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2018


Thumb xl huggiebot
Softness, Warmth, and Responsiveness Improve Robot Hugs

Block, A. E., Kuchenbecker, K. J.

International Journal of Social Robotics, 11(1):49-64, October 2018 (article)

Abstract
Hugs are one of the first forms of contact and affection humans experience. Due to their prevalence and health benefits, roboticists are naturally interested in having robots one day hug humans as seamlessly as humans hug other humans. This project's purpose is to evaluate human responses to different robot physical characteristics and hugging behaviors. Specifically, we aim to test the hypothesis that a soft, warm, touch-sensitive PR2 humanoid robot can provide humans with satisfying hugs by matching both their hugging pressure and their hugging duration. Thirty relatively young and rather technical participants experienced and evaluated twelve hugs with the robot, divided into three randomly ordered trials that focused on physical robot characteristics (single factor, three levels) and nine randomly ordered trials with low, medium, and high hug pressure and duration (two factors, three levels each). Analysis of the results showed that people significantly prefer soft, warm hugs over hard, cold hugs. Furthermore, users prefer hugs that physically squeeze them and release immediately when they are ready for the hug to end. Taking part in the experiment also significantly increased positive user opinions of robots and robot use.

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link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]

2018


link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]


Thumb xl grasping
Leveraging Contact Forces for Learning to Grasp

Merzic, H., Bogdanovic, M., Kappler, D., Righetti, L., Bohg, J.

arXiv, September 2018, Submitted to ICRA'19 (article) Submitted

Abstract
Grasping objects under uncertainty remains an open problem in robotics research. This uncertainty is often due to noisy or partial observations of the object pose or shape. To enable a robot to react appropriately to unforeseen effects, it is crucial that it continuously takes sensor feedback into account. While visual feedback is important for inferring a grasp pose and reaching for an object, contact feedback offers valuable information during manipulation and grasp acquisition. In this paper, we use model-free deep reinforcement learning to synthesize control policies that exploit contact sensing to generate robust grasping under uncertainty. We demonstrate our approach on a multi-fingered hand that exhibits more complex finger coordination than the commonly used two- fingered grippers. We conduct extensive experiments in order to assess the performance of the learned policies, with and without contact sensing. While it is possible to learn grasping policies without contact sensing, our results suggest that contact feedback allows for a significant improvement of grasping robustness under object pose uncertainty and for objects with a complex shape.

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video arXiv [BibTex]

video arXiv [BibTex]


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A Robust Soft Lens for Tunable Camera Application Using Dielectric Elastomer Actuators

Nam, S., Yun, S., Yoon, J. W., Park, S., Park, S. K., Mun, S., Park, B., Kyung, K.

Soft robotics, Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., August 2018 (article)

Abstract
Developing tunable lenses, an expansion-based mechanism for dynamic focus adjustment can provide a larger focal length tuning range than a contraction-based mechanism. Here, we develop an expansion-tunable soft lens module using a disk-type dielectric elastomer actuator (DEA) that creates axially symmetric pulling forces on a soft lens. Adopted from a biological accommodation mechanism in human eyes, a soft lens at the annular center of a disk-type DEA pair is efficiently stretched to change the focal length in a highly reliable manner. A soft lens with a diameter of 3mm shows a 65.7% change in the focal length (14.3–23.7mm) under a dynamic driving voltage signal control. We confirm a quadratic relation between lens expansion and focal length that leads to large focal length tunability obtainable in the proposed approach. The fabricated tunable lens module can be used for soft, lightweight, and compact vision components in robots, drones, vehicles, and so on.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Task-Driven PCA-Based Design Optimization of Wearable Cutaneous Devices

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

IEEE Robotics and Automation Letters, 3(3):2214-2221, July 2018, Presented at ICRA 2018 (article)

Abstract
Small size and low weight are critical requirements for wearable and portable haptic interfaces, making it essential to work toward the optimization of their sensing and actuation systems. This paper presents a new approach for task-driven design optimization of fingertip cutaneous haptic devices. Given one (or more) target tactile interactions to render and a cutaneous device to optimize, we evaluate the minimum number and best configuration of the device’s actuators to minimize the estimated haptic rendering error. First, we calculate the motion needed for the original cutaneous device to render the considered target interaction. Then, we run a principal component analysis (PCA) to search for possible couplings between the original motor inputs, looking also for the best way to reconfigure them. If some couplings exist, we can re-design our cutaneous device with fewer motors, optimally configured to render the target tactile sensation. The proposed approach is quite general and can be applied to different tactile sensors and cutaneous devices. We validated it using a BioTac tactile sensor and custom plate-based 3-DoF and 6-DoF fingertip cutaneous devices, considering six representative target tactile interactions. The algorithm was able to find couplings between each device’s motor inputs, proving it to be a viable approach to optimize the design of wearable and portable cutaneous devices. Finally, we present two examples of optimized designs for our 3-DoF fingertip cutaneous device.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Robust Physics-based Motion Retargeting with Realistic Body Shapes

Borno, M. A., Righetti, L., Black, M. J., Delp, S. L., Fiume, E., Romero, J.

