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2019


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Series Elastic Behavior of Biarticular Muscle-Tendon Structure in a Robotic Leg

Ruppert, F., Badri-Spröwitz, A.

Frontiers in Neurorobotics, 64, pages: 13, 13, August 2019 (article)

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Frontiers YouTube link (url) DOI [BibTex]

2019


Frontiers YouTube link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Beyond Basins of Attraction: Quantifying Robustness of Natural Dynamics

Steve Heim, , Spröwitz, A.

IEEE Transactions on Robotics (T-RO) , 35(4), pages: 939-952, August 2019 (article)

Abstract
Properly designing a system to exhibit favorable natural dynamics can greatly simplify designing or learning the control policy. However, it is still unclear what constitutes favorable natural dynamics and how to quantify its effect. Most studies of simple walking and running models have focused on the basins of attraction of passive limit cycles and the notion of self-stability. We instead emphasize the importance of stepping beyond basins of attraction. In this paper, we show an approach based on viability theory to quantify robust sets in state-action space. These sets are valid for the family of all robust control policies, which allows us to quantify the robustness inherent to the natural dynamics before designing the control policy or specifying a control objective. We illustrate our formulation using spring-mass models, simple low-dimensional models of running systems. We then show an example application by optimizing robustness of a simulated planar monoped, using a gradient-free optimization scheme. Both case studies result in a nonlinear effective stiffness providing more robustness.

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arXiv preprint arXiv:1806.08081 T-RO link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]

arXiv preprint arXiv:1806.08081 T-RO link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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Autonomous Identification and Goal-Directed Invocation of Event-Predictive Behavioral Primitives

Gumbsch, C., Butz, M. V., Martius, G.

IEEE Transactions on Cognitive and Developmental Systems, 2019 (article)

Abstract
Voluntary behavior of humans appears to be composed of small, elementary building blocks or behavioral primitives. While this modular organization seems crucial for the learning of complex motor skills and the flexible adaption of behavior to new circumstances, the problem of learning meaningful, compositional abstractions from sensorimotor experiences remains an open challenge. Here, we introduce a computational learning architecture, termed surprise-based behavioral modularization into event-predictive structures (SUBMODES), that explores behavior and identifies the underlying behavioral units completely from scratch. The SUBMODES architecture bootstraps sensorimotor exploration using a self-organizing neural controller. While exploring the behavioral capabilities of its own body, the system learns modular structures that predict the sensorimotor dynamics and generate the associated behavior. In line with recent theories of event perception, the system uses unexpected prediction error signals, i.e., surprise, to detect transitions between successive behavioral primitives. We show that, when applied to two robotic systems with completely different body kinematics, the system manages to learn a variety of complex behavioral primitives. Moreover, after initial self-exploration the system can use its learned predictive models progressively more effectively for invoking model predictive planning and goal-directed control in different tasks and environments.

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arXiv PDF video link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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Machine Learning for Haptics: Inferring Multi-Contact Stimulation From Sparse Sensor Configuration

Sun, H., Martius, G.

Frontiers in Neurorobotics, 13, pages: 51, 2019 (article)

Abstract
Robust haptic sensation systems are essential for obtaining dexterous robots. Currently, we have solutions for small surface areas such as fingers, but affordable and robust techniques for covering large areas of an arbitrary 3D surface are still missing. Here, we introduce a general machine learning framework to infer multi-contact haptic forces on a 3D robot’s limb surface from internal deformation measured by only a few physical sensors. The general idea of this framework is to predict first the whole surface deformation pattern from the sparsely placed sensors and then to infer number, locations and force magnitudes of unknown contact points. We show how this can be done even if training data can only be obtained for single-contact points using transfer learning at the example of a modified limb of the Poppy robot. With only 10 strain-gauge sensors we obtain a high accuracy also for multiple-contact points. The method can be applied to arbitrarily shaped surfaces and physical sensor types, as long as training data can be obtained.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

2018


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Oncilla robot: a versatile open-source quadruped research robot with compliant pantograph legs

Sproewitz, A., Tuleu, A., Ajallooeian, M., Vespignani, M., Moeckel, R., Eckert, P., D’Haene, M., Degrave, J., Nordmann, A., Schrauwen, B., Steil, J., Ijspeert, A. J.

