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2014


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Wenn es was zu sagen gibt

(Klaus Tschira Award 2014 in Computer Science)

Trimpe, S.

Bild der Wissenschaft, pages: 20-23, November 2014, (popular science article in German) (article)

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PDF Project Page [BibTex]

2014


PDF Project Page [BibTex]


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Robotics and Neuroscience

Floreano, Dario, Ijspeert, Auke Jan, Schaal, S.

Current Biology, 24(18):R910-R920, sep 2014 (article)

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[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Nonmyopic View Planning for Active Object Classification and Pose Estimation

Atanasov, N., Sankaran, B., Le Ny, J., Pappas, G., Daniilidis, K.

IEEE Transactions on Robotics, May 2014, clmc (article)

Abstract
One of the central problems in computer vision is the detection of semantically important objects and the estimation of their pose. Most of the work in object detection has been based on single image processing and its performance is limited by occlusions and ambiguity in appearance and geometry. This paper proposes an active approach to object detection by controlling the point of view of a mobile depth camera. When an initial static detection phase identifies an object of interest, several hypotheses are made about its class and orientation. The sensor then plans a sequence of viewpoints, which balances the amount of energy used to move with the chance of identifying the correct hypothesis. We formulate an active M-ary hypothesis testing problem, which includes sensor mobility, and solve it using a point-based approximate POMDP algorithm. The validity of our approach is verified through simulation and real-world experiments with the PR2 robot. The results suggest a significant improvement over static object detection

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Web pdf link (url) [BibTex]

Web pdf link (url) [BibTex]


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Data-Driven Grasp Synthesis - A Survey

Bohg, J., Morales, A., Asfour, T., Kragic, D.

IEEE Transactions on Robotics, 30, pages: 289 - 309, IEEE, April 2014 (article)

Abstract
We review the work on data-driven grasp synthesis and the methodologies for sampling and ranking candidate grasps. We divide the approaches into three groups based on whether they synthesize grasps for known, familiar or unknown objects. This structure allows us to identify common object representations and perceptual processes that facilitate the employed data-driven grasp synthesis technique. In the case of known objects, we concentrate on the approaches that are based on object recognition and pose estimation. In the case of familiar objects, the techniques use some form of a similarity matching to a set of previously encountered objects. Finally for the approaches dealing with unknown objects, the core part is the extraction of specific features that are indicative of good grasps. Our survey provides an overview of the different methodologies and discusses open problems in the area of robot grasping. We also draw a parallel to the classical approaches that rely on analytic formulations.

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PDF link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]

PDF link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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A Limiting Property of the Matrix Exponential

Trimpe, S., D’Andrea, R.

IEEE Transactions on Automatic Control, 59(4):1105-1110, 2014 (article)

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PDF DOI [BibTex]

PDF DOI [BibTex]


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Event-Based State Estimation With Variance-Based Triggering

Trimpe, S., D’Andrea, R.

IEEE Transactions on Automatic Control, 59(12):3266-3281, 2014 (article)

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PDF Supplementary material DOI Project Page [BibTex]

PDF Supplementary material DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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Perspective: Intelligent Systems: Bits and Bots

Spatz, J. P., Schaal, S.

Nature, (509), 2014, clmc (article)

Abstract
What is intelligence, and can we create it? Animals can perceive, reason, react and learn, but they are just one example of an intelligent system. Intelligent systems could be robots as large as humans, helping with search-and- rescue operations in dangerous places, or smart devices as tiny as a cell, delivering drugs to a target within the body. Even computing systems can be intelligent, by perceiving the world, crawling the web and processing â??big dataâ?? to extract and learn from complex information.Understanding not only how intelligence can be reproduced, but also how to build systems that put these ideas into practice, will be a challenge. Small intelligent systems will require new materials and fabrication methods, as well as com- pact information processors and power sources. And for nano-sized systems, the rules change altogether. The laws of physics operate very differently at tiny scales: for a nanorobot, swimming through water is like struggling through treacle.Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems have begun to solve these problems by developing new computational methods, experiment- ing with unique robotic systems and fabricating tiny, artificial propellers, like bacterial flagella, to propel nanocreations through their environment.

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PDF link (url) [BibTex]

PDF link (url) [BibTex]


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An autonomous manipulation system based on force control and optimization

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

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

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

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Learning of grasp selection based on shape-templates

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

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

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

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

2013


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3-D Object Reconstruction of Symmetric Objects by Fusing Visual and Tactile Sensing

Illonen, J., Bohg, J., Kyrki, V.

