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2016


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A New Perspective and Extension of the Gaussian Filter

Wüthrich, M., Trimpe, S., Garcia Cifuentes, C., Kappler, D., Schaal, S.

The International Journal of Robotics Research, 35(14):1731-1749, December 2016 (article)

Abstract
The Gaussian Filter (GF) is one of the most widely used filtering algorithms; instances are the Extended Kalman Filter, the Unscented Kalman Filter and the Divided Difference Filter. The GF represents the belief of the current state by a Gaussian distribution, whose mean is an affine function of the measurement. We show that this representation can be too restrictive to accurately capture the dependences in systems with nonlinear observation models, and we investigate how the GF can be generalized to alleviate this problem. To this end, we view the GF as the solution to a constrained optimization problem. From this new perspective, the GF is seen as a special case of a much broader class of filters, obtained by relaxing the constraint on the form of the approximate posterior. On this basis, we outline some conditions which potential generalizations have to satisfy in order to maintain the computational efficiency of the GF. We propose one concrete generalization which corresponds to the standard GF using a pseudo measurement instead of the actual measurement. Extending an existing GF implementation in this manner is trivial. Nevertheless, we show that this small change can have a major impact on the estimation accuracy.

am ics

PDF DOI Project Page [BibTex]

2016


PDF DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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Predictive and Self Triggering for Event-based State Estimation

Trimpe, S.

In Proceedings of the 55th IEEE Conference on Decision and Control (CDC), pages: 3098-3105, Las Vegas, NV, USA, December 2016 (inproceedings)

am ics

arXiv PDF DOI Project Page [BibTex]

arXiv PDF DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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Using Probabilistic Movement Primitives for Striking Movements

Gomez-Gonzalez, S., Neumann, G., Schölkopf, B., Peters, J.

16th IEEE-RAS International Conference on Humanoid Robots (Humanoids), pages: 502-508, November 2016 (conference)

am ei

link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]

link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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Jointly Learning Trajectory Generation and Hitting Point Prediction in Robot Table Tennis

Huang, Y., Büchler, D., Koc, O., Schölkopf, B., Peters, J.

16th IEEE-RAS International Conference on Humanoid Robots (Humanoids), pages: 650-655, November 2016 (conference)

am ei

final link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]

final link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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The Role of Measurement Uncertainty in Optimal Control for Contact Interactions
Workshop on the Algorithmic Foundations of Robotics, pages: 22, November 2016 (conference)

Abstract
Stochastic Optimal Control (SOC) typically considers noise only in the process model, i.e. unknown disturbances. However, in many robotic applications that involve interaction with the environment, such as locomotion and manipulation, uncertainty also comes from lack of pre- cise knowledge of the world, which is not an actual disturbance. We de- velop a computationally efficient SOC algorithm, based on risk-sensitive control, that takes into account uncertainty in the measurements. We include the dynamics of an observer in such a way that the control law explicitly depends on the current measurement uncertainty. We show that high measurement uncertainty leads to low impedance behaviors, a result in contrast with the effects of process noise variance that creates stiff behaviors. Simulation results on a simple 2D manipulator show that our controller can create better interaction with the environment under uncertain contact locations than traditional SOC approaches.

am

arXiv [BibTex]

arXiv [BibTex]


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Learning Where to Search Using Visual Attention

Kloss, A., Kappler, D., Lensch, H. P. A., Butz, M. V., Schaal, S., Bohg, J.

Proceedings of the IEEE/RSJ Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems, IEEE, IROS, October 2016 (conference)

Abstract
One of the central tasks for a household robot is searching for specific objects. It does not only require localizing the target object but also identifying promising search locations in the scene if the target is not immediately visible. As computation time and hardware resources are usually limited in robotics, it is desirable to avoid expensive visual processing steps that are exhaustively applied over the entire image. The human visual system can quickly select those image locations that have to be processed in detail for a given task. This allows us to cope with huge amounts of information and to efficiently deploy the limited capacities of our visual system. In this paper, we therefore propose to use human fixation data to train a top-down saliency model that predicts relevant image locations when searching for specific objects. We show that the learned model can successfully prune bounding box proposals without rejecting the ground truth object locations. In this aspect, the proposed model outperforms a model that is trained only on the ground truth segmentations of the target object instead of fixation data.

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Project Page [BibTex]

PDF Project Page [BibTex]


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Parameter Learning for Improving Binary Descriptor Matching

Sankaran, B., Ramalingam, S., Taguchi, Y.

