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2007


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Learning static Gestalt laws through dynamic experience

Ostrovsky, Y., Wulff, J., Sinha, P.

Journal of Vision, 7(9):315-315, ARVO, June 2007 (article)

Abstract
The Gestalt laws (Wertheimer 1923) are widely regarded as the rules that help us parse the world into objects. However, it is unclear as to how these laws are acquired by an infant's visual system. Classically, these “laws” have been presumed to be innate (Kellman and Spelke 1983). But, more recent work in infant development, showing the protracted time-course over which these grouping principles emerge (e.g., Johnson and Aslin 1995; Craton 1996), suggests that visual experience might play a role in their genesis. Specifically, our studies of patients with late-onset vision (Project Prakash; VSS 2006) and evidence from infant development both point to an early role of common motion cues for object grouping. Here we explore the possibility that the privileged status of motion in the developmental timeline is not happenstance, but rather serves to bootstrap the learning of static Gestalt cues. Our approach involves computational analyses of real-world motion sequences to investigate whether primitive optic flow information is correlated with static figural cues that could eventually come to serve as proxies for grouping in the form of Gestalt principles. We calculated local optic flow maps and then examined how similarity of motion across image patches co-varied with similarity of certain figural properties in static frames. Results indicate that patches with similar motion are much more likely to have similar luminance, color, and orientation as compared to patches with dissimilar motion vectors. This regularity suggests that, in principle, common motion extracted from dynamic visual experience can provide enough information to bootstrap region grouping based on luminance and color and contour continuation mechanisms in static scenes. These observations, coupled with the cited experimental studies, lend credence to the hypothesis that static Gestalt laws might be learned through a bootstrapping process based on early dynamic experience.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

2007


link (url) DOI [BibTex]


Neuromotor prosthesis development
Neuromotor prosthesis development

Donoghue, J., Hochberg, L., Nurmikko, A., Black, M., Simeral, J., Friehs, G.

Medicine & Health Rhode Island, 90(1):12-15, January 2007 (article)

Abstract
Article describes a neuromotor prosthesis (NMP), in development at Brown University, that records human brain signals, decodes them, and transforms them into movement commands. An NMP is described as a system consisting of a neural interface, a decoding system, and a user interface, also called an effector; a closed-loop system would be completed by a feedback signal from the effector to the brain. The interface is based on neural spiking, a source of information-rich, rapid, complex control signals from the nervous system. The NMP described, named BrainGate, consists of a match-head sized platform with 100 thread-thin electrodes implanted just into the surface of the motor cortex where commands to move the hand emanate. Neural signals are decoded by a rack of computers that displays the resultant output as the motion of a cursor on a computer monitor. While computer cursor motion represents a form of virtual device control, this same command signal could be routed to a device to command motion of paralyzed muscles or the actions of prosthetic limbs. The researchers’ overall goal is the development of a fully implantable, wireless multi-neuron sensor for broad research, neural prosthetic, and human neurodiagnostic applications.

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pdf [BibTex]

pdf [BibTex]


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Machine Learning of Motor Skills for Robotics

Peters, J.

University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA, USA, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA, USA, 2007, clmc (phdthesis)

