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2020


Physical Variables Underlying Tactile Stickiness during Fingerpad Detachment
Physical Variables Underlying Tactile Stickiness during Fingerpad Detachment

Nam, S., Vardar, Y., Gueorguiev, D., Kuchenbecker, K. J.

Frontiers in Neuroscience, 14(235):1-14, April 2020 (article)

Abstract
One may notice a relatively wide range of tactile sensations even when touching the same hard, flat surface in similar ways. Little is known about the reasons for this variability, so we decided to investigate how the perceptual intensity of light stickiness relates to the physical interaction between the skin and the surface. We conducted a psychophysical experiment in which nine participants actively pressed their finger on a flat glass plate with a normal force close to 1.5 N and detached it after a few seconds. A custom-designed apparatus recorded the contact force vector and the finger contact area during each interaction as well as pre- and post-trial finger moisture. After detaching their finger, participants judged the stickiness of the glass using a nine-point scale. We explored how sixteen physical variables derived from the recorded data correlate with each other and with the stickiness judgments of each participant. These analyses indicate that stickiness perception mainly depends on the pre-detachment pressing duration, the time taken for the finger to detach, and the impulse in the normal direction after the normal force changes sign; finger-surface adhesion seems to build with pressing time, causing a larger normal impulse during detachment and thus a more intense stickiness sensation. We additionally found a strong between-subjects correlation between maximum real contact area and peak pull-off force, as well as between finger moisture and impulse.

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link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]


Learning to Predict Perceptual Distributions of Haptic Adjectives
Learning to Predict Perceptual Distributions of Haptic Adjectives

Richardson, B. A., Kuchenbecker, K. J.

Frontiers in Neurorobotics, 13(116):1-16, Febuary 2020 (article)

Abstract
When humans touch an object with their fingertips, they can immediately describe its tactile properties using haptic adjectives, such as hardness and roughness; however, human perception is subjective and noisy, with significant variation across individuals and interactions. Recent research has worked to provide robots with similar haptic intelligence but was focused on identifying binary haptic adjectives, ignoring both attribute intensity and perceptual variability. Combining ordinal haptic adjective labels gathered from human subjects for a set of 60 objects with features automatically extracted from raw multi-modal tactile data collected by a robot repeatedly touching the same objects, we designed a machine-learning method that incorporates partial knowledge of the distribution of object labels into training; then, from a single interaction, it predicts a probability distribution over the set of ordinal labels. In addition to analyzing the collected labels (10 basic haptic adjectives) and demonstrating the quality of our method's predictions, we hold out specific features to determine the influence of individual sensor modalities on the predictive performance for each adjective. Our results demonstrate the feasibility of modeling both the intensity and the variation of haptic perception, two crucial yet previously neglected components of human haptic perception.

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DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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Exercising with Baxter: Preliminary Support for Assistive Social-Physical Human-Robot Interaction

Fitter, N. T., Mohan, M., Kuchenbecker, K. J., Johnson, M. J.

Journal of NeuroEngineering and Rehabilitation, 17(19), Febuary 2020 (article)

Abstract
Background: The worldwide population of older adults will soon exceed the capacity of assisted living facilities. Accordingly, we aim to understand whether appropriately designed robots could help older adults stay active at home. Methods: Building on related literature as well as guidance from experts in game design, rehabilitation, and physical and occupational therapy, we developed eight human-robot exercise games for the Baxter Research Robot, six of which involve physical human-robot contact. After extensive iteration, these games were tested in an exploratory user study including 20 younger adult and 20 older adult users. Results: Only socially and physically interactive games fell in the highest ranges for pleasantness, enjoyment, engagement, cognitive challenge, and energy level. Our games successfully spanned three different physical, cognitive, and temporal challenge levels. User trust and confidence in Baxter increased significantly between pre- and post-study assessments. Older adults experienced higher exercise, energy, and engagement levels than younger adults, and women rated the robot more highly than men on several survey questions. Conclusions: The results indicate that social-physical exercise with a robot is more pleasant, enjoyable, engaging, cognitively challenging, and energetic than similar interactions that lack physical touch. In addition to this main finding, researchers working in similar areas can build on our design practices, our open-source resources, and the age-group and gender differences that we found.

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DOI Project Page [BibTex]

DOI Project Page [BibTex]


Self-supervised motion deblurring
Self-supervised motion deblurring

Liu, P., Janai, J., Pollefeys, M., Sattler, T., Geiger, A.

