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2016


Wireless actuation with functional acoustic surfaces
Wireless actuation with functional acoustic surfaces

Qiu, T., Palagi, S., Mark, A. G., Melde, K., Adams, F., Fischer, P.

Appl. Phys. Lett., 109(19):191602, November 2016, APL Editor's pick. APL News. (article)

Abstract
Miniaturization calls for micro-actuators that can be powered wirelessly and addressed individually. Here, we develop functional surfaces consisting of arrays of acoustically resonant microcavities, and we demonstrate their application as two-dimensional wireless actuators. When remotely powered by an acoustic field, the surfaces provide highly directional propulsive forces in fluids through acoustic streaming. A maximal force of similar to 0.45mN is measured on a 4 x 4 mm(2) functional surface. The response of the surfaces with bubbles of different sizes is characterized experimentally. This shows a marked peak around the micro-bubbles' resonance frequency, as estimated by both an analytical model and numerical simulations. The strong frequency dependence can be exploited to address different surfaces with different acoustic frequencies, thus achieving wireless actuation with multiple degrees of freedom. The use of the functional surfaces as wireless ready-to-attach actuators is demonstrated by implementing a wireless and bidirectional miniaturized rotary motor, which is 2.6 x 2.6 x 5 mm(3) in size and generates a stall torque of similar to 0.5 mN.mm. The adoption of micro-structured surfaces as wireless actuators opens new possibilities in the development of miniaturized devices and tools for fluidic environments that are accessible by low intensity ultrasound fields.

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link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]

2016


link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]


Nanomotors
Nanomotors

Alarcon-Correa, M., Walker (Schamel), D., Qiu, T., Fischer, P.

Eur. Phys. J.-Special Topics, 225(11-12):2241-2254, November 2016 (article)

Abstract
This minireview discusses whether catalytically active macromolecules and abiotic nanocolloids, that are smaller than motile bacteria, can self-propel. Kinematic reversibility at low Reynolds number demands that self-propelling colloids must break symmetry. Methods that permit the synthesis and fabrication of Janus nanocolloids are therefore briefly surveyed, as well as means that permit the analysis of the nanocolloids' motion. Finally, recent work is reviewed which shows that nanoagents are small enough to penetrate the complex inhomogeneous polymeric network of biological fluids and gels, which exhibit diverse rheological behaviors.

pf

DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


Structured light enables biomimetic swimming and versatile locomotion of photoresponsive soft microrobots
Structured light enables biomimetic swimming and versatile locomotion of photoresponsive soft microrobots

Palagi, S., Mark, A. G., Reigh, S. Y., Melde, K., Qiu, T., Zeng, H., Parmeggiani, C., Martella, D., Sanchez-Castillo, A., Kapernaum, N., Giesselmann, F., Wiersma, D. S., Lauga, E., Fischer, P.

Nature Materials, 15(6):647–653, November 2016, Max Planck press release, Nature News & Views. (article)

Abstract
Microorganisms move in challenging environments by periodic changes in body shape. In contrast, current artificial microrobots cannot actively deform, exhibiting at best passive bending under external fields. Here, by taking advantage of the wireless, scalable and spatiotemporally selective capabilities that light allows, we show that soft microrobots consisting of photoactive liquid-crystal elastomers can be driven by structured monochromatic light to perform sophisticated biomimetic motions. We realize continuum yet selectively addressable artificial microswimmers that generate travelling-wave motions to self-propel without external forces or torques, as well as microrobots capable of versatile locomotion behaviours on demand. Both theoretical predictions and experimental results confirm that multiple gaits, mimicking either symplectic or antiplectic metachrony of ciliate protozoa, can be achieved with single microswimmers. The principle of using structured light can be extended to other applications that require microscale actuation with sophisticated spatiotemporal coordination for advanced microrobotic technologies.

pf

Video - Soft photo Micro-Swimmer DOI [BibTex]

Video - Soft photo Micro-Swimmer DOI [BibTex]


Capture of 2D Microparticle Arrays via a UV-Triggered Thiol-yne ``Click{''} Reaction
Capture of 2D Microparticle Arrays via a UV-Triggered Thiol-yne “Click” Reaction

Walker (Schamel), D., Singh, D. P., Fischer, P.

Advanced Materials, 28(44):9846-9850, September 2016 (article)

Abstract
Immobilization of colloidal assemblies onto solid supports via a fast UV-triggered click-reaction is achieved. Transient assemblies of microparticles and colloidal materials can be captured and transferred to solid supports. The technique does not require complex reaction conditions, and is compatible with a variety of particle assembly methods.