Abstract
Autonomous robots that can assist humans in situations of daily life have been a long standing vision of robotics, artificial intelligence, and cognitive sciences. A first step towards this goal is to create robots that can accomplish a multitude of different tasks, triggered by environmental context or higher level instruction. Early approaches to this goal during the heydays of artificial intelligence research in the late 1980s, however, made it clear that an approach purely based on reasoning and human insights would not be able to model all the perceptuomotor tasks that a robot should fulfill. Instead, new hope was put in the growing wake of machine learning that promised fully adaptive control algorithms which learn both by observation and trial-and-error. However, to date, learning techniques have yet to fulfill this promise as only few methods manage to scale into the high-dimensional domains of manipulator robotics, or even the new upcoming trend of humanoid robotics, and usually scaling was only achieved in precisely pre-structured domains. In this thesis, we investigate the ingredients for a general approach to motor skill learning in order to get one step closer towards human-like performance. For doing so, we study two major components for such an approach, i.e., firstly, a theoretically well-founded general approach to representing the required control structures for task representation and execution and, secondly, appropriate learning algorithms which can be applied in this setting. As a theoretical foundation, we first study a general framework to generate control laws for real robots with a particular focus on skills represented as dynamical systems in differential constraint form. We present a point-wise optimal control framework resulting from a generalization of Gauss' principle and show how various well-known robot control laws can be derived by modifying the metric of the employed cost function. The framework has been successfully applied to task space tracking control for holonomic systems for several different metrics on the anthropomorphic SARCOS Master Arm. In order to overcome the limiting requirement of accurate robot models, we first employ learning methods to find learning controllers for task space control. However, when learning to execute a redundant control problem, we face the general problem of the non-convexity of the solution space which can force the robot to steer into physically impossible configurations if supervised learning methods are employed without further consideration. This problem can be resolved using two major insights, i.e., the learning problem can be treated as locally convex and the cost function of the analytical framework can be used to ensure global consistency. Thus, we derive an immediate reinforcement learning algorithm from the expectation-maximization point of view which leads to a reward-weighted regression technique. This method can be used both for operational space control as well as general immediate reward reinforcement learning problems. We demonstrate the feasibility of the resulting framework on the problem of redundant end-effector tracking for both a simulated 3 degrees of freedom robot arm as well as for a simulated anthropomorphic SARCOS Master Arm. While learning to execute tasks in task space is an essential component to a general framework to motor skill learning, learning the actual task is of even higher importance, particularly as this issue is more frequently beyond the abilities of analytical approaches than execution. We focus on the learning of elemental tasks which can serve as the "building blocks of movement generation", called motor primitives. Motor primitives are parameterized task representations based on splines or nonlinear differential equations with desired attractor properties. While imitation learning of parameterized motor primitives is a relatively well-understood problem, the self-improvement by interaction of the system with the environment remains a challenging problem, tackled in the fourth chapter of this thesis. For pursuing this goal, we highlight the difficulties with current reinforcement learning methods, and outline both established and novel algorithms for the gradient-based improvement of parameterized policies. We compare these algorithms in the context of motor primitive learning, and show that our most modern algorithm, the Episodic Natural Actor-Critic outperforms previous algorithms by at least an order of magnitude. We demonstrate the efficiency of this reinforcement learning method in the application of learning to hit a baseball with an anthropomorphic robot arm. In conclusion, in this thesis, we have contributed a general framework for analytically computing robot control laws which can be used for deriving various previous control approaches and serves as foundation as well as inspiration for our learning algorithms. We have introduced two classes of novel reinforcement learning methods, i.e., the Natural Actor-Critic and the Reward-Weighted Regression algorithm. These algorithms have been used in order to replace the analytical components of the theoretical framework by learned representations. Evaluations have been performed on both simulated and real robot arms.

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[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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The new robotics - towards human-centered machines

Schaal, S.

HFSP Journal Frontiers of Interdisciplinary Research in the Life Sciences, 1(2):115-126, 2007, clmc (article)

Abstract
Research in robotics has moved away from its primary focus on industrial applications. The New Robotics is a vision that has been developed in past years by our own university and many other national and international research instiutions and addresses how increasingly more human-like robots can live among us and take over tasks where our current society has shortcomings. Elder care, physical therapy, child education, search and rescue, and general assistance in daily life situations are some of the examples that will benefit from the New Robotics in the near future. With these goals in mind, research for the New Robotics has to embrace a broad interdisciplinary approach, ranging from traditional mathematical issues of robotics to novel issues in psychology, neuroscience, and ethics. This paper outlines some of the important research problems that will need to be resolved to make the New Robotics a reality.

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link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


On the spatial statistics of optical flow
On the spatial statistics of optical flow

Roth, S., Black, M. J.

International Journal of Computer Vision, 74(1):33-50, 2007 (article)

Abstract
We present an analysis of the spatial and temporal statistics of "natural" optical flow fields and a novel flow algorithm that exploits their spatial statistics. Training flow fields are constructed using range images of natural scenes and 3D camera motions recovered from hand-held and car-mounted video sequences. A detailed analysis of optical flow statistics in natural scenes is presented and machine learning methods are developed to learn a Markov random field model of optical flow. The prior probability of a flow field is formulated as a Field-of-Experts model that captures the spatial statistics in overlapping patches and is trained using contrastive divergence. This new optical flow prior is compared with previous robust priors and is incorporated into a recent, accurate algorithm for dense optical flow computation. Experiments with natural and synthetic sequences illustrate how the learned optical flow prior quantitatively improves flow accuracy and how it captures the rich spatial structure found in natural scene motion.