IEEE Robotics and Automation Letters, 2020 (article)

Abstract
Motion blurry images challenge many computer vision algorithms, e.g., feature detection, motion estimation, or object recognition. Deep convolutional neural networks are state-of-the-art for image deblurring. However, obtaining training data with corresponding sharp and blurry image pairs can be difficult. In this paper, we present a differentiable reblur model for self-supervised motion deblurring, which enables the network to learn from real-world blurry image sequences without relying on sharp images for supervision. Our key insight is that motion cues obtained from consecutive images yield sufficient information to inform the deblurring task. We therefore formulate deblurring as an inverse rendering problem, taking into account the physical image formation process: we first predict two deblurred images from which we estimate the corresponding optical flow. Using these predictions, we re-render the blurred images and minimize the difference with respect to the original blurry inputs. We use both synthetic and real dataset for experimental evaluations. Our experiments demonstrate that self-supervised single image deblurring is really feasible and leads to visually compelling results.

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pdf Project Page Blog [BibTex]

pdf Project Page Blog [BibTex]

2019


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Hierarchical Task-Parameterized Learning from Demonstration for Collaborative Object Movement

Hu, S., Kuchenbecker, K. J.

Applied Bionics and Biomechanics, (9765383), December 2019 (article)

Abstract
Learning from demonstration (LfD) enables a robot to emulate natural human movement instead of merely executing preprogrammed behaviors. This article presents a hierarchical LfD structure of task-parameterized models for object movement tasks, which are ubiquitous in everyday life and could benefit from robotic support. Our approach uses the task-parameterized Gaussian mixture model (TP-GMM) algorithm to encode sets of demonstrations in separate models that each correspond to a different task situation. The robot then maximizes its expected performance in a new situation by either selecting a good existing model or requesting new demonstrations. Compared to a standard implementation that encodes all demonstrations together for all test situations, the proposed approach offers four advantages. First, a simply defined distance function can be used to estimate test performance by calculating the similarity between a test situation and the existing models. Second, the proposed approach can improve generalization, e.g., better satisfying the demonstrated task constraints and speeding up task execution. Third, because the hierarchical structure encodes each demonstrated situation individually, a wider range of task situations can be modeled in the same framework without deteriorating performance. Last, adding or removing demonstrations incurs low computational load, and thus, the robot’s skill library can be built incrementally. We first instantiate the proposed approach in a simulated task to validate these advantages. We then show that the advantages transfer to real hardware for a task where naive participants collaborated with a Willow Garage PR2 robot to move a handheld object. For most tested scenarios, our hierarchical method achieved significantly better task performance and subjective ratings than both a passive model with only gravity compensation and a single TP-GMM encoding all demonstrations.

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DOI [BibTex]


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Low-Hysteresis and Low-Interference Soft Tactile Sensor Using a Conductive Coated Porous Elastomer and a Structure for Interference Reduction

Park, K., Kim, S., Lee, H., Park, I., Kim, J.

Sensors and Actuators A: Physical, 295, pages: 541-550, August 2019 (article)

Abstract
The need for soft whole-body tactile sensors is emerging. Piezoresistive materials are advantageous in terms of making large tactile sensors, but the hysteresis of piezoresistive materials is a major drawback. The hysteresis of a piezoresistive material should be attenuated to make a practical piezoresistive soft tactile sensor. In this paper, we introduce a low-hysteresis and low-interference soft tactile sensor using a conductive coated porous elastomer and a structure to reduce interference (grooves). The developed sensor exhibits low hysteresis because the transduction mechanism of the sensor is dominated by the contact between the conductive coated surface. In a cyclic loading experiment with different loading frequencies, the mechanical and piezoresistive hysteresis values of the sensor are less than 21.7% and 6.8%, respectively. The initial resistance change is found to be within 4% after the first loading cycle. To reduce the interference among the sensing points, we also propose a structure where the grooves are inserted between the adjacent electrodes. This structure is implemented during the molding process, which is adopted to extend the porous tactile sensor to large-scale and facile fabrication. The effects of the structure are investigated with respect to the normalized design parameters ΘD, ΘW, and ΘT in a simulation, and the result is validated for samples with the same design parameters. An indentation experiment also shows that the structure designed for interference reduction effectively attenuates the interference of the sensor array, indicating that the spatial resolution of the sensor array is improved. As a result, the sensor can exhibit low hysteresis and low interference simultaneously. This research can be used for many applications, such as robotic skin, grippers, and wearable devices.