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DOI [BibTex]


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Dynamical self-consistency leads to behavioral development and emergent social interactions in robots.

Der, R., Martius, G.

In Proc. IEEE Int. Conf. on Development and Learning and Epigenetic Robotics, pages: 49-56, IEEE, September 2016, in press (inproceedings)

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


Magnesium plasmonics for UV applications and chiral sensing
Magnesium plasmonics for UV applications and chiral sensing

Jeong, H. H., Mark, A. G., Fischer, P.

Chem. Comm., 52(82):12179-12182, September 2016 (article)

Abstract
We demonstrate that chiral magnesium nanoparticles show remarkable plasmonic extinction- and chiroptical-effects in the ultraviolet region. The Mg nanohelices possess an enhanced local surface plasmon resonance (LSPR) sensitivity due to the strong dispersion of most substances in the UV region.

pf

DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


Holograms for acoustics
Holograms for acoustics

Melde, K., Mark, A. G., Qiu, T., Fischer, P.

Nature, 537, pages: 518-522, September 2016, Max Planck press release, Nature News & Views, Nature Video. (article)

Abstract
Holographic techniques are fundamental to applications such as volumetric displays(1), high-density data storage and optical tweezers that require spatial control of intricate optical(2) or acoustic fields(3,4) within a three-dimensional volume. The basis of holography is spatial storage of the phase and/or amplitude profile of the desired wavefront(5,6) in a manner that allows that wavefront to be reconstructed by interference when the hologram is illuminated with a suitable coherent source. Modern computer-generated holography(7) skips the process of recording a hologram from a physical scene, and instead calculates the required phase profile before rendering it for reconstruction. In ultrasound applications, the phase profile is typically generated by discrete and independently driven ultrasound sources(3,4,8-12); however, these can only be used in small numbers, which limits the complexity or degrees of freedom that can be attained in the wavefront. Here we introduce monolithic acoustic holograms, which can reconstruct diffraction-limited acoustic pressure fields and thus arbitrary ultrasound beams. We use rapid fabrication to craft the holograms and achieve reconstruction degrees of freedom two orders of magnitude higher than commercial phased array sources. The technique is inexpensive, appropriate for both transmission and reflection elements, and scales well to higher information content, larger aperture size and higher power. The complex three-dimensional pressure and phase distributions produced by these acoustic holograms allow us to demonstrate new approaches to controlled ultrasonic manipulation of solids in water, and of liquids and solids in air. We expect that acoustic holograms will enable new capabilities in beam-steering and the contactless transfer of power, improve medical imaging, and drive new applications of ultrasound.

pf

Video - Holograms for Sound DOI Project Page [BibTex]

Video - Holograms for Sound DOI Project Page [BibTex]


A loop-gap resonator for chirality-sensitive nuclear magneto-electric resonance (NMER)
A loop-gap resonator for chirality-sensitive nuclear magneto-electric resonance (NMER)

Garbacz, P., Fischer, P., Kraemer, S.

J. Chem. Phys., 145(10):104201, September 2016 (article)

Abstract
Direct detection of molecular chirality is practically impossible by methods of standard nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) that is based on interactions involving magnetic-dipole and magnetic-field operators. However, theoretical studies provide a possible direct probe of chirality by exploiting an enantiomer selective additional coupling involving magnetic-dipole, magnetic-field, and electric field operators. This offers a way for direct experimental detection of chirality by nuclear magneto-electric resonance (NMER). This method uses both resonant magnetic and electric radiofrequency (RF) fields. The weakness of the chiral interaction though requires a large electric RF field and a small transverse RF magnetic field over the sample volume, which is a non-trivial constraint. In this study, we present a detailed study of the NMER concept and a possible experimental realization based on a loop-gap resonator. For this original device, the basic principle and numerical studies as well as fabrication and measurements of the frequency dependence of the scattering parameter are reported. By simulating the NMER spin dynamics for our device and taking the F-19 NMER signal of enantiomer-pure 1,1,1-trifluoropropan-2-ol, we predict a chirality induced NMER signal that accounts for 1%-5% of the standard achiral NMR signal. Published by AIP Publishing.

pf

DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


Soft continuous microrobots with multiple intrinsic degrees of freedom
Soft continuous microrobots with multiple intrinsic degrees of freedom

Palagi, S., Mark, A. G., Melde, K., Zeng, H., Parmeggiani, C., Martella, D., Wiersma, D. S., Fischer, P.