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pdf preprint pdf from publisher [BibTex]

pdf preprint pdf from publisher [BibTex]


Assistive technology and robotic control using {MI} ensemble-based neural interface systems in humans with tetraplegia
Assistive technology and robotic control using MI ensemble-based neural interface systems in humans with tetraplegia

Donoghue, J. P., Nurmikko, A., Black, M. J., Hochberg, L.

Journal of Physiology, Special Issue on Brain Computer Interfaces, 579, pages: 603-611, 2007 (article)

Abstract
This review describes the rationale, early stage development, and initial human application of neural interface systems (NISs) for humans with paralysis. NISs are emerging medical devices designed to allowpersonswith paralysis to operate assistive technologies or to reanimatemuscles based upon a command signal that is obtained directly fromthe brain. Such systems require the development of sensors to detect brain signals, decoders to transformneural activity signals into a useful command, and an interface for the user.We review initial pilot trial results of an NIS that is based on an intracortical microelectrode sensor that derives control signals from the motor cortex.We review recent findings showing, first, that neurons engaged by movement intentions persist in motor cortex years after injury or disease to the motor system, and second, that signals derived from motor cortex can be used by persons with paralysis to operate a range of devices. We suggest that, with further development, this form of NIS holds promise as a useful new neurotechnology for those with limited motor function or communication.We also discuss the additional potential for neural sensors to be used in the diagnosis and management of various neurological conditions and as a new way to learn about human brain function.

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pdf preprint pdf from publisher DOI [BibTex]

pdf preprint pdf from publisher DOI [BibTex]


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

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

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

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

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

2005


Representing cyclic human motion using functional analysis
Representing cyclic human motion using functional analysis

Ormoneit, D., Black, M. J., Hastie, T., Kjellström, H.

Image and Vision Computing, 23(14):1264-1276, December 2005 (article)

Abstract
We present a robust automatic method for modeling cyclic 3D human motion such as walking using motion-capture data. The pose of the body is represented by a time-series of joint angles which are automatically segmented into a sequence of motion cycles. The mean and the principal components of these cycles are computed using a new algorithm that enforces smooth transitions between the cycles by operating in the Fourier domain. Key to this method is its ability to automatically deal with noise and missing data. A learned walking model is then exploited for Bayesian tracking of 3D human motion.

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pdf pdf from publisher DOI [BibTex]

2005


pdf pdf from publisher DOI [BibTex]


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Composite adaptive control with locally weighted statistical learning

Nakanishi, J., Farrell, J. A., Schaal, S.

Neural Networks, 18(1):71-90, January 2005, clmc (article)

Abstract
This paper introduces a provably stable learning adaptive control framework with statistical learning. The proposed algorithm employs nonlinear function approximation with automatic growth of the learning network according to the nonlinearities and the working domain of the control system. The unknown function in the dynamical system is approximated by piecewise linear models using a nonparametric regression technique. Local models are allocated as necessary and their parameters are optimized on-line. Inspired by composite adaptive control methods, the proposed learning adaptive control algorithm uses both the tracking error and the estimation error to update the parameters. We first discuss statistical learning of nonlinear functions, and motivate our choice of the locally weighted learning framework. Second, we begin with a class of first order SISO systems for theoretical development of our learning adaptive control framework, and present a stability proof including a parameter projection method that is needed to avoid potential singularities during adaptation. Then, we generalize our adaptive controller to higher order SISO systems, and discuss further extension to MIMO problems. Finally, we evaluate our theoretical control framework in numerical simulations to illustrate the effectiveness of the proposed learning adaptive controller for rapid convergence and high accuracy of control.

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link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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A model of smooth pursuit based on learning of the target dynamics using only retinal signals

Shibata, T., Tabata, H., Schaal, S., Kawato, M.