In International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS) 2016, IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems, October 2016 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Binary descriptors allow fast detection and matching algorithms in computer vision problems. Though binary descriptors can be computed at almost two orders of magnitude faster than traditional gradient based descriptors, they suffer from poor matching accuracy in challenging conditions. In this paper we propose three improvements for binary descriptors in their computation and matching that enhance their performance in comparison to traditional binary and non-binary descriptors without compromising their speed. This is achieved by learning some weights and threshold parameters that allow customized matching under some variations such as lighting and viewpoint. Our suggested improvements can be easily applied to any binary descriptor. We demonstrate our approach on the ORB (Oriented FAST and Rotated BRIEF) descriptor and compare its performance with the traditional ORB and SIFT descriptors on a wide variety of datasets. In all instances, our enhancements outperform standard ORB and is comparable to SIFT.

am

[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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A New Trajectory Generation Framework in Robotic Table Tennis

Koc, O., Maeda, G., Peters, J.

Proceedings of the IEEE/RSJ Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS), pages: 3750-3756, October 2016 (conference)

am ei

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Superpixel Convolutional Networks using Bilateral Inceptions

Gadde, R., Jampani, V., Kiefel, M., Kappler, D., Gehler, P.

In European Conference on Computer Vision (ECCV), Lecture Notes in Computer Science, Springer, 14th European Conference on Computer Vision, October 2016 (inproceedings)

Abstract
In this paper we propose a CNN architecture for semantic image segmentation. We introduce a new “bilateral inception” module that can be inserted in existing CNN architectures and performs bilateral filtering, at multiple feature-scales, between superpixels in an image. The feature spaces for bilateral filtering and other parameters of the module are learned end-to-end using standard backpropagation techniques. The bilateral inception module addresses two issues that arise with general CNN segmentation architectures. First, this module propagates information between (super) pixels while respecting image edges, thus using the structured information of the problem for improved results. Second, the layer recovers a full resolution segmentation result from the lower resolution solution of a CNN. In the experiments, we modify several existing CNN architectures by inserting our inception modules between the last CNN (1 × 1 convolution) layers. Empirical results on three different datasets show reliable improvements not only in comparison to the baseline networks, but also in comparison to several dense-pixel prediction techniques such as CRFs, while being competitive in time.

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pdf supplementary poster Project Page Project Page [BibTex]

pdf supplementary poster Project Page Project Page [BibTex]


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Barrista - Caffe Well-Served

Lassner, C., Kappler, D., Kiefel, M., Gehler, P.

In ACM Multimedia Open Source Software Competition, ACM OSSC16, October 2016 (inproceedings)

Abstract
The caffe framework is one of the leading deep learning toolboxes in the machine learning and computer vision community. While it offers efficiency and configurability, it falls short of a full interface to Python. With increasingly involved procedures for training deep networks and reaching depths of hundreds of layers, creating configuration files and keeping them consistent becomes an error prone process. We introduce the barrista framework, offering full, pythonic control over caffe. It separates responsibilities and offers code to solve frequently occurring tasks for pre-processing, training and model inspection. It is compatible to all caffe versions since mid 2015 and can import and export .prototxt files. Examples are included, e.g., a deep residual network implemented in only 172 lines (for arbitrary depths), comparing to 2320 lines in the official implementation for the equivalent model.

am ps

pdf link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]

pdf link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]


Thumb xl screen shot 2015 12 04 at 15.11.43
Robust Gaussian Filtering using a Pseudo Measurement

Wüthrich, M., Garcia Cifuentes, C., Trimpe, S., Meier, F., Bohg, J., Issac, J., Schaal, S.

In Proceedings of the American Control Conference (ACC), Boston, MA, USA, July 2016 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Most widely-used state estimation algorithms, such as the Extended Kalman Filter and the Unscented Kalman Filter, belong to the family of Gaussian Filters (GF). Unfortunately, GFs fail if the measurement process is modelled by a fat-tailed distribution. This is a severe limitation, because thin-tailed measurement models, such as the analytically-convenient and therefore widely-used Gaussian distribution, are sensitive to outliers. In this paper, we show that mapping the measurements into a specific feature space enables any existing GF algorithm to work with fat-tailed measurement models. We find a feature function which is optimal under certain conditions. Simulation results show that the proposed method allows for robust filtering in both linear and nonlinear systems with measurements contaminated by fat-tailed noise.

am ics

Web link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]

Web link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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Robot Arm Pose Estimation by Pixel-wise Regression of Joint Angles

Widmaier, F., Kappler, D., Schaal, S., Bohg, J.

In Proceedings of the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA) 2016, IEEE, IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation, May 2016 (inproceedings)

Abstract
To achieve accurate vision-based control with a robotic arm, a good hand-eye coordination is required. However, knowing the current configuration of the arm can be very difficult due to noisy readings from joint encoders or an inaccurate hand-eye calibration. We propose an approach for robot arm pose estimation that uses depth images of the arm as input to directly estimate angular joint positions. This is a frame-by-frame method which does not rely on good initialisation of the solution from the previous frames or knowledge from the joint encoders. For estimation, we employ a random regression forest which is trained on synthetically generated data. We compare different training objectives of the forest and also analyse the influence of prior segmentation of the arms on accuracy. We show that this approach improves previous work both in terms of computational complexity and accuracy. Despite being trained on synthetic data only, we demonstrate that the estimation also works on real depth images.