Frontiers in Robotics and AI, 5(67), June 2018, arXiv: 1803.06259 (article)

Abstract
We present Oncilla robot, a novel mobile, quadruped legged locomotion machine. This large-cat sized, 5.1 robot is one of a kind of a recent, bioinspired legged robot class designed with the capability of model-free locomotion control. Animal legged locomotion in rough terrain is clearly shaped by sensor feedback systems. Results with Oncilla robot show that agile and versatile locomotion is possible without sensory signals to some extend, and tracking becomes robust when feedback control is added (Ajaoolleian 2015). By incorporating mechanical and control blueprints inspired from animals, and by observing the resulting robot locomotion characteristics, we aim to understand the contribution of individual components. Legged robots have a wide mechanical and control design parameter space, and a unique potential as research tools to investigate principles of biomechanics and legged locomotion control. But the hardware and controller design can be a steep initial hurdle for academic research. To facilitate the easy start and development of legged robots, Oncilla-robot's blueprints are available through open-source. [...]

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link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]

2018


link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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Learning 3D Shape Completion under Weak Supervision

Stutz, D., Geiger, A.

Arxiv, May 2018 (article)

Abstract
We address the problem of 3D shape completion from sparse and noisy point clouds, a fundamental problem in computer vision and robotics. Recent approaches are either data-driven or learning-based: Data-driven approaches rely on a shape model whose parameters are optimized to fit the observations; Learning-based approaches, in contrast, avoid the expensive optimization step by learning to directly predict complete shapes from incomplete observations in a fully-supervised setting. However, full supervision is often not available in practice. In this work, we propose a weakly-supervised learning-based approach to 3D shape completion which neither requires slow optimization nor direct supervision. While we also learn a shape prior on synthetic data, we amortize, i.e., learn, maximum likelihood fitting using deep neural networks resulting in efficient shape completion without sacrificing accuracy. On synthetic benchmarks based on ShapeNet and ModelNet as well as on real robotics data from KITTI and Kinect, we demonstrate that the proposed amortized maximum likelihood approach is able to compete with fully supervised baselines and outperforms data-driven approaches, while requiring less supervision and being significantly faster.

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PDF Project Page Project Page [BibTex]


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Nonlinear decoding of a complex movie from the mammalian retina

Botella-Soler, V., Deny, S., Martius, G., Marre, O., Tkačik, G.

PLOS Computational Biology, 14(5):1-27, Public Library of Science, May 2018 (article)

Abstract
Author summary Neurons in the retina transform patterns of incoming light into sequences of neural spikes. We recorded from ∼100 neurons in the rat retina while it was stimulated with a complex movie. Using machine learning regression methods, we fit decoders to reconstruct the movie shown from the retinal output. We demonstrated that retinal code can only be read out with a low error if decoders make use of correlations between successive spikes emitted by individual neurons. These correlations can be used to ignore spontaneous spiking that would, otherwise, cause even the best linear decoders to “hallucinate” nonexistent stimuli. This work represents the first high resolution single-trial full movie reconstruction and suggests a new paradigm for separating spontaneous from stimulus-driven neural activity.

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


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Augmented Reality Meets Computer Vision: Efficient Data Generation for Urban Driving Scenes

Alhaija, H., Mustikovela, S., Mescheder, L., Geiger, A., Rother, C.

International Journal of Computer Vision (IJCV), 2018, 2018 (article)

