013


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Benefits of an active spine supported bounding locomotion with a small compliant quadruped robot

Khoramshahi, M., Spröwitz, A., Tuleu, A., Ahmadabadi, M. N., Ijspeert, A. J.

In Robotics and Automation (ICRA), 2013 IEEE International Conference on, pages: 3329-3334, May 2013 (inproceedings)

Abstract
We studied the effect of the control of an active spine versus a fixed spine, on a quadruped robot running in bound gait. Active spine supported actuation led to faster locomotion, with less foot sliding on the ground, and a higher stability to go straight forward. However, we did no observe an improvement of cost of transport of the spine-actuated, faster robot system compared to the rigid spine.

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Youtube DOI Project Page [BibTex]

2013


Youtube DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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Central pattern generators augmented with virtual model control for quadruped rough terrain locomotion

Ajallooeian, M., Pouya, S., Spröwitz, A., Ijspeert, A. J.

In Proceedings of the 2013 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA), pages: 3321-3328, IEEE, Karlsruhe, 2013 (inproceedings)

Abstract
We present a modular controller for quadruped locomotion over unperceived rough terrain. Our approach is based on a computational Central Pattern Generator (CPG) model implemented as coupled nonlinear oscillators. Stumbling correction reflex is implemented as a sensory feedback mechanism affecting the CPG. We augment the outputs of the CPG with virtual model control torques responsible for posture control. The control strategy is validated on a 3D forward dynamics simulated quadruped robot platform of about the size and weight of a cat. To demonstrate the capabilities of the proposed approach, we perform locomotion over unperceived uneven terrain and slopes, as well as situations facing external pushes.

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


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Towards Dynamic Trot Gait Locomotion: Design, Control, and Experiments with Cheetah-cub, a Compliant Quadruped Robot

Spröwitz, A., Tuleu, A., Vespignani, M., Ajallooeian, M., Badri, E., Ijspeert, A. J.

{The International Journal of Robotics Research}, 32(8):932-950, Sage Publications, Inc., Cambridge, MA, 2013 (article)

Abstract
We present the design of a novel compliant quadruped robot, called Cheetah-cub, and a series of locomotion experiments with fast trotting gaits. The robot’s leg configuration is based on a spring-loaded, pantograph mechanism with multiple segments. A dedicated open-loop locomotion controller was derived and implemented. Experiments were run in simulation and in hardware on flat terrain and with a step down, demonstrating the robot’s self-stabilizing properties. The robot reached a running trot with short flight phases with a maximum Froude number of FR = 1.30, or 6.9 body lengths per second. Morphological parameters such as the leg design also played a role. By adding distal in-series elasticity, self- stability and maximum robot speed improved. Our robot has several advantages, especially when compared with larger and stiffer quadruped robot designs. (1) It is, to the best of the authors’ knowledge, the fastest of all quadruped robots below 30 kg (in terms of Froude number and body lengths per second). (2) It shows self-stabilizing behavior over a large range of speeds with open-loop control. (3) It is lightweight, compact, and electrically powered. (4) It is cheap, easy to reproduce, robust, and safe to handle. This makes it an excellent tool for research of multi-segment legs in quadruped robots.

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Youtube1 Youtube2 Youtube3 Youtube4 Youtube5 DOI Project Page [BibTex]

Youtube1 Youtube2 Youtube3 Youtube4 Youtube5 DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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Gait Optimization for Roombots Modular Robots - Matching Simulation and Reality

Möckel, R., Yura, N. P., The Nguyen, A., Vespignani, M., Bonardi, S., Pouya, S., Spröwitz, A., van den Kieboom, J., Wilhelm, F., Ijspeert, A. J.

In Proceedings of the 2013 IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems, pages: 3265-3272, IEEE, Tokyo, 2013 (inproceedings)

Abstract
The design of efficient locomotion gaits for robots with many degrees of freedom is challenging and time consuming even if optimization techniques are applied. Control parameters can be found through optimization in two ways: (i) through online optimization where the performance of a robot is measured while trying different control parameters on the actual hardware and (ii) through offline optimization by simulating the robot’s behavior with the help of models of the robot and its environment. In this paper, we present a hybrid optimization method that combines the best properties of online and offline optimization to efficiently find locomotion gaits for arbitrary structures. In comparison to pure online optimization, both the number of experiments using robotic hardware as well as the total time required for finding efficient locomotion gaits get highly reduced by running the major part of the optimization process in simulation using a cluster of processors. The presented example shows that even for robots with a low number of degrees of freedom the time required for optimization can be reduced by a factor of 2.5 to 30, at least, depending on how extensive the search for optimized control parameters should be. Time for hardware experiments becomes minimal. More importantly, gaits that can possibly damage the robotic hardware can be filtered before being tried in hardware. Yet in contrast to pure offline optimization, we reach well matched behavior that allows a direct transfer of locomotion gaits from simulation to hardware. This is because through a meta-optimization we adapt not only the locomotion parameters but also the parameters for simulation models of the robot and environment allowing for a good matching of the robot behavior in simulation and hardware. We validate the proposed hybrid optimization method on a structure composed of two Roombots modules with a total number of six degrees of freedom. Roombots are self-reconfigurable modular robots that can form arbitrary structures with many degrees of freedom through an integrated active connection mechanism.