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pdf DOI Project Page [BibTex]

pdf DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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Optimizing for what matters: the Top Grasp Hypothesis

Kappler, D., Schaal, S., Bohg, J.

In Proceedings of the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA) 2016, IEEE, IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation, May 2016 (inproceedings)

Abstract
In this paper, we consider the problem of robotic grasping of objects when only partial and noisy sensor data of the environment is available. We are specifically interested in the problem of reliably selecting the best hypothesis from a whole set. This is commonly the case when trying to grasp an object for which we can only observe a partial point cloud from one viewpoint through noisy sensors. There will be many possible ways to successfully grasp this object, and even more which will fail. We propose a supervised learning method that is trained with a ranking loss. This explicitly encourages that the top-ranked training grasp in a hypothesis set is also positively labeled. We show how we adapt the standard ranking loss to work with data that has binary labels and explain the benefits of this formulation. Additionally, we show how we can efficiently optimize this loss with stochastic gradient descent. In quantitative experiments, we show that we can outperform previous models by a large margin.

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pdf DOI Project Page [BibTex]

pdf DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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Exemplar-based Prediction of Object Properties from Local Shape Similarity

Bohg, J., Kappler, D., Schaal, S.

In Proceedings of the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA) 2016, IEEE, IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation, May 2016 (inproceedings)

Abstract
We propose a novel method that enables a robot to identify a graspable object part of an unknown object given only noisy and partial information that is obtained from an RGB-D camera. Our method combines the benefits of local with the advantages of global methods. It learns a classifier that takes a local shape representation as input and outputs the probability that a grasp applied at this location will be successful. Given a query data point that is classified in this way, we can retrieve all the locally similar training data points and use them to predict latent global object shape. This information may help to further prune positively labeled grasp hypotheses based on, e.g. relation to the predicted average global shape or suitability for a specific task. This prediction can also guide scene exploration to prune object shape hypotheses. To learn the function that maps local shape to grasp stability we use a Random Forest Classifier. We show that our method reaches the same classification performance as the current state-of-the-art on this dataset which uses a Convolutional Neural Network. Additionally, we exploit the natural ability of the Random Forest to cluster similar data. For a positively predicted query data point, we retrieve all the locally similar training data points that are associated with the same leaf nodes of the Random Forest. The main insight from this work is that local object shape that affords a grasp is also a good predictor of global object shape. We empirically support this claim with quantitative experiments. Additionally, we demonstrate the predictive capability of the method on some real data examples.

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pdf DOI Project Page [BibTex]

pdf DOI Project Page [BibTex]


Thumb xl screen shot 2016 01 19 at 14.48.37
Automatic LQR Tuning Based on Gaussian Process Global Optimization

Marco, A., Hennig, P., Bohg, J., Schaal, S., Trimpe, S.

In Proceedings of the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA), pages: 270-277, IEEE, IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation, May 2016 (inproceedings)

Abstract
This paper proposes an automatic controller tuning framework based on linear optimal control combined with Bayesian optimization. With this framework, an initial set of controller gains is automatically improved according to a pre-defined performance objective evaluated from experimental data. The underlying Bayesian optimization algorithm is Entropy Search, which represents the latent objective as a Gaussian process and constructs an explicit belief over the location of the objective minimum. This is used to maximize the information gain from each experimental evaluation. Thus, this framework shall yield improved controllers with fewer evaluations compared to alternative approaches. A seven-degree- of-freedom robot arm balancing an inverted pole is used as the experimental demonstrator. Results of a two- and four- dimensional tuning problems highlight the method’s potential for automatic controller tuning on robotic platforms.

am ics pn

Video PDF DOI Project Page [BibTex]

Video PDF DOI Project Page [BibTex]


Thumb xl screen shot 2016 01 19 at 14.56.20
Depth-based Object Tracking Using a Robust Gaussian Filter

Issac, J., Wüthrich, M., Garcia Cifuentes, C., Bohg, J., Trimpe, S., Schaal, S.