The International Journal of Robotics Research, 33(2):321-341, Sage, October 2013 (article)

Abstract
In this work, we propose to reconstruct a complete 3-D model of an unknown object by fusion of visual and tactile information while the object is grasped. Assuming the object is symmetric, a first hypothesis of its complete 3-D shape is generated. A grasp is executed on the object with a robotic manipulator equipped with tactile sensors. Given the detected contacts between the fingers and the object, the initial full object model including the symmetry parameters can be refined. This refined model will then allow the planning of more complex manipulation tasks. The main contribution of this work is an optimal estimation approach for the fusion of visual and tactile data applying the constraint of object symmetry. The fusion is formulated as a state estimation problem and solved with an iterative extended Kalman filter. The approach is validated experimentally using both artificial and real data from two different robotic platforms.

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Web DOI Project Page [BibTex]

2013


Web DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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Optimal control of reaching includes kinematic constraints

Mistry, M., Theodorou, E., Schaal, S., Kawato, M.

Journal of Neurophysiology, 2013, clmc (article)

Abstract
We investigate adaptation under a reaching task with an acceleration-based force field perturbation designed to alter the nominal straight hand trajectory in a potentially benign manner:pushing the hand of course in one direction before subsequently restoring towards the target. In this particular task, an explicit strategy to reduce motor effort requires a distinct deviation from the nominal rectilinear hand trajectory. Rather, our results display a clear directional preference during learning, as subjects adapted perturbed curved trajectories towards their initial baselines. We model this behavior using the framework of stochastic optimal control theory and an objective function that trades-of the discordant requirements of 1) target accuracy, 2) motor effort, and 3) desired trajectory. Our work addresses the underlying objective of a reaching movement, and we suggest that robustness, particularly against internal model uncertainly, is as essential to the reaching task as terminal accuracy and energy effciency.

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PDF [BibTex]

PDF [BibTex]


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Dynamical Movement Primitives: Learning Attractor Models for Motor Behaviors

Ijspeert, A., Nakanishi, J., Pastor, P., Hoffmann, H., Schaal, S.

Neural Computation, (25):328-373, 2013, clmc (article)

Abstract
Nonlinear dynamical systems have been used in many disciplines to model complex behaviors, including biological motor control, robotics, perception, economics, traffic prediction, and neuroscience. While often the unexpected emergent behavior of nonlinear systems is the focus of investigations, it is of equal importance to create goal-directed behavior (e.g., stable locomotion from a system of coupled oscillators under perceptual guidance). Modeling goal-directed behavior with nonlinear systems is, however, rather difficult due to the parameter sensitivity of these systems, their complex phase transitions in response to subtle parameter changes, and the difficulty of analyzing and predicting their long-term behavior; intuition and time-consuming parameter tuning play a major role. This letter presents and reviews dynamical movement primitives, a line of research for modeling attractor behaviors of autonomous nonlinear dynamical systems with the help of statistical learning techniques. The essence of our approach is to start with a simple dynamical system, such as a set of linear differential equations, and transform those into a weakly nonlinear system with prescribed attractor dynamics by meansof a learnable autonomous forcing term. Both point attractors and limit cycle attractors of almost arbitrary complexity can be generated. We explain the design principle of our approach and evaluate its properties in several example applications in motor control and robotics.

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link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Using Torque Redundancy to Optimize Contact Forces in Legged Robots

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

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

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

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link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Optimal distribution of contact forces with inverse-dynamics control

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

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

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

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

2012


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From Dynamic Movement Primitives to Associative Skill Memories

Pastor, P., Kalakrishnan, M., Meier, F., Stulp, F., Buchli, J., Theodorou, E., Schaal, S.

Robotics and Autonomous Systems, 2012 (article)

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Project Page [BibTex]

2012


Project Page [BibTex]


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Model-free reinforcement learning of impedance control in stochastic environments

Stulp, Freek, Buchli, Jonas, Ellmer, Alice, Mistry, Michael, Theodorou, Evangelos A., Schaal, S.

Autonomous Mental Development, IEEE Transactions on, 4(4):330-341, 2012 (article)

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[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Reinforcement Learning with Sequences of Motion Primitives for Robust Manipulation

Stulp, F., Theodorou, E., Schaal, S.

