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2019


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Implementation of a 6-DOF Parallel Continuum Manipulator for Delivering Fingertip Tactile Cues

Young, E. M., Kuchenbecker, K. J.

IEEE Transactions on Haptics, 12(3):295-306, June 2019 (article)

Abstract
Existing fingertip haptic devices can deliver different subsets of tactile cues in a compact package, but we have not yet seen a wearable six-degree-of-freedom (6-DOF) display. This paper presents the Fuppeteer (short for Fingertip Puppeteer), a device that is capable of controlling the position and orientation of a flat platform, such that any combination of normal and shear force can be delivered at any location on any human fingertip. We build on our previous work of designing a parallel continuum manipulator for fingertip haptics by presenting a motorized version in which six flexible Nitinol wires are actuated via independent roller mechanisms and proportional-derivative controllers. We evaluate the settling time and end-effector vibrations observed during system responses to step inputs. After creating a six-dimensional lookup table and adjusting simulated inputs using measured Jacobians, we show that the device can make contact with all parts of the fingertip with a mean error of 1.42 mm. Finally, we present results from a human-subject study. A total of 24 users discerned 9 evenly distributed contact locations with an average accuracy of 80.5%. Translational and rotational shear cues were identified reasonably well near the center of the fingertip and more poorly around the edges.

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DOI [BibTex]


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How Does It Feel to Clap Hands with a Robot?

Fitter, N. T., Kuchenbecker, K. J.

International Journal of Social Robotics, 2019 (article) Accepted

Abstract
Future robots may need lighthearted physical interaction capabilities to connect with people in meaningful ways. To begin exploring how users perceive playful human–robot hand-to-hand interaction, we conducted a study with 20 participants. Each user played simple hand-clapping games with the Rethink Robotics Baxter Research Robot during a 1-h-long session involving 24 randomly ordered conditions that varied in facial reactivity, physical reactivity, arm stiffness, and clapping tempo. Survey data and experiment recordings demonstrate that this interaction is viable: all users successfully completed the experiment and mentioned enjoying at least one game without prompting. Hand-clapping tempo was highly salient to users, and human-like robot errors were more widely accepted than mechanical errors. Furthermore, perceptions of Baxter varied in the following statistically significant ways: facial reactivity increased the robot’s perceived pleasantness and energeticness; physical reactivity decreased pleasantness, energeticness, and dominance; higher arm stiffness increased safety and decreased dominance; and faster tempo increased energeticness and increased dominance. These findings can motivate and guide roboticists who want to design social–physical human–robot interactions.

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[BibTex]

[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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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]

2018


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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.

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link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]

2018


link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]


Thumb xl grasping
Leveraging Contact Forces for Learning to Grasp

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

arXiv, September 2018, Submitted to ICRA'19 (article) Submitted

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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Instrumentation, Data, and Algorithms for Visually Understanding Haptic Surface Properties

Burka, A. L.

University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, USA, August 2018, Department of Electrical and Systems Engineering (phdthesis)

Abstract
Autonomous robots need to efficiently walk over varied surfaces and grasp diverse objects. We hypothesize that the association between how such surfaces look and how they physically feel during contact can be learned from a database of matched haptic and visual data recorded from various end-effectors' interactions with hundreds of real-world surfaces. Testing this hypothesis required the creation of a new multimodal sensing apparatus, the collection of a large multimodal dataset, and development of a machine-learning pipeline. This thesis begins by describing the design and construction of the Portable Robotic Optical/Tactile ObservatioN PACKage (PROTONPACK, or Proton for short), an untethered handheld sensing device that emulates the capabilities of the human senses of vision and touch. Its sensory modalities include RGBD vision, egomotion, contact force, and contact vibration. Three interchangeable end-effectors (a steel tooling ball, an OptoForce three-axis force sensor, and a SynTouch BioTac artificial fingertip) allow for different material properties at the contact point and provide additional tactile data. We then detail the calibration process for the motion and force sensing systems, as well as several proof-of-concept surface discrimination experiments that demonstrate the reliability of the device and the utility of the data it collects. This thesis then presents a large-scale dataset of multimodal surface interaction recordings, including 357 unique surfaces such as furniture, fabrics, outdoor fixtures, and items from several private and public material sample collections. Each surface was touched with one, two, or three end-effectors, comprising approximately one minute per end-effector of tapping and dragging at various forces and speeds. We hope that the larger community of robotics researchers will find broad applications for the published dataset. Lastly, we demonstrate an algorithm that learns to estimate haptic surface properties given visual input. Surfaces were rated on hardness, roughness, stickiness, and temperature by the human experimenter and by a pool of purely visual observers. Then we trained an algorithm to perform the same task as well as infer quantitative properties calculated from the haptic data. Overall, the task of predicting haptic properties from vision alone proved difficult for both humans and computers, but a hybrid algorithm using a deep neural network and a support vector machine achieved a correlation between expected and actual regression output between approximately ρ = 0.3 and ρ = 0.5 on previously unseen surfaces.