In Proceedings of the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA) 2016, IEEE, IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation, May 2016 (inproceedings)

Abstract
We consider the problem of model-based 3D- tracking of objects given dense depth images as input. Two difficulties preclude the application of a standard Gaussian filter to this problem. First of all, depth sensors are characterized by fat-tailed measurement noise. To address this issue, we show how a recently published robustification method for Gaussian filters can be applied to the problem at hand. Thereby, we avoid using heuristic outlier detection methods that simply reject measurements if they do not match the model. Secondly, the computational cost of the standard Gaussian filter is prohibitive due to the high-dimensional measurement, i.e. the depth image. To address this problem, we propose an approximation to reduce the computational complexity of the filter. In quantitative experiments on real data we show how our method clearly outperforms the standard Gaussian filter. Furthermore, we compare its performance to a particle-filter-based tracking method, and observe comparable computational efficiency and improved accuracy and smoothness of the estimates.

am ics

Video Bayesian Object Tracking Library Bayesian Filtering Framework Object Tracking Dataset link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]

Video Bayesian Object Tracking Library Bayesian Filtering Framework Object Tracking Dataset link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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Communication Rate Analysis for Event-based State Estimation

(Best student paper finalist)

Ebner, S., Trimpe, S.

In Proceedings of the 13th International Workshop on Discrete Event Systems, May 2016 (inproceedings)

am ics

PDF DOI [BibTex]

PDF DOI [BibTex]


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A Lightweight Robotic Arm with Pneumatic Muscles for Robot Learning

Büchler, D., Ott, H., Peters, J.

Proceedings of the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA), pages: 4086-4092, IEEE, IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation, May 2016 (conference)

am ei

ICRA16final DOI Project Page [BibTex]

ICRA16final DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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Drifting Gaussian Processes with Varying Neighborhood Sizes for Online Model Learning

Meier, F., Schaal, S.

In Proceedings of the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA) 2016, IEEE, IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation, May 2016 (inproceedings)

am

[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Probabilistic Inference for Determining Options in Reinforcement Learning

Daniel, C., van Hoof, H., Peters, J., Neumann, G.

Machine Learning, Special Issue, 104(2):337-357, (Editors: Gärtner, T., Nanni, M., Passerini, A. and Robardet, C.), European Conference on Machine Learning im Machine Learning, Journal Track, 2016, Best Student Paper Award of ECML-PKDD 2016 (article)

am ei

DOI Project Page [BibTex]

DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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Ensuring Ethical Behavior from Autonomous Systems

Anderson, M., Anderson, S. L., Berenz, V.

In Artificial Intelligence Applied to Assistive Technologies and Smart Environments, Papers from the 2016 AAAI Workshop, Phoenix, Arizona, USA, February 12, 2016, 2016 (inproceedings)

am

link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


no image
Towards Robust Online Inverse Dynamics Learning

Meier, F., Kappler, D., Ratliff, N., Schaal, S.

Proceedings of the IEEE/RSJ Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems, IEEE, IROS, 2016 (conference) Accepted

am

fmeier_iros_2016 [BibTex]

fmeier_iros_2016 [BibTex]


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Self-Supervised Regrasping using Spatio-Temporal Tactile Features and Reinforcement Learning

Chebotar, Y., Hausman, K., Su, Z., Sukhatme, G., Schaal, S.

In International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS) 2016, IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems, 2016 (inproceedings)

am

pdf video [BibTex]

pdf video [BibTex]


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Modeling Variability of Musculoskeletal Systems with Heteroscedastic Gaussian Processes

Büchler, D., Calandra, R., Peters, J.

Workshop on Neurorobotics, Neural Information Processing Systems (NIPS), 2016 (conference)

am ei

NIPS16Neurorobotics [BibTex]

NIPS16Neurorobotics [BibTex]


no image
Event-based Sampling for Reducing Communication Load in Realtime Human Motion Analysis by Wireless Inertial Sensor Networks

Laidig, D., Trimpe, S., Seel, T.

Current Directions in Biomedical Engineering, 2(1):711-714, De Gruyter, 2016 (article)

am ics

PDF DOI [BibTex]

PDF DOI [BibTex]


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Generalizing Regrasping with Supervised Policy Learning

Chebotar, Y., Hausman, K., Kroemer, O., Sukhatme, G., Schaal, S.

In International Symposium on Experimental Robotics (ISER) 2016, International Symposium on Experimental Robotics, 2016 (inproceedings)

am

pdf video [BibTex]

pdf video [BibTex]


no image
Momentum Control with Hierarchical Inverse Dynamics on a Torque-Controlled Humanoid

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

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

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

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]


no image
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]


no image
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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Bioinspired Motor Control for Articulated Robots [From the Guest Editors]

Vitiello, Nicola, Ijspeert, Auke J, Schaal, S.

IEEE Robotics {\&} Automation Magazine, 23(1):20-21, 2016 (article)

am

[BibTex]

[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]


no image
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]


no image
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]


no image
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]

2009


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Path integral-based stochastic optimal control for rigid body dynamics

Theodorou, E. A., Buchli, J., Schaal, S.