In 2016 International Conference on Manipulation, Automation and Robotics at Small Scales (MARSS), pages: 1-5, July 2016 (inproceedings)

Abstract
One of the main challenges in the development of microrobots, i.e. robots at the sub-millimeter scale, is the difficulty of adopting traditional solutions for power, control and, especially, actuation. As a result, most current microrobots are directly manipulated by external fields, and possess only a few passive degrees of freedom (DOFs). We have reported a strategy that enables embodiment, remote powering and control of a large number of DOFs in mobile soft microrobots. These consist of photo-responsive materials, such that the actuation of their soft continuous body can be selectively and dynamically controlled by structured light fields. Here we use finite-element modelling to evaluate the effective number of DOFs that are addressable in our microrobots. We also demonstrate that by this flexible approach different actuation patterns can be obtained, and thus different locomotion performances can be achieved within the very same microrobot. The reported results confirm the versatility of the proposed approach, which allows for easy application-specific optimization and online reconfiguration of the microrobot's behavior. Such versatility will enable advanced applications of robotics and automation at the micro scale.

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


Active Nanorheology with Plasmonics
Active Nanorheology with Plasmonics

Jeong, H. H., Mark, A. G., Lee, T., Alarcon-Correa, M., Eslami, S., Qiu, T., Gibbs, J. G., Fischer, P.

Nano Letters, 16(8):4887-4894, July 2016 (article)

Abstract
Nanoplasmonic systems are valued for their strong optical response and their small size. Most plasmonic sensors and systems to date have been rigid and passive. However, rendering these structures dynamic opens new possibilities for applications. Here we demonstrate that dynamic plasmonic nanoparticles can be used as mechanical sensors to selectively probe the rheological properties of a fluid in situ at the nanoscale and in microscopic volumes. We fabricate chiral magneto-plasmonic nanocolloids that can be actuated by an external magnetic field, which in turn allows for the direct and fast modulation of their distinct optical response. The method is robust and allows nanorheological measurements with a mechanical sensitivity of similar to 0.1 cP, even in strongly absorbing fluids with an optical density of up to OD similar to 3 (similar to 0.1% light transmittance) and in the presence of scatterers (e.g., 50% v/v red blood cells).

pf

DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


Wireless actuator based on ultrasonic bubble streaming
Wireless actuator based on ultrasonic bubble streaming

Qiu, T., Palagi, S., Mark, A. G., Melde, K., Fischer, P.

In 2016 International Conference on Manipulation, Automation and Robotics at Small Scales (MARSS), pages: 1-5, July 2016 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Miniaturized actuators are a key element for the manipulation and automation at small scales. Here, we propose a new miniaturized actuator, which consists of an array of micro gas bubbles immersed in a fluid. Under ultrasonic excitation, the oscillation of micro gas bubbles results in acoustic streaming and provides a propulsive force that drives the actuator. The actuator was fabricated by lithography and fluidic streaming was observed under ultrasound excitation. Theoretical modelling and numerical simulations were carried out to show that lowing the surface tension results in a larger amplitude of the bubble oscillation, and thus leads to a higher propulsive force. Experimental results also demonstrate that the propulsive force increases 3.5 times when the surface tension is lowered by adding a surfactant. An actuator with a 4×4 mm 2 surface area provides a driving force of about 0.46 mN, suggesting that it is possible to be used as a wireless actuator for small-scale robots and medical instruments.

pf

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


Auxetic Metamaterial Simplifies Soft Robot Design
Auxetic Metamaterial Simplifies Soft Robot Design

Mark, A. G., Palagi, S., Qiu, T., Fischer, P.

In 2016 IEEE Int. Conf. on Robotics and Automation (ICRA), pages: 4951-4956, May 2016 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Soft materials are being adopted in robotics in order to facilitate biomedical applications and in order to achieve simpler and more capable robots. One route to simplification is to design the robot's body using `smart materials' that carry the burden of control and actuation. Metamaterials enable just such rational design of the material properties. Here we present a soft robot that exploits mechanical metamaterials for the intrinsic synchronization of two passive clutches which contact its travel surface. Doing so allows it to move through an enclosed passage with an inchworm motion propelled by a single actuator. Our soft robot consists of two 3D-printed metamaterials that implement auxetic and normal elastic properties. The design, fabrication and characterization of the metamaterials are described. In addition, a working soft robot is presented. Since the synchronization mechanism is a feature of the robot's material body, we believe that the proposed design will enable compliant and robust implementations that scale well with miniaturization.

pf

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


Towards Photo-Induced Swimming: Actuation of Liquid Crystalline  Elastomer in Water
Towards Photo-Induced Swimming: Actuation of Liquid Crystalline Elastomer in Water

cerretti, G., Martella, D., Zeng, H., Parmeggiani, C., Palagi, S., Mark, A. G., Melde, K., Qiu, T., Fischer, P., Wiersma, D.

