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2019


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]


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


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

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

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

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

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pdf video Project Page Project Page [BibTex]

2018


pdf video Project Page Project Page [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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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]

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]

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]