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2019


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Learning to Explore in Motion and Interaction Tasks

Bogdanovic, M., Righetti, L.

IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS), IEEE, November 2019 (conference)

Abstract
Model free reinforcement learning suffers from the high sampling complexity inherent to robotic manipulation or locomotion tasks. Most successful approaches typically use random sampling strategies which leads to slow policy convergence. In this paper we present a novel approach for efficient exploration that leverages previously learned tasks. We exploit the fact that the same system is used across many tasks and build a generative model for exploration based on data from previously solved tasks to improve learning new tasks. The approach also enables continuous learning of improved exploration strategies as novel tasks are learned. Extensive simulations on a robot manipulator performing a variety of motion and contact interaction tasks demonstrate the capabilities of the approach. In particular, our experiments suggest that the exploration strategy can more than double learning speed, especially when rewards are sparse. Moreover, the algorithm is robust to task variations and parameter tuning, making it beneficial for complex robotic problems.

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arXiv [BibTex]

2019


arXiv [BibTex]


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Learning Variable Impedance Control for Contact Sensitive Tasks

Bogdanovic, M., Khadiv, M., Righetti, L.

arXiv preprint, arXiv:1907.07500, July 2019 (article)

Abstract
Reinforcement learning algorithms have shown great success in solving different problems ranging from playing video games to robotics. However, they struggle to solve delicate robotic problems, especially those involving contact interactions. Though in principle a policy outputting joint torques should be able to learn these tasks, in practice we see that they have difficulty to robustly solve the problem without any structure in the action space. In this paper, we investigate how the choice of action space can give robust performance in presence of contact uncertainties. We propose to learn a policy that outputs impedance and desired position in joint space as a function of system states without imposing any other structure to the problem. We compare the performance of this approach to torque and position control policies under different contact uncertainties. Extensive simulation results on two different systems, a hopper (floating-base) with intermittent contacts and a manipulator (fixed-base) wiping a table, show that our proposed approach outperforms policies outputting torque or position in terms of both learning rate and robustness to environment uncertainty.

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[BibTex]


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Objective and Subjective Assessment of Algorithms for Reducing Three-Axis Vibrations to One-Axis Vibrations

Park, G., Kuchenbecker, K. J.

In Proceedings of the IEEE World Haptics Conference, pages: 467-472, July 2019 (inproceedings)

Abstract
A typical approach to creating realistic vibrotactile feedback is reducing 3D vibrations recorded by an accelerometer to 1D signals that can be played back on a haptic actuator, but some of the information is often lost in this dimensional reduction process. This paper describes seven representative algorithms and proposes four metrics based on the spectral match, the temporal match, and the average value and the variability of them across 3D rotations. These four performance metrics were applied to four texture recordings, and the method utilizing the discrete fourier transform (DFT) was found to be the best regardless of the sensing axis. We also recruited 16 participants to assess the perceptual similarity achieved by each algorithm in real time. We found the four metrics correlated well with the subjectively rated similarities for the six dimensional reduction algorithms, with the exception of taking the 3D vector magnitude, which was perceived to be good despite its low spectral and temporal match metrics.

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


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Fingertip Interaction Metrics Correlate with Visual and Haptic Perception of Real Surfaces

Vardar, Y., Wallraven, C., Kuchenbecker, K. J.

In Proceedings of the IEEE World Haptics Conference (WHC), pages: 395-400, Tokyo, Japan, July 2019 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Both vision and touch contribute to the perception of real surfaces. Although there have been many studies on the individual contributions of each sense, it is still unclear how each modality’s information is processed and integrated. To fill this gap, we investigated the similarity of visual and haptic perceptual spaces, as well as how well they each correlate with fingertip interaction metrics. Twenty participants interacted with ten different surfaces from the Penn Haptic Texture Toolkit by either looking at or touching them and judged their similarity in pairs. By analyzing the resulting similarity ratings using multi-dimensional scaling (MDS), we found that surfaces are similarly organized within the three-dimensional perceptual spaces of both modalities. Also, between-participant correlations were significantly higher in the haptic condition. In a separate experiment, we obtained the contact forces and accelerations acting on one finger interacting with each surface in a controlled way. We analyzed the collected fingertip interaction data in both the time and frequency domains. Our results suggest that the three perceptual dimensions for each modality can be represented by roughness/smoothness, hardness/softness, and friction, and that these dimensions can be estimated by surface vibration power, tap spectral centroid, and kinetic friction coefficient, respectively.

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DOI Project Page [BibTex]

DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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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 [BibTex]


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Internal Array Electrodes Improve the Spatial Resolution of Soft Tactile Sensors Based on Electrical Resistance Tomography

Lee, H., Park, K., Kim, J., Kuchenbecker, K. J.