IEEE Transactions on Robotics, 2012 (article)

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[BibTex]

[BibTex]

2001


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Synchronized robot drumming by neural oscillator

Kotosaka, S., Schaal, S.

Journal of the Robotics Society of Japan, 19(1):116-123, 2001, clmc (article)

Abstract
Sensory-motor integration is one of the key issues in robotics. In this paper, we propose an approach to rhythmic arm movement control that is synchronized with an external signal based on exploiting a simple neural oscillator network. Trajectory generation by the neural oscillator is a biologically inspired method that can allow us to generate a smooth and continuous trajectory. The parameter tuning of the oscillators is used to generate a synchronized movement with wide intervals. We adopted the method for the drumming task as an example task. By using this method, the robot can realize synchronized drumming with wide drumming intervals in real time. The paper also shows the experimental results of drumming by a humanoid robot.

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[BibTex]

2001


[BibTex]


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Origins and violations of the 2/3 power law in rhythmic 3D movements

Schaal, S., Sternad, D.

Experimental Brain Research, 136, pages: 60-72, 2001, clmc (article)

Abstract
The 2/3 power law, the nonlinear relationship between tangential velocity and radius of curvature of the endeffector trajectory, has been suggested as a fundamental constraint of the central nervous system in the formation of rhythmic endpoint trajectories. However, studies on the 2/3 power law have largely been confined to planar drawing patterns of relatively small size. With the hypothesis that this strategy overlooks nonlinear effects that are constitutive in movement generation, the present experiments tested the validity of the power law in elliptical patterns which were not confined to a planar surface and which were performed by the unconstrained 7-DOF arm with significant variations in pattern size and workspace orientation. Data were recorded from five human subjects where the seven joint angles and the endpoint trajectories were analyzed. Additionally, an anthropomorphic 7-DOF robot arm served as a "control subject" whose endpoint trajectories were generated on the basis of the human joint angle data, modeled as simple harmonic oscillations. Analyses of the endpoint trajectories demonstrate that the power law is systematically violated with increasing pattern size, in both exponent and the goodness of fit. The origins of these violations can be explained analytically based on smooth rhythmic trajectory formation and the kinematic structure of the human arm. We conclude that in unconstrained rhythmic movements, the power law seems to be a by-product of a movement system that favors smooth trajectories, and that it is unlikely to serve as a primary movement generating principle. Our data rather suggests that subjects employed smooth oscillatory pattern generators in joint space to realize the required movement patterns.

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link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Graph-matching vs. entropy-based methods for object detection
Neural Networks, 14(3):345-354, 2001, clmc (article)

Abstract
Labeled Graph Matching (LGM) has been shown successful in numerous ob-ject vision tasks. This method is the basis for arguably the best face recognition system in the world. We present an algorithm for visual pattern recognition that is an extension of LGM ("LGM+"). We compare the performance of LGM and LGM+ algorithms with a state of the art statistical method based on Mutual Information Maximization (MIM). We present an adaptation of the MIM method for multi-dimensional Gabor wavelet features. The three pattern recognition methods were evaluated on an object detection task, using a set of stimuli on which none of the methods had been tested previously. The results indicate that while the performance of the MIM method operating upon Gabor wavelets is superior to the same method operating on pixels and to LGM, it is surpassed by LGM+. LGM+ offers a significant improvement in performance over LGM without losing LGMâ??s virtues of simplicity, biological plausibility, and a computational cost that is 2-3 orders of magnitude lower than that of the MIM algorithm. 

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link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Biomimetic gaze stabilization based on feedback-error learning with nonparametric regression networks

Shibata, T., Schaal, S.

Neural Networks, 14(2):201-216, 2001, clmc (article)

Abstract
Oculomotor control in a humanoid robot faces similar problems as biological oculomotor systems, i.e. the stabilization of gaze in face of unknown perturbations of the body, selective attention, stereo vision, and dealing with large information processing delays. Given the nonlinearities of the geometry of binocular vision as well as the possible nonlinearities of the oculomotor plant, it is desirable to accomplish accurate control of these behaviors through learning approaches. This paper develops a learning control system for the phylogenetically oldest behaviors of oculomotor control, the stabilization reflexes of gaze. In a step-wise procedure, we demonstrate how control theoretic reasonable choices of control components result in an oculomotor control system that resembles the known functional anatomy of the primate oculomotor system. The core of the learning system is derived from the biologically inspired principle of feedback-error learning combined with a state-of-the-art non-parametric statistical learning network. With this circuitry, we demonstrate that our humanoid robot is able to acquire high performance visual stabilization reflexes after about 40 s of learning despite significant nonlinearities and processing delays in the system.