In Adaptive Dynamic Programming and Reinforcement Learning, 2009. ADPRL ’09. IEEE Symposium on, pages: 219-225, 2009, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
Recent advances on path integral stochastic optimal control [1],[2] provide new insights in the optimal control of nonlinear stochastic systems which are linear in the controls, with state independent and time invariant control transition matrix. Under these assumptions, the Hamilton-Jacobi-Bellman (HJB) equation is formulated and linearized with the use of the logarithmic transformation of the optimal value function. The resulting HJB is a linear second order partial differential equation which is solved by an approximation based on the Feynman-Kac formula [3]. In this work we review the theory of path integral control and derive the linearized HJB equation for systems with state dependent control transition matrix. In addition we derive the path integral formulation for the general class of systems with state dimensionality that is higher than the dimensionality of the controls. Furthermore, by means of a modified inverse dynamics controller, we apply path integral stochastic optimal control over the new control space. Simulations illustrate the theoretical results. Future developments and extensions are discussed.

am

link (url) [BibTex]

2009


link (url) [BibTex]


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Learning locomotion over rough terrain using terrain templates

Kalakrishnan, M., Buchli, J., Pastor, P., Schaal, S.

In Intelligent Robots and Systems, 2009. IROS 2009. IEEE/RSJ International Conference on, pages: 167-172, 2009, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
We address the problem of foothold selection in robotic legged locomotion over very rough terrain. The difficulty of the problem we address here is comparable to that of human rock-climbing, where foot/hand-hold selection is one of the most critical aspects. Previous work in this domain typically involves defining a reward function over footholds as a weighted linear combination of terrain features. However, a significant amount of effort needs to be spent in designing these features in order to model more complex decision functions, and hand-tuning their weights is not a trivial task. We propose the use of terrain templates, which are discretized height maps of the terrain under a foothold on different length scales, as an alternative to manually designed features. We describe an algorithm that can simultaneously learn a small set of templates and a foothold ranking function using these templates, from expert-demonstrated footholds. Using the LittleDog quadruped robot, we experimentally show that the use of terrain templates can produce complex ranking functions with higher performance than standard terrain features, and improved generalization to unseen terrain.

am

link (url) Project Page [BibTex]

link (url) Project Page [BibTex]


Valero-Cuevas, F., Hoffmann, H., Kurse, M. U., Kutch, J. J., Theodorou, E. A.

IEEE Reviews in Biomedical Engineering – (All authors have equally contributed), (2):110?135, 2009, clmc (article)

Abstract
Computational models of the neuromuscular system hold the potential to allow us to reach a deeper understanding of neuromuscular function and clinical rehabilitation by complementing experimentation. By serving as a means to distill and explore specific hypotheses, computational models emerge from prior experimental data and motivate future experimental work. Here we review computational tools used to understand neuromuscular function including musculoskeletal modeling, machine learning, control theory, and statistical model analysis. We conclude that these tools, when used in combination, have the potential to further our understanding of neuromuscular function by serving as a rigorous means to test scientific hypotheses in ways that complement and leverage experimental data.

am

link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Compact models of motor primitive variations for predictible reaching and obstacle avoidance

Stulp, F., Oztop, E., Pastor, P., Beetz, M., Schaal, S.

In IEEE-RAS International Conference on Humanoid Robots (Humanoids 2009), Paris, Dec.7-10, 2009, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
over and over again. This regularity allows humans and robots to reuse existing solutions for known recurring tasks. We expect that reusing a set of standard solutions to solve similar tasks will facilitate the design and on-line adaptation of the control systems of robots operating in human environments. In this paper, we derive a set of standard solutions for reaching behavior from human motion data. We also derive stereotypical reaching trajectories for variations of the task, in which obstacles are present. These stereotypical trajectories are then compactly represented with Dynamic Movement Primitives. On the humanoid robot Sarcos CB, this approach leads to reproducible, predictable, and human-like reaching motions.

am

link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Human optimization strategies under reward feedback

Hoffmann, H., Theodorou, E., Schaal, S.