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


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Physical activity in non-ambulatory toddlers with cerebral palsy

M.Orlando, J., Pierce, S., Mohan, M., Skorup, J., Paremski, A., Bochnak, M., Prosser, L. A.

Research in Developmental Disabilities, 90, pages: 51-58, July 2019 (article)

Abstract
Background: Children with cerebral palsy are less likely to be physically active than their peers, however there is limited evidence regarding self-initiated physical activity in toddlers who are not able, or who may never be able, to walk. Aims: The aim of this study was to measure self-initiated physical activity and its relationship to gross motor function and participation in non-ambulatory toddlers with cerebral palsy. Methods and procedures: Participants were between the ages of 1–3 years. Physical activity during independent floor-play at home was recorded using a wearable tri-axial accelerometer worn on the child’s thigh. The Gross Motor Function Measure-66 and the Child Engagement in Daily Life, a parent-reported questionnaire of participation, were administered. Outcomes and results: Data were analyzed from the twenty participants who recorded at least 90 min of floor-play (mean: 229 min), resulting in 4598 total floor-play minutes. The relationship between physical activity and gross motor function was not statistically significant (r = 0.20; p = 0.39), nor were the relationships between physical activity and participation (r = 0.05−0.09; p = 0.71−0.84). Conclusions and implications: The results suggest physical activity during floor-play is not related to gross motor function or participation in non-ambulatory toddlers with cerebral palsy. Clinicians and researchers should independently measure physical activity, gross motor function, and participation.

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


Implementation of a 6-{DOF} Parallel Continuum Manipulator for Delivering Fingertip Tactile Cues
Implementation of a 6-DOF Parallel Continuum Manipulator for Delivering Fingertip Tactile Cues

Young, E. M., Kuchenbecker, K. J.

IEEE Transactions on Haptics, 12(3):295-306, June 2019 (article)

Abstract
Existing fingertip haptic devices can deliver different subsets of tactile cues in a compact package, but we have not yet seen a wearable six-degree-of-freedom (6-DOF) display. This paper presents the Fuppeteer (short for Fingertip Puppeteer), a device that is capable of controlling the position and orientation of a flat platform, such that any combination of normal and shear force can be delivered at any location on any human fingertip. We build on our previous work of designing a parallel continuum manipulator for fingertip haptics by presenting a motorized version in which six flexible Nitinol wires are actuated via independent roller mechanisms and proportional-derivative controllers. We evaluate the settling time and end-effector vibrations observed during system responses to step inputs. After creating a six-dimensional lookup table and adjusting simulated inputs using measured Jacobians, we show that the device can make contact with all parts of the fingertip with a mean error of 1.42 mm. Finally, we present results from a human-subject study. A total of 24 users discerned 9 evenly distributed contact locations with an average accuracy of 80.5%. Translational and rotational shear cues were identified reasonably well near the center of the fingertip and more poorly around the edges.

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DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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How Does It Feel to Clap Hands with a Robot?

Fitter, N. T., Kuchenbecker, K. J.

International Journal of Social Robotics, 12(1):113-127, April 2019 (article)

Abstract
Future robots may need lighthearted physical interaction capabilities to connect with people in meaningful ways. To begin exploring how users perceive playful human–robot hand-to-hand interaction, we conducted a study with 20 participants. Each user played simple hand-clapping games with the Rethink Robotics Baxter Research Robot during a 1-h-long session involving 24 randomly ordered conditions that varied in facial reactivity, physical reactivity, arm stiffness, and clapping tempo. Survey data and experiment recordings demonstrate that this interaction is viable: all users successfully completed the experiment and mentioned enjoying at least one game without prompting. Hand-clapping tempo was highly salient to users, and human-like robot errors were more widely accepted than mechanical errors. Furthermore, perceptions of Baxter varied in the following statistically significant ways: facial reactivity increased the robot’s perceived pleasantness and energeticness; physical reactivity decreased pleasantness, energeticness, and dominance; higher arm stiffness increased safety and decreased dominance; and faster tempo increased energeticness and increased dominance. These findings can motivate and guide roboticists who want to design social–physical human–robot interactions.

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]