In Proc. of SPIE 9738, pages: Laser 3D Manufacturing III, 97380T, April 2016 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Liquid Crystalline Elastomers (LCEs) are very promising smart materials that can be made sensitive to different external stimuli, such as heat, pH, humidity and light, by changing their chemical composition. In this paper we report the implementation of a nematically aligned LCE actuator able to undergo large light-induced deformations. We prove that this property is still present even when the actuator is submerged in fresh water. Thanks to the presence of azo-dye moieties, capable of going through a reversible trans-cis photo-isomerization, and by applying light with two different wavelengths we managed to control the bending of such actuator in the liquid environment. The reported results represent the first step towards swimming microdevices powered by light.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


Dispersion and shape engineered plasmonic nanosensors
Dispersion and shape engineered plasmonic nanosensors

Jeong, H. H., Mark, A. G., Alarcon-Correa, M., Kim, I., Oswald, P., Lee, T. C., Fischer, P.

Nature Communications, 7, pages: 11331, March 2016 (article)

Abstract
Biosensors based on the localized surface plasmon resonance (LSPR) of individual metallic nanoparticles promise to deliver modular, low-cost sensing with high-detection thresholds. However, they continue to suffer from relatively low sensitivity and figures of merit (FOMs). Herein we introduce the idea of sensitivity enhancement of LSPR sensors through engineering of the material dispersion function. Employing dispersion and shape engineering of chiral nanoparticles leads to remarkable refractive index sensitivities (1,091 nmRIU(-1) at lambda = 921 nm) and FOMs (>2,800 RIU-1). A key feature is that the polarization-dependent extinction of the nanoparticles is now characterized by rich spectral features, including bipolar peaks and nulls, suitable for tracking refractive index changes. This sensing modality offers strong optical contrast even in the presence of highly absorbing media, an important consideration for use in complex biological media with limited transmission. The technique is sensitive to surface-specific binding events which we demonstrate through biotin-avidin surface coupling.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]


Magnetic Propulsion of Microswimmers with DNA-Based Flagellar Bundles
Magnetic Propulsion of Microswimmers with DNA-Based Flagellar Bundles

Maier, A. M., Weig, C., Oswald, P., Frey, E., Fischer, P., Liedl, T.

Nano Letters, 16(2):906-910, January 2016 (article)

Abstract
We show that DNA-based self-assembly can serve as a general and flexible tool to construct artificial flagella of several micrometers in length and only tens of nanometers in diameter. By attaching the DNA flagella to biocompatible magnetic microparticles, we provide a proof of concept demonstration of hybrid structures that, when rotated in an external magnetic field, propel by means of a flagellar bundle, similar to self-propelling peritrichous bacteria. Our theoretical analysis predicts that flagellar bundles that possess a length-dependent bending stiffness should exhibit a superior swimming speed compared to swimmers with a single appendage. The DNA self-assembly method permits the realization of these improved flagellar bundles in good agreement with our quantitative model. DNA flagella with well-controlled shape could fundamentally increase the functionality of fully biocompatible nanorobots and extend the scope and complexity of active materials.

pf

DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


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Compliant control for soft robots: emergent behavior of a tendon driven anthropomorphic arm.

Martius, G., Hostettler, R., Knoll, A., Der, R.

In 2016 IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS), pages: 767-773, 2016 (inproceedings)

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


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A Convex Model of Momentum Dynamics for Multi-Contact Motion Generation

Ponton, B., Herzog, A., Schaal, S., Righetti, L.