In Abstracts of Neural Control of Movement Conference (NCM 2009), Waikoloa, Hawaii, 2009, 2009, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
Many hypothesis on human movement generation have been cast into an optimization framework, implying that movements are adapted to optimize a single quantity, like, e.g., jerk, end-point variance, or control cost. However, we still do not understand how humans actually learn when given only a cost or reward feedback at the end of a movement. Such a reinforcement learning setting has been extensively explored theoretically in engineering and computer science, but in human movement control, hardly any experiment studied movement learning under reward feedback. We present experiments probing which computational strategies humans use to optimize a movement under a continuous reward function. We present two experimental paradigms. The first paradigm mimics a ball-hitting task. Subjects (n=12) sat in front of a computer screen and moved a stylus on a tablet towards an unknown target. This target was located on a line that the subjects had to cross. During the movement, visual feedback was suppressed. After the movement, a reward was displayed graphically as a colored bar. As reward, we used a Gaussian function of the distance between the target location and the point of line crossing. We chose such a function since in sensorimotor tasks, the cost or loss function that humans seem to represent is close to an inverted Gaussian function (Koerding and Wolpert 2004). The second paradigm mimics pocket billiards. On the same experimental setup as above, the computer screen displayed a pocket (two bars), a white disk, and a green disk. The goal was to hit with the white disk the green disk (as in a billiard collision), such that the green disk moved into the pocket. Subjects (n=8) manipulated with the stylus the white disk to effectively choose start point and movement direction. Reward feedback was implicitly given as hitting or missing the pocket with the green disk. In both paradigms, subjects increased the average reward over trials. The surprising result was that in these experiments, humans seem to prefer a strategy that uses a reward-weighted average over previous movements instead of gradient ascent. The literature on reinforcement learning is dominated by gradient-ascent methods. However, our computer simulations and theoretical analysis revealed that reward-weighted averaging is the more robust choice given the amount of movement variance observed in humans. Apparently, humans choose an optimization strategy that is suitable for their own movement variance.

am

[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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On-line learning and modulation of periodic movements with nonlinear dynamical systems

Gams, A., Ijspeert, A., Schaal, S., Lenarčič, J.

Autonomous Robots, 27(1):3-23, 2009, clmc (article)

Abstract
Abstract  The paper presents a two-layered system for (1) learning and encoding a periodic signal without any knowledge on its frequency and waveform, and (2) modulating the learned periodic trajectory in response to external events. The system is used to learn periodic tasks on a humanoid HOAP-2 robot. The first layer of the system is a dynamical system responsible for extracting the fundamental frequency of the input signal, based on adaptive frequency oscillators. The second layer is a dynamical system responsible for learning of the waveform based on a built-in learning algorithm. By combining the two dynamical systems into one system we can rapidly teach new trajectories to robots without any knowledge of the frequency of the demonstration signal. The system extracts and learns only one period of the demonstration signal. Furthermore, the trajectories are robust to perturbations and can be modulated to cope with a dynamic environment. The system is computationally inexpensive, works on-line for any periodic signal, requires no additional signal processing to determine the frequency of the input signal and can be applied in parallel to multiple dimensions. Additionally, it can adapt to changes in frequency and shape, e.g. to non-stationary signals, such as hand-generated signals and human demonstrations.

am

link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Local dimensionality reduction for non-parametric regression

Hoffman, H., Schaal, S., Vijayakumar, S.

Neural Processing Letters, 2009, clmc (article)

Abstract
Locally-weighted regression is a computationally-efficient technique for non-linear regression. However, for high-dimensional data, this technique becomes numerically brittle and computationally too expensive if many local models need to be maintained simultaneously. Thus, local linear dimensionality reduction combined with locally-weighted regression seems to be a promising solution. In this context, we review linear dimensionality-reduction methods, compare their performance on nonparametric locally-linear regression, and discuss their ability to extend to incremental learning. The considered methods belong to the following three groups: (1) reducing dimensionality only on the input data, (2) modeling the joint input-output data distribution, and (3) optimizing the correlation between projection directions and output data. Group 1 contains principal component regression (PCR); group 2 contains principal component analysis (PCA) in joint input and output space, factor analysis, and probabilistic PCA; and group 3 contains reduced rank regression (RRR) and partial least squares (PLS) regression. Among the tested methods, only group 3 managed to achieve robust performance even for a non-optimal number of components (factors or projection directions). In contrast, group 1 and 2 failed for fewer components since these methods rely on the correct estimate of the true intrinsic dimensionality. In group 3, PLS is the only method for which a computationally-efficient incremental implementation exists. Thus, PLS appears to be ideally suited as a building block for a locally-weighted regressor in which projection directions are incrementally added on the fly.

am

link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Learning and generalization of motor skills by learning from demonstration

Pastor, P., Hoffmann, H., Asfour, T., Schaal, S.

In International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA2009), Kobe, Japan, May 12-19, 2009, 2009, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
We provide a general approach for learning robotic motor skills from human demonstration. To represent an observed movement, a non-linear differential equation is learned such that it reproduces this movement. Based on this representation, we build a library of movements by labeling each recorded movement according to task and context (e.g., grasping, placing, and releasing). Our differential equation is formulated such that generalization can be achieved simply by adapting a start and a goal parameter in the equation to the desired position values of a movement. For object manipulation, we present how our framework extends to the control of gripper orientation and finger position. The feasibility of our approach is demonstrated in simulation as well as on a real robot. The robot learned a pick-and-place operation and a water-serving task and could generalize these tasks to novel situations.

am

link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Compliant quadruped locomotion over rough terrain

Buchli, J., Kalakrishnan, M., Mistry, M., Pastor, P., Schaal, S.