Neural Networks, 18, pages: 213-225, 2005, clmc (article)

Abstract
While the predictive nature of the primate smooth pursuit system has been evident through several behavioural and neurophysiological experiments, few models have attempted to explain these results comprehensively. The model we propose in this paper in line with previous models employing optimal control theory; however, we hypothesize two new issues: (1) the medical superior temporal (MST) area in the cerebral cortex implements a recurrent neural network (RNN) in order to predict the current or future target velocity, and (2) a forward model of the target motion is acquired by on-line learning. We use stimulation studies to demonstrate how our new model supports these hypotheses.

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link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Parametric and Non-Parametric approaches for nonlinear tracking of moving objects

Hidaka, Y, Theodorou, E.

Technical Report-2005-1, 2005, clmc (article)

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PDF [BibTex]

PDF [BibTex]

2003


Learning the statistics of people in images and video
Learning the statistics of people in images and video

Sidenbladh, H., Black, M. J.

International Journal of Computer Vision, 54(1-3):183-209, August 2003 (article)

Abstract
This paper address the problems of modeling the appearance of humans and distinguishing human appearance from the appearance of general scenes. We seek a model of appearance and motion that is generic in that it accounts for the ways in which people's appearance varies and, at the same time, is specific enough to be useful for tracking people in natural scenes. Given a 3D model of the person projected into an image we model the likelihood of observing various image cues conditioned on the predicted locations and orientations of the limbs. These cues are taken to be steered filter responses corresponding to edges, ridges, and motion-compensated temporal differences. Motivated by work on the statistics of natural scenes, the statistics of these filter responses for human limbs are learned from training images containing hand-labeled limb regions. Similarly, the statistics of the filter responses in general scenes are learned to define a “background” distribution. The likelihood of observing a scene given a predicted pose of a person is computed, for each limb, using the likelihood ratio between the learned foreground (person) and background distributions. Adopting a Bayesian formulation allows cues to be combined in a principled way. Furthermore, the use of learned distributions obviates the need for hand-tuned image noise models and thresholds. The paper provides a detailed analysis of the statistics of how people appear in scenes and provides a connection between work on natural image statistics and the Bayesian tracking of people.

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pdf pdf from publisher code DOI [BibTex]

2003


pdf pdf from publisher code DOI [BibTex]


A framework for robust subspace learning
A framework for robust subspace learning

De la Torre, F., Black, M. J.

International Journal of Computer Vision, 54(1-3):117-142, August 2003 (article)

Abstract
Many computer vision, signal processing and statistical problems can be posed as problems of learning low dimensional linear or multi-linear models. These models have been widely used for the representation of shape, appearance, motion, etc., in computer vision applications. Methods for learning linear models can be seen as a special case of subspace fitting. One draw-back of previous learning methods is that they are based on least squares estimation techniques and hence fail to account for “outliers” which are common in realistic training sets. We review previous approaches for making linear learning methods robust to outliers and present a new method that uses an intra-sample outlier process to account for pixel outliers. We develop the theory of Robust Subspace Learning (RSL) for linear models within a continuous optimization framework based on robust M-estimation. The framework applies to a variety of linear learning problems in computer vision including eigen-analysis and structure from motion. Several synthetic and natural examples are used to develop and illustrate the theory and applications of robust subspace learning in computer vision.

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pdf code pdf from publisher Project Page [BibTex]

pdf code pdf from publisher Project Page [BibTex]


Guest editorial: Computational vision at {Brown}
Guest editorial: Computational vision at Brown

Black, M. J., Kimia, B.

International Journal of Computer Vision, 54(1-3):5-11, August 2003 (article)

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pdf pdf from publisher [BibTex]

pdf pdf from publisher [BibTex]


Robust parameterized component analysis: Theory and applications to {2D} facial appearance models
Robust parameterized component analysis: Theory and applications to 2D facial appearance models

De la Torre, F., Black, M. J.