In 2016 IEEE-RAS 16th International Conference on Humanoid Robots Humanoids, pages: 842-849, IEEE, Cancun, Mexico, 2016 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Linear models for control and motion generation of humanoid robots have received significant attention in the past years, not only due to their well known theoretical guarantees, but also because of practical computational advantages. However, to tackle more challenging tasks and scenarios such as locomotion on uneven terrain, a more expressive model is required. In this paper, we are interested in contact interaction-centered motion optimization based on the momentum dynamics model. This model is non-linear and non-convex; however, we find a relaxation of the problem that allows us to formulate it as a single convex quadratically-constrained quadratic program (QCQP) that can be very efficiently optimized and is useful for multi-contact planning. This convex model is then coupled to the optimization of end-effector contact locations using a mixed integer program, which can also be efficiently solved. This becomes relevant e.g. to recover from external pushes, where a predefined stepping plan is likely to fail and an online adaptation of the contact location is needed. The performance of our algorithm is demonstrated in several multi-contact scenarios for a humanoid robot.

am mg

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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On the Effects of Measurement Uncertainty in Optimal Control of Contact Interactions

Ponton, B., Schaal, S., Righetti, L.

In The 12th International Workshop on the Algorithmic Foundations of Robotics WAFR, Berkeley, USA, 2016 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Stochastic Optimal Control (SOC) typically considers noise only in the process model, i.e. unknown disturbances. However, in many robotic applications involving interaction with the environment, such as locomotion and manipulation, uncertainty also comes from lack of precise knowledge of the world, which is not an actual disturbance. We analyze the effects of also considering noise in the measurement model, by devel- oping a SOC algorithm based on risk-sensitive control, that includes the dynamics of an observer in such a way that the control law explicitly de- pends on the current measurement uncertainty. In simulation results on a simple 2D manipulator, we have observed that measurement uncertainty leads to low impedance behaviors, a result in contrast with the effects of process noise that creates stiff behaviors. This suggests that taking into account measurement uncertainty could be a potentially very interesting way to approach problems involving uncertain contact interactions.

am mg

link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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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.

am mg

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Inertial Sensor-Based Humanoid Joint State Estimation

Rotella, N., Mason, S., Schaal, S., Righetti, L.

In 2016 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA), pages: 1825-1831, IEEE, Stockholm, Sweden, 2016 (inproceedings)

Abstract
This work presents methods for the determination of a humanoid robot's joint velocities and accelerations directly from link-mounted Inertial Measurement Units (IMUs) each containing a three-axis gyroscope and a three-axis accelerometer. No information about the global pose of the floating base or its links is required and precise knowledge of the link IMU poses is not necessary due to presented calibration routines. Additionally, a filter is introduced to fuse gyroscope angular velocities with joint position measurements and compensate the computed joint velocities for time-varying gyroscope biases. The resulting joint velocities are subject to less noise and delay than filtered velocities computed from numerical differentiation of joint potentiometer signals, leading to superior performance in joint feedback control as demonstrated in experiments performed on a SARCOS hydraulic humanoid.

am mg

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Stepping Stabilization Using a Combination of DCM Tracking and Step Adjustment

Khadiv, M., Kleff, S., Herzog, A., Moosavian, S. A. A., Schaal, S., Righetti, L.

In 2016 4th International Conference on Robotics and Mechatronics (ICROM), pages: 130-135, IEEE, Teheran, Iran, 2016 (inproceedings)

Abstract
In this paper, a method for stabilizing biped robots stepping by a combination of Divergent Component of Motion (DCM) tracking and step adjustment is proposed. In this method, the DCM trajectory is generated, consistent with the predefined footprints. Furthermore, a swing foot trajectory modification strategy is proposed to adapt the landing point, using DCM measurement. In order to apply the generated trajectories to the full robot, a Hierarchical Inverse Dynamics (HID) is employed. The HID enables us to use different combinations of the DCM tracking and step adjustment for stabilizing different biped robots. Simulation experiments on two scenarios for two different simulated robots, one with active ankles and the other with passive ankles, are carried out. Simulation results demonstrate the effectiveness of the proposed method for robots with both active and passive ankles.

am mg

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Structured contact force optimization for kino-dynamic motion generation

Herzog, A., Schaal, S., Righetti, L.