Abstract
The success of deep learning in computer vision is based on the availability of large annotated datasets. To lower the need for hand labeled images, virtually rendered 3D worlds have recently gained popularity. Unfortunately, creating realistic 3D content is challenging on its own and requires significant human effort. In this work, we propose an alternative paradigm which combines real and synthetic data for learning semantic instance segmentation and object detection models. Exploiting the fact that not all aspects of the scene are equally important for this task, we propose to augment real-world imagery with virtual objects of the target category. Capturing real-world images at large scale is easy and cheap, and directly provides real background appearances without the need for creating complex 3D models of the environment. We present an efficient procedure to augment these images with virtual objects. In contrast to modeling complete 3D environments, our data augmentation approach requires only a few user interactions in combination with 3D models of the target object category. Leveraging our approach, we introduce a novel dataset of augmented urban driving scenes with 360 degree images that are used as environment maps to create realistic lighting and reflections on rendered objects. We analyze the significance of realistic object placement by comparing manual placement by humans to automatic methods based on semantic scene analysis. This allows us to create composite images which exhibit both realistic background appearance as well as a large number of complex object arrangements. Through an extensive set of experiments, we conclude the right set of parameters to produce augmented data which can maximally enhance the performance of instance segmentation models. Further, we demonstrate the utility of the proposed approach on training standard deep models for semantic instance segmentation and object detection of cars in outdoor driving scenarios. We test the models trained on our augmented data on the KITTI 2015 dataset, which we have annotated with pixel-accurate ground truth, and on the Cityscapes dataset. Our experiments demonstrate that the models trained on augmented imagery generalize better than those trained on fully synthetic data or models trained on limited amounts of annotated real data.

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pdf Project Page [BibTex]

pdf Project Page [BibTex]


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Learning 3D Shape Completion under Weak Supervision

Stutz, D., Geiger, A.

International Journal of Computer Vision (IJCV), 2018, 2018 (article)

Abstract
We address the problem of 3D shape completion from sparse and noisy point clouds, a fundamental problem in computer vision and robotics. Recent approaches are either data-driven or learning-based: Data-driven approaches rely on a shape model whose parameters are optimized to fit the observations; Learning-based approaches, in contrast, avoid the expensive optimization step by learning to directly predict complete shapes from incomplete observations in a fully-supervised setting. However, full supervision is often not available in practice. In this work, we propose a weakly-supervised learning-based approach to 3D shape completion which neither requires slow optimization nor direct supervision. While we also learn a shape prior on synthetic data, we amortize, i.e., learn, maximum likelihood fitting using deep neural networks resulting in efficient shape completion without sacrificing accuracy. On synthetic benchmarks based on ShapeNet and ModelNet as well as on real robotics data from KITTI and Kinect, we demonstrate that the proposed amortized maximum likelihood approach is able to compete with a fully supervised baseline and outperforms the data-driven approach of Engelmann et al., while requiring less supervision and being significantly faster.

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pdf Project Page [BibTex]

pdf Project Page [BibTex]


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Object Scene Flow

Menze, M., Heipke, C., Geiger, A.

ISPRS Journal of Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing, 2018 (article)

Abstract
This work investigates the estimation of dense three-dimensional motion fields, commonly referred to as scene flow. While great progress has been made in recent years, large displacements and adverse imaging conditions as observed in natural outdoor environments are still very challenging for current approaches to reconstruction and motion estimation. In this paper, we propose a unified random field model which reasons jointly about 3D scene flow as well as the location, shape and motion of vehicles in the observed scene. We formulate the problem as the task of decomposing the scene into a small number of rigidly moving objects sharing the same motion parameters. Thus, our formulation effectively introduces long-range spatial dependencies which commonly employed local rigidity priors are lacking. Our inference algorithm then estimates the association of image segments and object hypotheses together with their three-dimensional shape and motion. We demonstrate the potential of the proposed approach by introducing a novel challenging scene flow benchmark which allows for a thorough comparison of the proposed scene flow approach with respect to various baseline models. In contrast to previous benchmarks, our evaluation is the first to provide stereo and optical flow ground truth for dynamic real-world urban scenes at large scale. Our experiments reveal that rigid motion segmentation can be utilized as an effective regularizer for the scene flow problem, improving upon existing two-frame scene flow methods. At the same time, our method yields plausible object segmentations without requiring an explicitly trained recognition model for a specific object class.

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Project Page [BibTex]

Project Page [BibTex]

2017


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Spinal joint compliance and actuation in a simulated bounding quadruped robot

Pouya, S., Khodabakhsh, M., Sproewitz, A., Ijspeert, A.

{Autonomous Robots}, pages: 437–452, Kluwer Academic Publishers, Springer, Dordrecht, New York, NY, Febuary 2017 (article)

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link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]

2017


link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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Self-Organized Behavior Generation for Musculoskeletal Robots

Der, R., Martius, G.