In Intelligent Robots and Systems, 2009. IROS 2009. IEEE/RSJ International Conference on, pages: 814-820, 2009, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
Many critical elements for statically stable walking for legged robots have been known for a long time, including stability criteria based on support polygons, good foothold selection, recovery strategies to name a few. All these criteria have to be accounted for in the planning as well as the control phase. Most legged robots usually employ high gain position control, which means that it is crucially important that the planned reference trajectories are a good match for the actual terrain, and that tracking is accurate. Such an approach leads to conservative controllers, i.e. relatively low speed, ground speed matching, etc. Not surprisingly such controllers are not very robust - they are not suited for the real world use outside of the laboratory where the knowledge of the world is limited and error prone. Thus, to achieve robust robotic locomotion in the archetypical domain of legged systems, namely complex rough terrain, where the size of the obstacles are in the order of leg length, additional elements are required. A possible solution to improve the robustness of legged locomotion is to maximize the compliance of the controller. While compliance is trivially achieved by reduced feedback gains, for terrain requiring precise foot placement (e.g. climbing rocks, walking over pegs or cracks) compliance cannot be introduced at the cost of inferior tracking. Thus, model-based control and - in contrast to passive dynamic walkers - active balance control is required. To achieve these objectives, in this paper we add two crucial elements to legged locomotion, i.e., floating-base inverse dynamics control and predictive force control, and we show that these elements increase robustness in face of unknown and unanticipated perturbations (e.g. obstacles). Furthermore, we introduce a novel line-based COG trajectory planner, which yields a simpler algorithm than traditional polygon based methods and creates the appropriate input to our control system.We show results from bot- h simulation and real world of a robotic dog walking over non-perceived obstacles and rocky terrain. The results prove the effectivity of the inverse dynamics/force controller. The presented results show that we have all elements needed for robust all-terrain locomotion, which should also generalize to other legged systems, e.g., humanoid robots.

am

link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Incorporating Muscle Activation-Contraction dynamics to an optimal control framework for finger movements

Theodorou, Evangelos A., Valero-Cuevas, Francisco J.

Abstracts of Neural Control of Movement Conference (NCM 2009), 2009, clmc (article)

Abstract
Recent experimental and theoretical work [1] investigated the neural control of contact transition between motion and force during tapping with the index finger as a nonlinear optimization problem. Such transitions from motion to well-directed contact force are a fundamental part of dexterous manipulation. There are 3 alternative hypotheses of how this transition could be accomplished by the nervous system as a function of changes in direction and magnitude of the torque vector controlling the finger. These hypotheses are 1) an initial change in direction with a subsequent change in magnitude of the torque vector; 2) an initial change in magnitude with a subsequent directional change of the torque vector; and 3) a simultaneous and proportionally equal change of both direction and magnitude of the torque vector. Experimental work in [2] shows that the nervous system selects the first strategy, and in [1] we suggest that this may in fact be the optimal strategy. In [4] the framework of Iterative Linear Quadratic Optimal Regulator (ILQR) was extended to incorporate motion and force control. However, our prior simulation work assumed direct and instantaneous control of joint torques, which ignores the known delays and filtering properties of skeletal muscle. In this study, we implement an ILQR controller for a more biologically plausible biomechanical model of the index finger than [4], and add activation-contraction dynamics to the system to simulate muscle function. The planar biomechanical model includes the kinematics of the 3 joints while the applied torques are driven by activation?contraction dynamics with biologically plausible time constants [3]. In agreement with our experimental work [2], the task is to, within 500 ms, move the finger from a given resting configuration to target configuration with a desired terminal velocity. ILQR does not only stabilize the finger dynamics according to the objective function, but it also generates smooth joint space trajectories with minimal tuning and without an a-priori initial control policy (which is difficult to find for highly dimensional biomechanical systems). Furthemore, the use of this optimal control framework and the addition of activation-contraction dynamics considers the full nonlinear dynamics of the index finger and produces a sequence of postures which are compatible with experimental motion data [2]. These simulations combined with prior experimental results suggest that optimal control is a strong candidate for the generation of finger movements prior to abrupt motion-to-force transitions. This work is funded in part by grants NIH R01 0505520 and NSF EFRI-0836042 to Dr. Francisco J. Valero- Cuevas 1 Venkadesan M, Valero-Cuevas FJ. 
Effects of neuromuscular lags on controlling contact transitions. 
Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A: 2008. 2 Venkadesan M, Valero-Cuevas FJ. 
Neural Control of Motion-to-Force Transitions with the Fingertip. 
J. Neurosci., Feb 2008; 28: 1366 - 1373; 3 Zajac. Muscle and tendon: properties, models, scaling, and application to biomechanics and motor control. Crit Rev Biomed Eng, 17 4. Weiwei Li., Francisco Valero Cuevas: ?Linear Quadratic Optimal Control of Contact Transition with Fingertip ? ACC 2009

am

PDF [BibTex]

PDF [BibTex]


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Inertial parameter estimation of floating-base humanoid systems using partial force sensing

Mistry, M., Schaal, S., Yamane, K.