In 2016 IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS), pages: 2703-2710, IEEE, Daejeon, South Korea, 2016 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Optimal control approaches in combination with trajectory optimization have recently proven to be a promising control strategy for legged robots. Computationally efficient and robust algorithms were derived using simplified models of the contact interaction between robot and environment such as the linear inverted pendulum model (LIPM). However, as humanoid robots enter more complex environments, less restrictive models become increasingly important. As we leave the regime of linear models, we need to build dedicated solvers that can compute interaction forces together with consistent kinematic plans for the whole-body. In this paper, we address the problem of planning robot motion and interaction forces for legged robots given predefined contact surfaces. The motion generation process is decomposed into two alternating parts computing force and motion plans in coherence. We focus on the properties of the momentum computation leading to sparse optimal control formulations to be exploited by a dedicated solver. In our experiments, we demonstrate that our motion generation algorithm computes consistent contact forces and joint trajectories for our humanoid robot. We also demonstrate the favorable time complexity due to our formulation and composition of the momentum equations.

am mg

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Balancing and Walking Using Full Dynamics LQR Control With Contact Constraints

Mason, S., Rotella, N., Schaal, S., Righetti, L.

In 2016 IEEE-RAS 16th International Conference on Humanoid Robots (Humanoids), pages: 63-68, IEEE, Cancun, Mexico, 2016 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Torque control algorithms which consider robot dynamics and contact constraints are important for creating dynamic behaviors for humanoids. As computational power increases, algorithms tend to also increase in complexity. However, it is not clear how much complexity is really required to create controllers which exhibit good performance. In this paper, we study the capabilities of a simple approach based on contact consistent LQR controllers designed around key poses to control various tasks on a humanoid robot. We present extensive experimental results on a hydraulic, torque controlled humanoid performing balancing and stepping tasks. This feedback control approach captures the necessary synergies between the DoFs of the robot to guarantee good control performance. We show that for the considered tasks, it is only necessary to re-linearize the dynamics of the robot at different contact configurations and that increasing the number of LQR controllers along desired trajectories does not improve performance. Our result suggest that very simple controllers can yield good performance competitive with current state of the art, but more complex, optimization-based whole-body controllers. A video of the experiments can be found at https://youtu.be/5T08CNKV1hw.

am mg

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Step Timing Adjustement: a Step toward Generating Robust Gaits

Khadiv, M., Herzog, A., Moosavian, S. A. A., Righetti, L.

In 2016 IEEE-RAS 16th International Conference on Humanoid Robots (Humanoids), pages: 35-42, IEEE, Cancun, Mexico, 2016 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Step adjustment for humanoid robots has been shown to improve robustness in gaits. However, step duration adaptation is often neglected in control strategies. In this paper, we propose an approach that combines both step location and timing adjustment for generating robust gaits. In this approach, step location and step timing are decided, based on feedback from the current state of the robot. The proposed approach is comprised of two stages. In the first stage, the nominal step location and step duration for the next step or a previewed number of steps are specified. In this stage which is done at the start of each step, the main goal is to specify the best step length and step duration for a desired walking speed. The second stage deals with finding the best landing point and landing time of the swing foot at each control cycle. In this stage, stability of the gaits is preserved by specifying a desired offset between the swing foot landing point and the Divergent Component of Motion (DCM) at the end of current step. After specifying the landing point of the swing foot at a desired time, the swing foot trajectory is regenerated at each control cycle to realize desired landing properties. Simulation on different scenarios shows the robustness of the generated gaits from our proposed approach compared to the case where no timing adjustment is employed.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

2013


Hybrid nanocolloids with programmed three-dimensional shape and material composition
Hybrid nanocolloids with programmed three-dimensional shape and material composition

Mark, A. G., Gibbs, J. G., Lee, T., Fischer, P.

NATURE MATERIALS, 12(9):802-807, 2013, Max Planck Press Release. (article)

Abstract
Tuning the optical(1,2), electromagnetic(3,4) and mechanical properties of a material requires simultaneous control over its composition and shape(5). This is particularly challenging for complex structures at the nanoscale because surface-energy minimization generally causes small structures to be highly symmetric(5). Here we combine low-temperature shadow deposition with nanoscale patterning to realize nanocolloids with anisotropic three-dimensional shapes, feature sizes down to 20 nm and a wide choice of materials. We demonstrate the versatility of the fabrication scheme by growing three-dimensional hybrid nanostructures that contain several functional materials with the lowest possible symmetry, and by fabricating hundreds of billions of plasmonic nanohelices, which we use as chiral metafluids with record circular dichroism and tunable chiroptical properties.

Max Planck Press Release.

pf

Video - Fabrication of Designer Nanostructures DOI [BibTex]


Chiral Colloidal Molecules And Observation of The Propeller Effect
Chiral Colloidal Molecules And Observation of The Propeller Effect

Schamel, D., Pfeifer, M., Gibbs, J. G., Miksch, B., Mark, A. G., Fischer, P.