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Project Page [BibTex]

Project Page [BibTex]


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Robust Visual Augmented Reality in Robot-Assisted Surgery

Forte, M. P.

Politecnico di Milano, Milan, Italy, July 2018, Department of Electronic, Information, and Biomedical Engineering (mastersthesis)

Abstract
The broader research objective of this line of research is to test the hypothesis that real-time stereo video analysis and augmented reality can increase safety and task efficiency in robot-assisted surgery. This master’s thesis aims to solve the first step needed to achieve this goal: the creation of a robust system that delivers the envisioned feedback to a surgeon while he or she controls a surgical robot that is identical to those used on human patients. Several approaches for applying augmented reality to da Vinci Surgical Systems have been proposed, but none of them entirely rely on a clinical robot; specifically, they require additional sensors, depend on access to the da Vinci API, are designed for a very specific task, or were tested on systems that are starkly different from those in clinical use. There has also been prior work that presents the real-world camera view and the computer graphics on separate screens, or not in real time. In other scenarios, the digital information is overlaid manually by the surgeons themselves or by computer scientists, rather than being generated automatically in response to the surgeon’s actions. We attempted to overcome the aforementioned constraints by acquiring input signals from the da Vinci stereo endoscope and providing augmented reality to the console in real time (less than 150 ms delay, including the 62 ms of inherent latency of the da Vinci). The potential benefits of the resulting system are broad because it was built to be general, rather than customized for any specific task. The entire platform is compatible with any generation of the da Vinci System and does not require a dVRK (da Vinci Research Kit) or access to the API. Thus, it can be applied to existing da Vinci Systems in operating rooms around the world.

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Project Page [BibTex]

Project Page [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.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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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.

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pdf video Project Page Project Page [BibTex]

pdf video Project Page Project Page [BibTex]


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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.

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DOI [BibTex]

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.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Nonlinear decoding of a complex movie from the mammalian retina

Botella-Soler, V., Deny, S., Martius, G., Marre, O., Tkačik, G.

PLOS Computational Biology, 14(5):1-27, Public Library of Science, May 2018 (article)

Abstract
Author summary Neurons in the retina transform patterns of incoming light into sequences of neural spikes. We recorded from ∼100 neurons in the rat retina while it was stimulated with a complex movie. Using machine learning regression methods, we fit decoders to reconstruct the movie shown from the retinal output. We demonstrated that retinal code can only be read out with a low error if decoders make use of correlations between successive spikes emitted by individual neurons. These correlations can be used to ignore spontaneous spiking that would, otherwise, cause even the best linear decoders to “hallucinate” nonexistent stimuli. This work represents the first high resolution single-trial full movie reconstruction and suggests a new paradigm for separating spontaneous from stimulus-driven neural activity.

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [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]


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Numerical Quadrature for Probabilistic Policy Search

Vinogradska, J., Bischoff, B., Achterhold, J., Koller, T., Peters, J.

IEEE Transactions on Pattern Analysis and Machine Intelligence, pages: 1-1, 2018 (article)

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [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)

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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)

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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)

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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]

2017


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Evaluation of High-Fidelity Simulation as a Training Tool in Transoral Robotic Surgery

Bur, A. M., Gomez, E. D., Newman, J. G., Weinstein, G. S., Bert W. O’Malley, J., Rassekh, C. H., Kuchenbecker, K. J.

Laryngoscope, 127(12):2790-2795, December 2017 (article)

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DOI [BibTex]

2017


DOI [BibTex]


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Using Contact Forces and Robot Arm Accelerations to Automatically Rate Surgeon Skill at Peg Transfer

Brown, J. D., O’Brien, C. E., Leung, S. C., Dumon, K. R., Lee, D. I., Kuchenbecker, K. J.

IEEE Transactions on Biomedical Engineering, 64(9):2263-2275, September 2017 (article)

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Ungrounded Haptic Augmented Reality System for Displaying Texture and Friction

Culbertson, H., Kuchenbecker, K. J.