In IEEE-RAS International Conference on Humanoid Robots (Humanoids 2009), Paris, Dec.7-10, 2009, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
Recently, several controllers have been proposed for humanoid robots which rely on full-body dynamic models. The estimation of inertial parameters from data is a critical component for obtaining accurate models for control. However, floating base systems, such as humanoid robots, incur added challenges to this task (e.g. contact forces must be measured, contact states can change, etc.) In this work, we outline a theoretical framework for whole body inertial parameter estimation, including the unactuated floating base. Using a least squares minimization approach, conducted within the nullspace of unmeasured degrees of freedom, we are able to use a partial force sensor set for full-body estimation, e.g. using only joint torque sensors, allowing for estimation when contact force measurement is unavailable or unreliable (e.g. due to slipping, rolling contacts, etc.). We also propose how to determine the theoretical minimum force sensor set for full body estimation, and discuss the practical limitations of doing so.

am

link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


no image
On-line learning and modulation of periodic movements with nonlinear dynamical systems

Gams, A., Ijspeert, A., Schaal, S., Lenarčič, J.

Autonomous Robots, 27(1):3-23, 2009, clmc (article)

Abstract
Abstract  The paper presents a two-layered system for (1) learning and encoding a periodic signal without any knowledge on its frequency and waveform, and (2) modulating the learned periodic trajectory in response to external events. The system is used to learn periodic tasks on a humanoid HOAP-2 robot. The first layer of the system is a dynamical system responsible for extracting the fundamental frequency of the input signal, based on adaptive frequency oscillators. The second layer is a dynamical system responsible for learning of the waveform based on a built-in learning algorithm. By combining the two dynamical systems into one system we can rapidly teach new trajectories to robots without any knowledge of the frequency of the demonstration signal. The system extracts and learns only one period of the demonstration signal. Furthermore, the trajectories are robust to perturbations and can be modulated to cope with a dynamic environment. The system is computationally inexpensive, works on-line for any periodic signal, requires no additional signal processing to determine the frequency of the input signal and can be applied in parallel to multiple dimensions. Additionally, it can adapt to changes in frequency and shape, e.g. to non-stationary signals, such as hand-generated signals and human demonstrations.

am

link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]

2007


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Towards Machine Learning of Motor Skills

Peters, J., Schaal, S., Schölkopf, B.

In Proceedings of Autonome Mobile Systeme (AMS), pages: 138-144, (Editors: K Berns and T Luksch), 2007, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
Autonomous robots that can adapt to novel situations has been a long standing vision of robotics, artificial intelligence, and cognitive sciences. 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 or 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 paper, 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 ma jor 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.

am ei

PDF DOI [BibTex]

2007


PDF DOI [BibTex]


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Reinforcement Learning for Optimal Control of Arm Movements

Theodorou, E., Peters, J., Schaal, S.

In Abstracts of the 37st Meeting of the Society of Neuroscience., Neuroscience, 2007, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
Every day motor behavior consists of a plethora of challenging motor skills from discrete movements such as reaching and throwing to rhythmic movements such as walking, drumming and running. How this plethora of motor skills can be learned remains an open question. In particular, is there any unifying computa-tional framework that could model the learning process of this variety of motor behaviors and at the same time be biologically plausible? In this work we aim to give an answer to these questions by providing a computational framework that unifies the learning mechanism of both rhythmic and discrete movements under optimization criteria, i.e., in a non-supervised trial-and-error fashion. Our suggested framework is based on Reinforcement Learning, which is mostly considered as too costly to be a plausible mechanism for learning com-plex limb movement. However, recent work on reinforcement learning with pol-icy gradients combined with parameterized movement primitives allows novel and more efficient algorithms. By using the representational power of such mo-tor primitives we show how rhythmic motor behaviors such as walking, squash-ing and drumming as well as discrete behaviors like reaching and grasping can be learned with biologically plausible algorithms. Using extensive simulations and by using different reward functions we provide results that support the hy-pothesis that Reinforcement Learning could be a viable candidate for motor learning of human motor behavior when other learning methods like supervised learning are not feasible.

am ei

[BibTex]

[BibTex]