JOURNAL OF THE AMERICAN CHEMICAL SOCIETY, 135(33):12353-12359, 2013 (article)

Abstract
Chiral molecules play an important role in biological and chemical processes, but physical effects due to their symmetry-breaking are generally weak. Several physical chiral separation schemes which could potentially be useful, including the propeller effect, have therefore not yet been demonstrated at the molecular scale. However, it has been proposed that complex nonspherical colloidal particles could act as ``colloidal molecules{''} in mesoscopic model systems to permit the visualization of molecular phenomena that are otherwise difficult to observe. Unfortunately, it is difficult to synthesize such colloids because surface minimization generally favors the growth of symmetric particles. Here we demonstrate the production of large numbers of complex colloids with glancing angle physical vapor deposition. We use chiral colloids to demonstrate the Baranova and Zel'dovich (Baranova, N. B.; Zel'dovich, B. Y. Chem. Phys. Lett. 1978, 57, 435) propeller effect: the separation of a racemic mixture by application of a rotating field that couples to the dipole moment of the enantiomers and screw propels them in opposite directions. The handedness of the colloidal suspensions is monitored with circular differential light scattering. An exact solution for the colloid's propulsion is derived, and comparisons between the colloidal system and the corresponding effect at the molecular scale are made.

pf

Video - Nanospropellers DOI [BibTex]

Video - Nanospropellers DOI [BibTex]


Indirect absorption spectroscopy using quantum cascade lasers: mid-infrared refractometry and photothermal spectroscopy
Indirect absorption spectroscopy using quantum cascade lasers: mid-infrared refractometry and photothermal spectroscopy

Pfeifer, M., Ruf, A., Fischer, P.

OPTICS EXPRESS, 21(22):25643-25654, 2013 (article)

Abstract
We record vibrational spectra with two indirect schemes that depend on the real part of the index of refraction: mid-infrared refractometry and photothermal spectroscopy. In the former, a quantum cascade laser (QCL) spot is imaged to determine the angles of total internal reflection, which yields the absorption line via a beam profile analysis. In the photothermal measurements, a tunable QCL excites vibrational resonances of a molecular monolayer, which heats the surrounding medium and changes its refractive index. This is observed with a probe laser in the visible. Sub-monolayer sensitivities are demonstrated. (C) 2013 Optical Society of America

pf

DOI [BibTex]


Plasmonic nanohelix metamaterials with tailorable giant circular dichroism
Plasmonic nanohelix metamaterials with tailorable giant circular dichroism

Gibbs, J. G., Mark, A. G., Eslami, S., Fischer, P.

APPLIED PHYSICS LETTERS, 103(21), 2013, Featured cover article. (article)

Abstract
Plasmonic nanohelix arrays are shown to interact with electromagnetic fields in ways not typically seen with ordinary matter. Chiral metamaterials (CMMs) with feature sizes small with respect to the wavelength of visible light are a promising route to experimentally achieve such phenomena as negative refraction without the need for simultaneously negative e and mu. Here we not only show that giant circular dichroism in the visible is achievable with hexagonally arranged plasmonic nanohelix arrays, but that we can precisely tune the optical activity via morphology and lattice spacing. The discrete dipole approximation is implemented to support experimental data. (C) 2013 AIP Publishing LLC.

Featured cover article.

pf

DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


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AGILITY – Dynamic Full Body Locomotion and Manipulation with Autonomous Legged Robots

Hutter, M., Bloesch, M., Buchli, J., Semini, C., Bazeille, S., Righetti, L., Bohg, J.

In 2013 IEEE International Symposium on Safety, Security, and Rescue Robotics (SSRR), pages: 1-4, IEEE, Linköping, Sweden, 2013 (inproceedings)

mg

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Learning Objective Functions for Manipulation

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

In 2013 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation, IEEE, Karlsruhe, Germany, 2013 (inproceedings)

Abstract
We present an approach to learning objective functions for robotic manipulation based on inverse reinforcement learning. Our path integral inverse reinforcement learning algorithm can deal with high-dimensional continuous state-action spaces, and only requires local optimality of demonstrated trajectories. We use L 1 regularization in order to achieve feature selection, and propose an efficient algorithm to minimize the resulting convex objective function. We demonstrate our approach by applying it to two core problems in robotic manipulation. First, we learn a cost function for redundancy resolution in inverse kinematics. Second, we use our method to learn a cost function over trajectories, which is then used in optimization-based motion planning for grasping and manipulation tasks. Experimental results show that our method outperforms previous algorithms in high-dimensional settings.