IEEE/ASME Transactions on Mechatronics, 22(4):1839-1849, August 2017 (article)

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Perception of Force and Stiffness in the Presence of Low-Frequency Haptic Noise

Gurari, N., Okamura, A. M., Kuchenbecker, K. J.

PLoS ONE, 12(6):e0178605, June 2017 (article)

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Evaluation of a Vibrotactile Simulator for Dental Caries Detection

Kuchenbecker, K. J., Parajon, R., Maggio, M. P.

Simulation in Healthcare, 12(3):148-156, June 2017 (article)

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


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Importance of Matching Physical Friction, Hardness, and Texture in Creating Realistic Haptic Virtual Surfaces

Culbertson, H., Kuchenbecker, K. J.

IEEE Transactions on Haptics, 10(1):63-74, January 2017 (article)

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[BibTex]


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Effects of Grip-Force, Contact, and Acceleration Feedback on a Teleoperated Pick-and-Place Task

Khurshid, R. P., Fitter, N. T., Fedalei, E. A., Kuchenbecker, K. J.

IEEE Transactions on Haptics, 10(1):40-53, January 2017 (article)

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[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Self-Organized Behavior Generation for Musculoskeletal Robots

Der, R., Martius, G.

Frontiers in Neurorobotics, 11, pages: 8, 2017 (article)

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

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]

2016


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Momentum Control with Hierarchical Inverse Dynamics on a Torque-Controlled Humanoid

Herzog, A., Rotella, N., Mason, S., Grimminger, F., Schaal, S., Righetti, L.

Autonomous Robots, 40(3):473-491, 2016 (article)

Abstract
Hierarchical inverse dynamics based on cascades of quadratic programs have been proposed for the control of legged robots. They have important benefits but to the best of our knowledge have never been implemented on a torque controlled humanoid where model inaccuracies, sensor noise and real-time computation requirements can be problematic. Using a reformulation of existing algorithms, we propose a simplification of the problem that allows to achieve real-time control. Momentum-based control is integrated in the task hierarchy and a LQR design approach is used to compute the desired associated closed-loop behavior and improve performance. Extensive experiments on various balancing and tracking tasks show very robust performance in the face of unknown disturbances, even when the humanoid is standing on one foot. Our results demonstrate that hierarchical inverse dynamics together with momentum control can be efficiently used for feedback control under real robot conditions.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

2015


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Kinematic and gait similarities between crawling human infants and other quadruped mammals

Righetti, L., Nylen, A., Rosander, K., Ijspeert, A.

Frontiers in Neurology, 6(17), February 2015 (article)

Abstract
Crawling on hands and knees is an early pattern of human infant locomotion, which offers an interesting way of studying quadrupedalism in one of its simplest form. We investigate how crawling human infants compare to other quadruped mammals, especially primates. We present quantitative data on both the gait and kinematics of seven 10-month-old crawling infants. Body movements were measured with an optoelectronic system giving precise data on 3-dimensional limb movements. Crawling on hands and knees is very similar to the locomotion of non-human primates in terms of the quite protracted arm at touch-down, the coordination between the spine movements in the lateral plane and the limbs, the relatively extended limbs during locomotion and the strong correlation between stance duration and speed of locomotion. However, there are important differences compared to primates, such as the choice of a lateral-sequence walking gait, which is similar to most non-primate mammals and the relatively stiff elbows during stance as opposed to the quite compliant gaits of primates. These finding raise the question of the role of both the mechanical structure of the body and neural control on the determination of these characteristics.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

2015


link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Novel plasticity rule can explain the development of sensorimotor intelligence

Der, R., Martius, G.

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 112(45):E6224-E6232, 2015 (article)

Abstract
Grounding autonomous behavior in the nervous system is a fundamental challenge for neuroscience. In particular, self-organized behavioral development provides more questions than answers. Are there special functional units for curiosity, motivation, and creativity? This paper argues that these features can be grounded in synaptic plasticity itself, without requiring any higher-level constructs. We propose differential extrinsic plasticity (DEP) as a new synaptic rule for self-learning systems and apply it to a number of complex robotic systems as a test case. Without specifying any purpose or goal, seemingly purposeful and adaptive rhythmic behavior is developed, displaying a certain level of sensorimotor intelligence. These surprising results require no system-specific modifications of the DEP rule. They rather arise from the underlying mechanism of spontaneous symmetry breaking, which is due to the tight brain body environment coupling. The new synaptic rule is biologically plausible and would be an interesting target for neurobiological investigation. We also argue that this neuronal mechanism may have been a catalyst in natural evolution.