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link (url) [BibTex]


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Fast learning of biomimetic oculomotor control with nonparametric regression networks (in Japanese)

Shibata, T., Schaal, S.

Journal of the Robotics Society of Japan, 19(4):468-479, 2001, clmc (article)

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[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Bouncing a ball: Tuning into dynamic stability

Sternad, D., Duarte, M., Katsumata, H., Schaal, S.

Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 27(5):1163-1184, 2001, clmc (article)

Abstract
Rhythmically bouncing a ball with a racket was investigated and modeled with a nonlinear map. Model analyses provided a variable defining a dynamically stable solution that obviates computationally expensive corrections. Three experiments evaluated whether dynamic stability is optimized and what perceptual support is necessary for stable behavior. Two hypotheses were tested: (a) Performance is stable if racket acceleration is negative at impact, and (b) variability is lowest at an impact acceleration between -4 and -1 m/s2. In Experiment 1 participants performed the task, eyes open or closed, bouncing a ball confined to a 1-dimensional trajectory. Experiment 2 eliminated constraints on racket and ball trajectory. Experiment 3 excluded visual or haptic information. Movements were performed with negative racket accelerations in the range of highest stability. Performance with eyes closed was more variable, leaving acceleration unaffected. With haptic information, performance was more stable than with visual information alone.

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[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Biomimetic oculomotor control

Shibata, T., Vijayakumar, S., Conradt, J., Schaal, S.

Adaptive Behavior, 9(3/4):189-207, 2001, clmc (article)

Abstract
Oculomotor control in a humanoid robot faces similar problems as biological oculomotor systems, i.e., capturing targets accurately on a very narrow fovea, dealing with large delays in the control system, the stabilization of gaze in face of unknown perturbations of the body, selective attention, and the complexity of stereo vision. In this paper, we suggest control circuits to realize three of the most basic oculomotor behaviors and their integration - the vestibulo-ocular and optokinetic reflex (VOR-OKR) for gaze stabilization, smooth pursuit for tracking moving objects, and saccades for overt visual attention. Each of these behaviors and the mechanism for their integration was derived with inspiration from computational theories as well as behavioral and physiological data in neuroscience. Our implementations on a humanoid robot demonstrate good performance of the oculomotor behaviors, which proves to be a viable strategy to explore novel control mechanisms for humanoid robotics. Conversely, insights gained from our models have been able to directly influence views and provide new directions for computational neuroscience research.

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link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]

1995


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Batting a ball: Dynamics of a rhythmic skill

Sternad, D., Schaal, S., Atkeson, C. G.

In Studies in Perception and Action, pages: 119-122, (Editors: Bardy, B.;Bostma, R.;Guiard, Y.), Erlbaum, Hillsdayle, NJ, 1995, clmc (inbook)

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[BibTex]

1995


[BibTex]


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Memory-based neural networks for robot learning

Atkeson, C. G., Schaal, S.

Neurocomputing, 9, pages: 1-27, 1995, clmc (article)

Abstract
This paper explores a memory-based approach to robot learning, using memory-based neural networks to learn models of the task to be performed. Steinbuch and Taylor presented neural network designs to explicitly store training data and do nearest neighbor lookup in the early 1960s. In this paper their nearest neighbor network is augmented with a local model network, which fits a local model to a set of nearest neighbors. This network design is equivalent to a statistical approach known as locally weighted regression, in which a local model is formed to answer each query, using a weighted regression in which nearby points (similar experiences) are weighted more than distant points (less relevant experiences). We illustrate this approach by describing how it has been used to enable a robot to learn a difficult juggling task. Keywords: memory-based, robot learning, locally weighted regression, nearest neighbor, local models.

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link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]

1994


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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]

1994


link (url) [BibTex]

1991


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Ways to smarter CAD-systems

Ehrlenspiel, K., Schaal, S.

In Proceedings of ICED’91Heurista, pages: 10-16, (Editors: Hubka), Edition, Schriftenreihe WDK 21. Zürich, 1991, clmc (inbook)

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[BibTex]

1991


[BibTex]