am mg

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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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)

al

[BibTex]

[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)

al

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.

am mg

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

am mg

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.

al

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.

al

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.

mg

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Learning Task Error Models for Manipulation

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

In 2013 IEEE Conference on Robotics and Automation, IEEE, Karlsruhe, Germany, 2013 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Precise kinematic forward models are important for robots to successfully perform dexterous grasping and manipulation tasks, especially when visual servoing is rendered infeasible due to occlusions. A lot of research has been conducted to estimate geometric and non-geometric parameters of kinematic chains to minimize reconstruction errors. However, kinematic chains can include non-linearities, e.g. due to cable stretch and motor-side encoders, that result in significantly different errors for different parts of the state space. Previous work either does not consider such non-linearities or proposes to estimate non-geometric parameters of carefully engineered models that are robot specific. We propose a data-driven approach that learns task error models that account for such unmodeled non-linearities. We argue that in the context of grasping and manipulation, it is sufficient to achieve high accuracy in the task relevant state space. We identify this relevant state space using previously executed joint configurations and learn error corrections for those. Therefore, our system is developed to generate subsequent executions that are similar to previous ones. The experiments show that our method successfully captures the non-linearities in the head kinematic chain (due to a counterbalancing spring) and the arm kinematic chains (due to cable stretch) of the considered experimental platform, see Fig. 1. The feasibility of the presented error learning approach has also been evaluated in independent DARPA ARM-S testing contributing to successfully complete 67 out of 72 grasping and manipulation tasks.

am mg

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

2008


Voltage-Controllable Magnetic Composite Based on Multifunctional Polyethylene Microparticles
Voltage-Controllable Magnetic Composite Based on Multifunctional Polyethylene Microparticles

Ghosh, A., Sheridon, N. K., Fischer, P.

SMALL, 4(11):1956-1958, 2008 (article)

pf

DOI [BibTex]

2008



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Pattern generators with sensory feedback for the control of quadruped locomotion

Righetti, L., Ijspeert, A.

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

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

mg

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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

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

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

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

mg

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Emergence of Interaction Among Adaptive Agents

Martius, G., Nolfi, S., Herrmann, J. M.

In Proc. From Animals to Animats 10 (SAB 2008), 5040, pages: 457-466, LNCS, Springer, 2008 (inproceedings)

al

DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


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

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

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

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

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Passive compliant quadruped robot using central pattern generators for locomotion control

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

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

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

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Structure from Behavior in Autonomous Agents

Martius, G., Fiedler, K., Herrmann, J.

In Proc. IEEE Intl. Conf. Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS 2008), pages: 858 - 862, 2008 (inproceedings)

al

DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


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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]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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

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

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

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

mg

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

2007


Frequency-domain displacement sensing with a fiber ring-resonator containing a variable gap
Frequency-domain displacement sensing with a fiber ring-resonator containing a variable gap

Vollmer, F., Fischer, P.

SENSORS AND ACTUATORS A-PHYSICAL, 134(2):410-413, 2007 (article)

Abstract
Ring-resonators are in general not amenable to strain-free (non-contact) displacement measurements. We show that this limitation may be overcome if the ring-resonator, here a fiber-loop, is designed to contain a gap, such that the light traverses a free-space part between two aligned waveguide ends. Displacements are determined with nanometer sensitivity by measuring the associated changes in the resonance frequencies. Miniaturization should increase the sensitivity of the ring-resonator interferometer. Ring geometries that contain an optical circulator can be used to profile reflective samples. (c) 2006 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

pf

DOI [BibTex]

2007


DOI [BibTex]


Observation of the Faraday effect via beam deflection in a longitudinal magnetic field
Observation of the Faraday effect via beam deflection in a longitudinal magnetic field

Ghosh, A., Hill, W., Fischer, P.

PHYSICAL REVIEW A, 76(5), 2007 (article)

Abstract
We show that magnetic-field-induced circular differential deflection of light can be observed in reflection or refraction at a single interface. The difference in the reflection or refraction angles between the two circular polarization components is a function of the magnetic-field strength and the Verdet constant, and permits the observation of the Faraday effect not via polarization rotation in transmission, but via changes in the propagation direction. Deflection measurements do not suffer from n-pi ambiguities and are shown to be another means to map magnetic fields with high axial resolution, or to determine the sign and magnitude of magnetic-field pulses in a single measurement.

pf

DOI [BibTex]