Computer Graphics Forum, 37, pages: 6:1-12, July 2018 (article)

Abstract
Motion capture is often retargeted to new, and sometimes drastically different, characters. When the characters take on realistic human shapes, however, we become more sensitive to the motion looking right. This means adapting it to be consistent with the physical constraints imposed by different body shapes. We show how to take realistic 3D human shapes, approximate them using a simplified representation, and animate them so that they move realistically using physically-based retargeting. We develop a novel spacetime optimization approach that learns and robustly adapts physical controllers to new bodies and constraints. The approach automatically adapts the motion of the mocap subject to the body shape of a target subject. This motion respects the physical properties of the new body and every body shape results in a different and appropriate movement. This makes it easy to create a varied set of motions from a single mocap sequence by simply varying the characters. In an interactive environment, successful retargeting requires adapting the motion to unexpected external forces. We achieve robustness to such forces using a novel LQR-tree formulation. We show that the simulated motions look appropriate to each character’s anatomy and their actions are robust to perturbations.

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pdf video Project Page Project Page [BibTex]

pdf video Project Page Project Page [BibTex]


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Teaching a Robot Bimanual Hand-Clapping Games via Wrist-Worn IMUs

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

Frontiers in Robotics and Artificial Intelligence, 5(85), July 2018 (article)

Abstract
Colleagues often shake hands in greeting, friends connect through high fives, and children around the world rejoice in hand-clapping games. As robots become more common in everyday human life, they will have the opportunity to join in these social-physical interactions, but few current robots are intended to touch people in friendly ways. This article describes how we enabled a Baxter Research Robot to both teach and learn bimanual hand-clapping games with a human partner. Our system monitors the user's motions via a pair of inertial measurement units (IMUs) worn on the wrists. We recorded a labeled library of 10 common hand-clapping movements from 10 participants; this dataset was used to train an SVM classifier to automatically identify hand-clapping motions from previously unseen participants with a test-set classification accuracy of 97.0%. Baxter uses these sensors and this classifier to quickly identify the motions of its human gameplay partner, so that it can join in hand-clapping games. This system was evaluated by N = 24 naïve users in an experiment that involved learning sequences of eight motions from Baxter, teaching Baxter eight-motion game patterns, and completing a free interaction period. The motion classification accuracy in this less structured setting was 85.9%, primarily due to unexpected variations in motion timing. The quantitative task performance results and qualitative participant survey responses showed that learning games from Baxter was significantly easier than teaching games to Baxter, and that the teaching role caused users to consider more teamwork aspects of the gameplay. Over the course of the experiment, people felt more understood by Baxter and became more willing to follow the example of the robot. Users felt uniformly safe interacting with Baxter, and they expressed positive opinions of Baxter and reported fun interacting with the robot. Taken together, the results indicate that this robot achieved credible social-physical interaction with humans and that its ability to both lead and follow systematically changed the human partner's experience.

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


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Automatically Rating Trainee Skill at a Pediatric Laparoscopic Suturing Task

Oquendo, Y. A., Riddle, E. W., Hiller, D., Blinman, T. A., Kuchenbecker, K. J.

Surgical Endoscopy, 32(4):1840-1857, April 2018 (article)

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


Thumb xl toh gagraphic 2805901
Electro-Active Polymer Based Soft Tactile Interface for Wearable Devices

Mun, S., Yun, S., Nam, S., Park, S. K., Park, S., Park, B. J., Lim, J. M., Kyung, K. U.

IEEE Transactions on Haptics, 11(1):15-21, Febuary 2018 (article)

Abstract
This paper reports soft actuator based tactile stimulation interfaces applicable to wearable devices. The soft actuator is prepared by multi-layered accumulation of thin electro-active polymer (EAP) films. The multi-layered actuator is designed to produce electrically-induced convex protrusive deformation, which can be dynamically programmable for wide range of tactile stimuli. The maximum vertical protrusion is 650 μm and the output force is up to 255 mN. The soft actuators are embedded into the fingertip part of a glove and front part of a forearm band, respectively. We have conducted two kinds of experiments with 15 subjects. Perceived magnitudes of actuator's protrusion and vibrotactile intensity were measured with frequency of 1 Hz and 191 Hz, respectively. Analysis of the user tests shows participants perceive variation of protrusion height at the finger pad and modulation of vibration intensity through the proposed soft actuator based tactile interface.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Robotic Motion Learning Framework to Promote Social Engagement

Burns, R., Jeon, M., Park, C. H.