Computer Vision and Image Understanding, 91(1-2):53-71, July 2003 (article)

Abstract
Principal component analysis (PCA) has been successfully applied to construct linear models of shape, graylevel, and motion in images. In particular, PCA has been widely used to model the variation in the appearance of people's faces. We extend previous work on facial modeling for tracking faces in video sequences as they undergo significant changes due to facial expressions. Here we consider person-specific facial appearance models (PSFAM), which use modular PCA to model complex intra-person appearance changes. Such models require aligned visual training data; in previous work, this has involved a time consuming and error-prone hand alignment and cropping process. Instead, the main contribution of this paper is to introduce parameterized component analysis to learn a subspace that is invariant to affine (or higher order) geometric transformations. The automatic learning of a PSFAM given a training image sequence is posed as a continuous optimization problem and is solved with a mixture of stochastic and deterministic techniques achieving sub-pixel accuracy. We illustrate the use of the 2D PSFAM model with preliminary experiments relevant to applications including video-conferencing and avatar animation.

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pdf [BibTex]

pdf [BibTex]


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Computational approaches to motor learning by imitation

Schaal, S., Ijspeert, A., Billard, A.

Philosophical Transaction of the Royal Society of London: Series B, Biological Sciences, 358(1431):537-547, 2003, clmc (article)

Abstract
Movement imitation requires a complex set of mechanisms that map an observed movement of a teacher onto one's own movement apparatus. Relevant problems include movement recognition, pose estimation, pose tracking, body correspondence, coordinate transformation from external to egocentric space, matching of observed against previously learned movement, resolution of redundant degrees-of-freedom that are unconstrained by the observation, suitable movement representations for imitation, modularization of motor control, etc. All of these topics by themselves are active research problems in computational and neurobiological sciences, such that their combination into a complete imitation system remains a daunting undertaking - indeed, one could argue that we need to understand the complete perception-action loop. As a strategy to untangle the complexity of imitation, this paper will examine imitation purely from a computational point of view, i.e. we will review statistical and mathematical approaches that have been suggested for tackling parts of the imitation problem, and discuss their merits, disadvantages and underlying principles. Given the focus on action recognition of other contributions in this special issue, this paper will primarily emphasize the motor side of imitation, assuming that a perceptual system has already identified important features of a demonstrated movement and created their corresponding spatial information. Based on the formalization of motor control in terms of control policies and their associated performance criteria, useful taxonomies of imitation learning can be generated that clarify different approaches and future research directions.

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link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]

1994


A computational and evolutionary perspective on the role of representation in computer vision
A computational and evolutionary perspective on the role of representation in computer vision

Tarr, M. J., Black, M. J.

CVGIP: Image Understanding, 60(1):65-73, July 1994 (article)

Abstract
Recently, the assumed goal of computer vision, reconstructing a representation of the scene, has been critcized as unproductive and impractical. Critics have suggested that the reconstructive approach should be supplanted by a new purposive approach that emphasizes functionality and task driven perception at the cost of general vision. In response to these arguments, we claim that the recovery paradigm central to the reconstructive approach is viable, and, moreover, provides a promising framework for understanding and modeling general purpose vision in humans and machines. An examination of the goals of vision from an evolutionary perspective and a case study involving the recovery of optic flow support this hypothesis. In particular, while we acknowledge that there are instances where the purposive approach may be appropriate, these are insufficient for implementing the wide range of visual tasks exhibited by humans (the kind of flexible vision system presumed to be an end-goal of artificial intelligence). Furthermore, there are instances, such as recent work on the estimation of optic flow, where the recovery paradigm may yield useful and robust results. Thus, contrary to certain claims, the purposive approach does not obviate the need for recovery and reconstruction of flexible representations of the world.

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pdf [BibTex]

1994


pdf [BibTex]


Reconstruction and purpose
Reconstruction and purpose

Tarr, M. J., Black, M. J.

CVGIP: Image Understanding, 60(1):113-118, July 1994 (article)

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pdf [BibTex]

pdf [BibTex]


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Robot juggling: An implementation of memory-based learning

Schaal, S., Atkeson, C. G.

Control Systems Magazine, 14(1):57-71, 1994, clmc (article)

Abstract
This paper explores issues involved in implementing robot learning for a challenging dynamic task, using a case study from robot juggling. We use a memory-based local modeling approach (locally weighted regression) to represent a learned model of the task to be performed. Statistical tests are given to examine the uncertainty of a model, to optimize its prediction quality, and to deal with noisy and corrupted data. We develop an exploration algorithm that explicitly deals with prediction accuracy requirements during exploration. Using all these ingredients in combination with methods from optimal control, our robot achieves fast real-time learning of the task within 40 to 100 trials.

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link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]