Frontiers in Neurorobotics, 11, pages: 8, 2017 (article)

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Computer Vision for Autonomous Vehicles: Problems, Datasets and State-of-the-Art

Janai, J., Güney, F., Behl, A., Geiger, A.

Arxiv, 2017 (article)

Abstract
Recent years have witnessed amazing progress in AI related fields such as computer vision, machine learning and autonomous vehicles. As with any rapidly growing field, however, it becomes increasingly difficult to stay up-to-date or enter the field as a beginner. While several topic specific survey papers have been written, to date no general survey on problems, datasets and methods in computer vision for autonomous vehicles exists. This paper attempts to narrow this gap by providing a state-of-the-art survey on this topic. Our survey includes both the historically most relevant literature as well as the current state-of-the-art on several specific topics, including recognition, reconstruction, motion estimation, tracking, scene understanding and end-to-end learning. Towards this goal, we first provide a taxonomy to classify each approach and then analyze the performance of the state-of-the-art on several challenging benchmarking datasets including KITTI, ISPRS, MOT and Cityscapes. Besides, we discuss open problems and current research challenges. To ease accessibility and accommodate missing references, we will also provide an interactive platform which allows to navigate topics and methods, and provides additional information and project links for each paper.

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pdf Project Page Project Page [BibTex]

2016


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Probabilistic Duality for Parallel Gibbs Sampling without Graph Coloring

Mescheder, L., Nowozin, S., Geiger, A.

Arxiv, 2016 (article)

Abstract
We present a new notion of probabilistic duality for random variables involving mixture distributions. Using this notion, we show how to implement a highly-parallelizable Gibbs sampler for weakly coupled discrete pairwise graphical models with strictly positive factors that requires almost no preprocessing and is easy to implement. Moreover, we show how our method can be combined with blocking to improve mixing. Even though our method leads to inferior mixing times compared to a sequential Gibbs sampler, we argue that our method is still very useful for large dynamic networks, where factors are added and removed on a continuous basis, as it is hard to maintain a graph coloring in this setup. Similarly, our method is useful for parallelizing Gibbs sampling in graphical models that do not allow for graph colorings with a small number of colors such as densely connected graphs.

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pdf [BibTex]


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Map-Based Probabilistic Visual Self-Localization

Brubaker, M. A., Geiger, A., Urtasun, R.

IEEE Trans. on Pattern Analysis and Machine Intelligence (PAMI), 2016 (article)

Abstract
Accurate and efficient self-localization is a critical problem for autonomous systems. This paper describes an affordable solution to vehicle self-localization which uses odometry computed from two video cameras and road maps as the sole inputs. The core of the method is a probabilistic model for which an efficient approximate inference algorithm is derived. The inference algorithm is able to utilize distributed computation in order to meet the real-time requirements of autonomous systems in some instances. Because of the probabilistic nature of the model the method is capable of coping with various sources of uncertainty including noise in the visual odometry and inherent ambiguities in the map (e.g., in a Manhattan world). By exploiting freely available, community developed maps and visual odometry measurements, the proposed method is able to localize a vehicle to 4m on average after 52 seconds of driving on maps which contain more than 2,150km of drivable roads.

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pdf Project Page [BibTex]

pdf Project Page [BibTex]

2015


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Exciting Engineered Passive Dynamics in a Bipedal Robot

Renjewski, D., Spröwitz, A., Peekema, A., Jones, M., Hurst, J.

{IEEE Transactions on Robotics and Automation}, 31(5):1244-1251, IEEE, New York, NY, 2015 (article)

Abstract
A common approach in designing legged robots is to build fully actuated machines and control the machine dynamics entirely in soft- ware, carefully avoiding impacts and expending a lot of energy. However, these machines are outperformed by their human and animal counterparts. Animals achieve their impressive agility, efficiency, and robustness through a close integration of passive dynamics, implemented through mechanical components, and neural control. Robots can benefit from this same integrated approach, but a strong theoretical framework is required to design the passive dynamics of a machine and exploit them for control. For this framework, we use a bipedal spring–mass model, which has been shown to approximate the dynamics of human locomotion. This paper reports the first implementation of spring–mass walking on a bipedal robot. We present the use of template dynamics as a control objective exploiting the engineered passive spring–mass dynamics of the ATRIAS robot. The results highlight the benefits of combining passive dynamics with dynamics-based control and open up a library of spring–mass model-based control strategies for dynamic gait control of robots.