Applied Sciences, 8(2):241, Febuary 2018, Special Issue "Social Robotics" (article)

Abstract
Imitation is a powerful component of communication between people, and it poses an important implication in improving the quality of interaction in the field of human–robot interaction (HRI). This paper discusses a novel framework designed to improve human–robot interaction through robotic imitation of a participant’s gestures. In our experiment, a humanoid robotic agent socializes with and plays games with a participant. For the experimental group, the robot additionally imitates one of the participant’s novel gestures during a play session. We hypothesize that the robot’s use of imitation will increase the participant’s openness towards engaging with the robot. Experimental results from a user study of 12 subjects show that post-imitation, experimental subjects displayed a more positive emotional state, had higher instances of mood contagion towards the robot, and interpreted the robot to have a higher level of autonomy than their control group counterparts did. These results point to an increased participant interest in engagement fueled by personalized imitation during interaction.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Immersive Low-Cost Virtual Reality Treatment for Phantom Limb Pain: Evidence from Two Cases

Ambron, E., Miller, A., Kuchenbecker, K. J., Buxbaum, L. J., Coslett, H. B.

Frontiers in Neurology, 9(67):1-7, 2018 (article)

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DOI Project Page [BibTex]

DOI Project Page [BibTex]


Thumb xl screen shot 2018 05 04 at 11.47.54
Tactile Masking by Electrovibration

Vardar, Y., Güçlü, B., Basdogan, C.

IEEE Transactions on Haptics, 2018 (article)

Abstract
Future touch screen applications will include multiple tactile stimuli displayed simultaneously or consecutively to single finger or multiple fingers. These applications should be designed by considering human tactile masking mechanism since it is known that presenting one stimulus may interfere with the perception of the other. In this study, we investigate the effect of masking on tactile perception of electrovibration displayed on touch screens. Through conducting psychophysical experiments with nine subjects, we measured the masked thresholds of sinusoidal electrovibration bursts (125 Hz) under two masking conditions: simultaneous and pedestal. The masking stimuli were noise bursts, applied at five different sensation levels varying from 2 to 22 dB SL, also presented by electrovibration. For each subject, the detection thresholds were elevated as linear functions of masking levels for both masking types. We observed that the masking effectiveness was larger with pedestal masking than simultaneous masking. Moreover, in order to investigate the effect of tactile masking on our haptic perception of edge sharpness, we compared the perceived sharpness of edges separating two textured regions displayed with and without various masking stimuli. Our results suggest that sharpness perception depends on the local contrast between background and foreground stimuli, which varies as a function of masking amplitude and activation levels of frequency-dependent psychophysical channels.

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vardar_toh2018 DOI [BibTex]

vardar_toh2018 DOI [BibTex]


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Learning a Structured Neural Network Policy for a Hopping Task.

Viereck, J., Kozolinsky, J., Herzog, A., Righetti, L.

IEEE Robotics and Automation Letters, 3(4):4092-4099, October 2018 (article)

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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The Impact of Robotics and Automation on Working Conditions and Employment [Ethical, Legal, and Societal Issues]

Pham, Q., Madhavan, R., Righetti, L., Smart, W., Chatila, R.

IEEE Robotics and Automation Magazine, 25(2):126-128, June 2018 (article)

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Lethal Autonomous Weapon Systems [Ethical, Legal, and Societal Issues]

Righetti, L., Pham, Q., Madhavan, R., Chatila, R.

IEEE Robotics \& Automation Magazine, 25(1):123-126, March 2018 (article)

Abstract
The topic of lethal autonomous weapon systems has recently caught public attention due to extensive news coverage and apocalyptic declarations from famous scientists and technologists. Weapon systems with increasing autonomy are being developed due to fast improvements in machine learning, robotics, and automation in general. These developments raise important and complex security, legal, ethical, societal, and technological issues that are being extensively discussed by scholars, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), militaries, governments, and the international community. Unfortunately, the robotics community has stayed out of the debate, for the most part, despite being the main provider of autonomous technologies. In this column, we review the main issues raised by the increase of autonomy in weapon systems and the state of the international discussion. We argue that the robotics community has a fundamental role to play in these discussions, for its own sake, to provide the often-missing technical expertise necessary to frame the debate and promote technological development in line with the IEEE Robotics and Automation Society (RAS) objective of advancing technology to benefit humanity.

mg

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

2007


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

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

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

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

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

2007


link (url) DOI [BibTex]