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link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]

link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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Quantifying Emergent Behavior of Autonomous Robots

Martius, G., Olbrich, E.

Entropy, 17(10):7266, 2015 (article)

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

2014


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Robot Learning by Guided Self-Organization

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

In Guided Self-Organization: Inception, 9, pages: 223-260, Emergence, Complexity and Computation, Springer Berlin Heidelberg, 2014 (incollection)

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

2014


link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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An autonomous manipulation system based on force control and optimization

Righetti, L., Kalakrishnan, M., Pastor, P., Binney, J., Kelly, J., Voorhies, R. C., Sukhatme, G. S., Schaal, S.

Autonomous Robots, 36(1-2):11-30, January 2014 (article)

Abstract
In this paper we present an architecture for autonomous manipulation. Our approach is based on the belief that contact interactions during manipulation should be exploited to improve dexterity and that optimizing motion plans is useful to create more robust and repeatable manipulation behaviors. We therefore propose an architecture where state of the art force/torque control and optimization-based motion planning are the core components of the system. We give a detailed description of the modules that constitute the complete system and discuss the challenges inherent to creating such a system. We present experimental results for several grasping and manipulation tasks to demonstrate the performance and robustness of our approach.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Learning of grasp selection based on shape-templates

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

Autonomous Robots, 36(1-2):51-65, January 2014 (article)

Abstract
The ability to grasp unknown objects still remains an unsolved problem in the robotics community. One of the challenges is to choose an appropriate grasp configuration, i.e., the 6D pose of the hand relative to the object and its finger configuration. In this paper, we introduce an algorithm that is based on the assumption that similarly shaped objects can be grasped in a similar way. It is able to synthesize good grasp poses for unknown objects by finding the best matching object shape templates associated with previously demonstrated grasps. The grasp selection algorithm is able to improve over time by using the information of previous grasp attempts to adapt the ranking of the templates to new situations. We tested our approach on two different platforms, the Willow Garage PR2 and the Barrett WAM robot, which have very different hand kinematics. Furthermore, we compared our algorithm with other grasp planners and demonstrated its superior performance. The results presented in this paper show that the algorithm is able to find good grasp configurations for a large set of unknown objects from a relatively small set of demonstrations, and does improve its performance over time.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

2013


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Behavior as broken symmetry in embodied self-organizing robots

Der, R., Martius, G.

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

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[BibTex]

2013


[BibTex]


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Information Driven Self-Organization of Complex Robotic Behaviors

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

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

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Using Torque Redundancy to Optimize Contact Forces in Legged Robots

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

In Redundancy in Robot Manipulators and Multi-Robot Systems, 57, pages: 35-51, Lecture Notes in Electrical Engineering, Springer Berlin Heidelberg, 2013 (incollection)

Abstract
The development of legged robots for complex environments requires controllers that guarantee both high tracking performance and compliance with the environment. More specifically the control of contact interaction with the environment is of crucial importance to ensure stable, robust and safe motions. In the following, we present an inverse dynamics controller that exploits torque redundancy to directly and explicitly minimize any combination of linear and quadratic costs in the contact constraints and in the commands. Such a result is particularly relevant for legged robots as it allows to use torque redundancy to directly optimize contact interactions. For example, given a desired locomotion behavior, it can guarantee the minimization of contact forces to reduce slipping on difficult terrains while ensuring high tracking performance of the desired motion. The proposed controller is very simple and computationally efficient, and most importantly it can greatly improve the performance of legged locomotion on difficult terrains as can be seen in the experimental results.

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link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Optimal distribution of contact forces with inverse-dynamics control

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

The International Journal of Robotics Research, 32(3):280-298, March 2013 (article)

Abstract
The development of legged robots for complex environments requires controllers that guarantee both high tracking performance and compliance with the environment. More specifically the control of the contact interaction with the environment is of crucial importance to ensure stable, robust and safe motions. In this contribution we develop an inverse-dynamics controller for floating-base robots under contact constraints that can minimize any combination of linear and quadratic costs in the contact constraints and the commands. Our main result is the exact analytical derivation of the controller. Such a result is particularly relevant for legged robots as it allows us to use torque redundancy to directly optimize contact interactions. For example, given a desired locomotion behavior, we can guarantee the minimization of contact forces to reduce slipping on difficult terrains while ensuring high tracking performance of the desired motion. The main advantages of the controller are its simplicity, computational efficiency and robustness to model inaccuracies. We present detailed experimental results on simulated humanoid and quadruped robots as well as a real quadruped robot. The experiments demonstrate that the controller can greatly improve the robustness of locomotion of the robots.1

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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

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

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

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

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Robustness of guided self-organization against sensorimotor disruptions

Martius, G.