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link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]

2015


link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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Novel plasticity rule can explain the development of sensorimotor intelligence

Der, R., Martius, G.

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 112(45):E6224-E6232, 2015 (article)

Abstract
Grounding autonomous behavior in the nervous system is a fundamental challenge for neuroscience. In particular, self-organized behavioral development provides more questions than answers. Are there special functional units for curiosity, motivation, and creativity? This paper argues that these features can be grounded in synaptic plasticity itself, without requiring any higher-level constructs. We propose differential extrinsic plasticity (DEP) as a new synaptic rule for self-learning systems and apply it to a number of complex robotic systems as a test case. Without specifying any purpose or goal, seemingly purposeful and adaptive rhythmic behavior is developed, displaying a certain level of sensorimotor intelligence. These surprising results require no system-specific modifications of the DEP rule. They rather arise from the underlying mechanism of spontaneous symmetry breaking, which is due to the tight brain body environment coupling. The new synaptic rule is biologically plausible and would be an interesting target for neurobiological investigation. We also argue that this neuronal mechanism may have been a catalyst in natural evolution.

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link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]

link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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Quantifying Emergent Behavior of Autonomous Robots

Martius, G., Olbrich, E.

Entropy, 17(10):7266, 2015 (article)

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

2014


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3D Traffic Scene Understanding from Movable Platforms

Geiger, A., Lauer, M., Wojek, C., Stiller, C., Urtasun, R.

IEEE Transactions on Pattern Analysis and Machine Intelligence (PAMI), 36(5):1012-1025, published, IEEE, Los Alamitos, CA, May 2014 (article)

Abstract
In this paper, we present a novel probabilistic generative model for multi-object traffic scene understanding from movable platforms which reasons jointly about the 3D scene layout as well as the location and orientation of objects in the scene. In particular, the scene topology, geometry and traffic activities are inferred from short video sequences. Inspired by the impressive driving capabilities of humans, our model does not rely on GPS, lidar or map knowledge. Instead, it takes advantage of a diverse set of visual cues in the form of vehicle tracklets, vanishing points, semantic scene labels, scene flow and occupancy grids. For each of these cues we propose likelihood functions that are integrated into a probabilistic generative model. We learn all model parameters from training data using contrastive divergence. Experiments conducted on videos of 113 representative intersections show that our approach successfully infers the correct layout in a variety of very challenging scenarios. To evaluate the importance of each feature cue, experiments using different feature combinations are conducted. Furthermore, we show how by employing context derived from the proposed method we are able to improve over the state-of-the-art in terms of object detection and object orientation estimation in challenging and cluttered urban environments.

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pdf link (url) [BibTex]

2014


pdf link (url) [BibTex]

2013


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Vision meets Robotics: The KITTI Dataset

Geiger, A., Lenz, P., Stiller, C., Urtasun, R.

International Journal of Robotics Research, 32(11):1231 - 1237 , Sage Publishing, September 2013 (article)

Abstract
We present a novel dataset captured from a VW station wagon for use in mobile robotics and autonomous driving research. In total, we recorded 6 hours of traffic scenarios at 10-100 Hz using a variety of sensor modalities such as high-resolution color and grayscale stereo cameras, a Velodyne 3D laser scanner and a high-precision GPS/IMU inertial navigation system. The scenarios are diverse, capturing real-world traffic situations and range from freeways over rural areas to inner-city scenes with many static and dynamic objects. Our data is calibrated, synchronized and timestamped, and we provide the rectified and raw image sequences. Our dataset also contains object labels in the form of 3D tracklets and we provide online benchmarks for stereo, optical flow, object detection and other tasks. This paper describes our recording platform, the data format and the utilities that we provide.