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


Thumb xl screen shot 2018 02 03 at 3.25.17 pm
Modular Control of Limit Cycle Locomotion over Unperceived Rough Terrain

Ajallooeian, M., Gay, S., Tuleu, A., Spröwitz, A., Ijspeert, A. J.

In Proceedings of the IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems, 2013, pages: 3390-3397, Tokyo, 2013 (inproceedings)

Abstract
We present a general approach to design modular controllers for limit cycle locomotion over unperceived rough terrain. The control strategy uses a Central Pattern Generator (CPG) model implemented as coupled nonlinear oscillators as basis. Stumbling correction and leg extension reflexes are implemented as feedbacks for fast corrections, and model-based posture control mechanisms define feedbacks for continuous corrections. The control strategy is validated on a detailed physics-based simulated model of a compliant quadruped robot, the Oncilla robot. We demonstrate dynamic locomotion with a speed of more than 1.5 BodyLength/s over unperceived uneven terrains, steps, and slopes.

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


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Horse-Like Walking, Trotting, and Galloping derived from Kinematic Motion Primitives (kMPs) and their Application to Walk/Trot Transitions in a Compliant Quadruped Robot

Moro, F., Spröwitz, A., Tuleu, A., Vespignani, M., Tsagakiris, N. G., Ijspeert, A. J., Caldwell, D. G.

Biological Cybernetics, 107(3):309-320, 2013 (article)

Abstract
This manuscript proposes a method to directly transfer the features of horse walking, trotting, and galloping to a quadruped robot, with the aim of creating a much more natural (horse-like) locomotion profile. A principal component analysis on horse joint trajectories shows that walk, trot, and gallop can be described by a set of four kinematic Motion Primitives (kMPs). These kMPs are used to generate valid, stable gaits that are tested on a compliant quadruped robot. Tests on the effects of gait frequency scaling as follows: results indicate a speed optimal walking frequency around 3.4 Hz, and an optimal trotting frequency around 4 Hz. Following, a criterion to synthesize gait transitions is proposed, and the walk/trot transitions are successfully tested on the robot. The performance of the robot when the transitions are scaled in frequency is evaluated by means of roll and pitch angle phase plots.

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


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Information Driven Self-Organization of Complex Robotic Behaviors

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

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

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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

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

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

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

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Robustness of guided self-organization against sensorimotor disruptions

Martius, G.

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

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

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]

2009


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Roombots-mechanical design of self-reconfiguring modular robots for adaptive furniture

Spröwitz, A., Billard, A., Dillenbourg, P., Ijspeert, A. J.

In Proceedings of the 2009 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA), pages: 4259-4264, IEEE, Kobe, 2009 (inproceedings)

Abstract
We aim at merging technologies from information technology, roomware, and robotics in order to design adaptive and intelligent furniture. This paper presents design principles for our modular robots, called Roombots, as future building blocks for furniture that moves and self-reconfigures. The reconfiguration is done using dynamic connection and disconnection of modules and rotations of the degrees of freedom. We are furthermore interested in applying Roombots towards adaptive behaviour, such as online learning of locomotion patterns. To create coordinated and efficient gait patterns, we use a Central Pattern Generator (CPG) approach, which can easily be optimized by any gradient-free optimization algorithm. To provide a hardware framework we present the mechanical design of the Roombots modules and an active connection mechanism based on physical latches. Further we discuss the application of our Roombots modules as pieces of a homogenic or heterogenic mix of building blocks for static structures.

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DOI [BibTex]

2009


DOI [BibTex]


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A Sensor-Based Learning Algorithm for the Self-Organization of Robot Behavior

Hesse, F., Martius, G., Der, R., Herrmann, J. M.

Algorithms, 2(1):398-409, 2009 (article)

Abstract
Ideally, sensory information forms the only source of information to a robot. We consider an algorithm for the self-organization of a controller. At short timescales the controller is merely reactive but the parameter dynamics and the acquisition of knowledge by an internal model lead to seemingly purposeful behavior on longer timescales. As a paradigmatic example, we study the simulation of an underactuated snake-like robot. By interacting with the real physical system formed by the robotic hardware and the environment, the controller achieves a sensitive and body-specific actuation of the robot.

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link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]