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

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

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


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Controlled Reduction with Unactuated Cyclic Variables: Application to 3D Bipedal Walking with Passive Yaw Rotation

Gregg, R., Righetti, L.

IEEE Transactions on Automatic Control, 58(10):2679-2685, October 2013 (article)

Abstract
This technical note shows that viscous damping can shape momentum conservation laws in a manner that stabilizes yaw rotation and enables steering for underactuated 3D walking. We first show that unactuated cyclic variables can be controlled by passively shaped conservation laws given a stabilizing controller in the actuated coordinates. We then exploit this result to realize controlled geometric reduction with multiple unactuated cyclic variables. We apply this underactuated control strategy to a five-link 3D biped to produce exponentially stable straight-ahead walking and steering in the presence of passive yawing.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

2012


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Variants of guided self-organization for robot control

Martius, G., Herrmann, J.

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

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

2012


link (url) DOI [BibTex]

2011


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Tipping the Scales: Guidance and Intrinsically Motivated Behavior

Martius, G., Herrmann, J. M.

In Advances in Artificial Life, ECAL 2011, pages: 506-513, (Editors: Tom Lenaerts and Mario Giacobini and Hugues Bersini and Paul Bourgine and Marco Dorigo and René Doursat), MIT Press, 2011 (incollection)

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[BibTex]

2011


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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]

2010


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Goal-Oriented Control of Self-Organizing Behavior in Autonomous Robots

Martius, G.

Georg-August-Universität Göttingen, 2010 (phdthesis)

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link (url) [BibTex]

2010



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Taming the Beast: Guided Self-organization of Behavior in Autonomous Robots

Martius, G., Herrmann, J. M.

In From Animals to Animats 11, 6226, pages: 50-61, LNCS, Springer, 2010 (incollection)

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

2009


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Adaptive Frequency Oscillators and Applications

Righetti, L., Buchli, J., Ijspeert, A.

The Open Cybernetics \& Systemics Journal, 3, pages: 64-69, 2009 (article)

Abstract
In this contribution we present a generic mechanism to transform an oscillator into an adaptive frequency oscillator, which can then dynamically adapt its parameters to learn the frequency of any periodic driving signal. Adaptation is done in a dynamic way: it is part of the dynamical system and not an offline process. This mechanism goes beyond entrainment since it works for any initial frequencies and the learned frequency stays encoded in the system even if the driving signal disappears. Interestingly, this mechanism can easily be applied to a large class of oscillators from harmonic oscillators to relaxation types and strange attractors. Several practical applications of this mechanism are then presented, ranging from adaptive control of compliant robots to frequency analysis of signals and construction of limit cycles of arbitrary shape.

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link (url) [BibTex]

2009


link (url) [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]

2008


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Frequency analysis with coupled nonlinear oscillators

Buchli, J., Righetti, L., Ijspeert, A.

Physica D: Nonlinear Phenomena, 237(13):1705-1718, August 2008 (article)

Abstract
We present a method to obtain the frequency spectrum of a signal with a nonlinear dynamical system. The dynamical system is composed of a pool of adaptive frequency oscillators with negative mean-field coupling. For the frequency analysis, the synchronization and adaptation properties of the component oscillators are exploited. The frequency spectrum of the signal is reflected in the statistics of the intrinsic frequencies of the oscillators. The frequency analysis is completely embedded in the dynamics of the system. Thus, no pre-processing or additional parameters, such as time windows, are needed. Representative results of the numerical integration of the system are presented. It is shown, that the oscillators tune to the correct frequencies for both discrete and continuous spectra. Due to its dynamic nature the system is also capable to track non-stationary spectra. Further, we show that the system can be modeled in a probabilistic manner by means of a nonlinear Fokker–Planck equation. The probabilistic treatment is in good agreement with the numerical results, and provides a useful tool to understand the underlying mechanisms leading to convergence.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

2008


link (url) DOI [BibTex]