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pdf DOI [BibTex]

2013


pdf DOI [BibTex]


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Information Driven Self-Organization of Complex Robotic Behaviors

Martius, G., Der, R., Ay, N.

PLoS ONE, 8(5):e63400, Public Library of Science, 2013 (article)

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Linear combination of one-step predictive information with an external reward in an episodic policy gradient setting: a critical analysis

Zahedi, K., Martius, G., Ay, N.

Frontiers in Psychology, 4(801), 2013 (article)

Abstract
One of the main challenges in the field of embodied artificial intelligence is the open-ended autonomous learning of complex behaviours. Our approach is to use task-independent, information-driven intrinsic motivation(s) to support task-dependent learning. The work presented here is a preliminary step in which we investigate the predictive information (the mutual information of the past and future of the sensor stream) as an intrinsic drive, ideally supporting any kind of task acquisition. Previous experiments have shown that the predictive information (PI) is a good candidate to support autonomous, open-ended learning of complex behaviours, because a maximisation of the PI corresponds to an exploration of morphology- and environment-dependent behavioural regularities. The idea is that these regularities can then be exploited in order to solve any given task. Three different experiments are presented and their results lead to the conclusion that the linear combination of the one-step PI with an external reward function is not generally recommended in an episodic policy gradient setting. Only for hard tasks a great speed-up can be achieved at the cost of an asymptotic performance lost.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Robustness of guided self-organization against sensorimotor disruptions

Martius, G.

Advances in Complex Systems, 16(02n03):1350001, 2013 (article)

Abstract
Self-organizing processes are crucial for the development of living beings. Practical applications in robots may benefit from the self-organization of behavior, e.g.~to increase fault tolerance and enhance flexibility, provided that external goals can also be achieved. We present results on the guidance of self-organizing control by visual target stimuli and show a remarkable robustness to sensorimotor disruptions. In a proof of concept study an autonomous wheeled robot is learning an object finding and ball-pushing task from scratch within a few minutes in continuous domains. The robustness is demonstrated by the rapid recovery of the performance after severe changes of the sensor configuration.

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]

2012


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Variants of guided self-organization for robot control

Martius, G., Herrmann, J.

Theory in Biosci., 131(3):129-137, Springer Berlin / Heidelberg, 2012 (article)

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

2012


link (url) DOI [BibTex]

2009


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A Sensor-Based Learning Algorithm for the Self-Organization of Robot Behavior

Hesse, F., Martius, G., Der, R., Herrmann, J. M.

Algorithms, 2(1):398-409, 2009 (article)

Abstract
Ideally, sensory information forms the only source of information to a robot. We consider an algorithm for the self-organization of a controller. At short timescales the controller is merely reactive but the parameter dynamics and the acquisition of knowledge by an internal model lead to seemingly purposeful behavior on longer timescales. As a paradigmatic example, we study the simulation of an underactuated snake-like robot. By interacting with the real physical system formed by the robotic hardware and the environment, the controller achieves a sensitive and body-specific actuation of the robot.

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link (url) [BibTex]

2009


link (url) [BibTex]

2006


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Rocking Stamper and Jumping Snake from a Dynamical System Approach to Artificial Life

Der, R., Hesse, F., Martius, G.

Adaptive Behavior, 14(2):105-115, 2006 (article)

Abstract
Dynamical systems offer intriguing possibilities as a substrate for the generation of behavior because of their rich behavioral complexity. However this complexity together with the largely covert relation between the parameters and the behavior of the agent is also the main hindrance in the goal-oriented design of a behavior system. This paper presents a general approach to the self-regulation of dynamical systems so that the design problem is circumvented. We consider the controller (a neural net work) as the mediator for changes in the sensor values over time and define a dynamics for the parameters of the controller by maximizing the dynamical complexity of the sensorimotor loop under the condition that the consequences of the actions taken are still predictable. This very general principle is given a concrete mathematical formulation and is implemented in an extremely robust and versatile algorithm for the parameter dynamics of the controller. We consider two different applications, a mechanical device called the rocking stamper and the ODE simulations of a "snake" with five degrees of freedom. In these and many other examples studied we observed various behavior modes of high dynamical complexity.

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DOI [BibTex]

2006


DOI [BibTex]