In Proceedings of the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA), pages: 5411-5417, Montreal, Canada, May 2019, Hyosang Lee and Kyungseo Park contributed equally to this publication (inproceedings)

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link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]

link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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Haptipedia: Accelerating Haptic Device Discovery to Support Interaction & Engineering Design

Seifi, H., Fazlollahi, F., Oppermann, M., Sastrillo, J. A., Ip, J., Agrawal, A., Park, G., Kuchenbecker, K. J., MacLean, K. E.

In Proceedings of the ACM SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI), Glasgow, Scotland, May 2019 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Creating haptic experiences often entails inventing, modifying, or selecting specialized hardware. However, experience designers are rarely engineers, and 30 years of haptic inventions are buried in a fragmented literature that describes devices mechanically rather than by potential purpose. We conceived of Haptipedia to unlock this trove of examples: Haptipedia presents a device corpus for exploration through metadata that matter to both device and experience designers. It is a taxonomy of device attributes that go beyond physical description to capture potential utility, applied to a growing database of 105 grounded force-feedback devices, and accessed through a public visualization that links utility to morphology. Haptipedia's design was driven by both systematic review of the haptic device literature and rich input from diverse haptic designers. We describe Haptipedia's reception (including hopes it will redefine device reporting standards) and our plans for its sustainability through community participation.

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Project Page [BibTex]

Project Page [BibTex]


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Improving Haptic Adjective Recognition with Unsupervised Feature Learning

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

In Proceedings of the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA), pages: 3804-3810, Montreal, Canada, May 2019 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Humans can form an impression of how a new object feels simply by touching its surfaces with the densely innervated skin of the fingertips. Many haptics researchers have recently been working to endow robots with similar levels of haptic intelligence, but these efforts almost always employ hand-crafted features, which are brittle, and concrete tasks, such as object recognition. We applied unsupervised feature learning methods, specifically K-SVD and Spatio-Temporal Hierarchical Matching Pursuit (ST-HMP), to rich multi-modal haptic data from a diverse dataset. We then tested the learned features on 19 more abstract binary classification tasks that center on haptic adjectives such as smooth and squishy. The learned features proved superior to traditional hand-crafted features by a large margin, almost doubling the average F1 score across all adjectives. Additionally, particular exploratory procedures (EPs) and sensor channels were found to support perception of certain haptic adjectives, underlining the need for diverse interactions and multi-modal haptic data.

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link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]

link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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Leveraging Contact Forces for Learning to Grasp

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

In Proceedings of the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA) 2019, IEEE, International Conference on Robotics and Automation, May 2019 (inproceedings)

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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How Does It Feel to Clap Hands with a Robot?

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

International Journal of Social Robotics, 2019 (article) Accepted

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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[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Tactile Roughness Perception of Virtual Gratings by Electrovibration

Isleyen, A., Vardar, Y., Basdogan, C.

IEEE Transactions on Haptics, 2019 (article) Accepted

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[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Robust Humanoid Locomotion Using Trajectory Optimization and Sample-Efficient Learning

Yeganegi, M. H., Khadiv, M., Moosavian, S. A. A., Zhu, J., Prete, A. D., Righetti, L.

Proceedings International Conference on Humanoid Robots, IEEE, 2019 IEEE-RAS International Conference on Humanoid Robots, 2019 (conference)

Abstract
Trajectory optimization (TO) is one of the most powerful tools for generating feasible motions for humanoid robots. However, including uncertainties and stochasticity in the TO problem to generate robust motions can easily lead to intractable problems. Furthermore, since the models used in TO have always some level of abstraction, it can be hard to find a realistic set of uncertainties in the model space. In this paper we leverage a sample-efficient learning technique (Bayesian optimization) to robustify TO for humanoid locomotion. The main idea is to use data from full-body simulations to make the TO stage robust by tuning the cost weights. To this end, we split the TO problem into two phases. The first phase solves a convex optimization problem for generating center of mass (CoM) trajectories based on simplified linear dynamics. The second stage employs iterative Linear-Quadratic Gaussian (iLQG) as a whole-body controller to generate full body control inputs. Then we use Bayesian optimization to find the cost weights to use in the first stage that yields robust performance in the simulation/experiment, in the presence of different disturbance/uncertainties. The results show that the proposed approach is able to generate robust motions for different sets of disturbances and uncertainties.

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https://arxiv.org/abs/1907.04616 [BibTex]

https://arxiv.org/abs/1907.04616 [BibTex]

2015


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Kinematic and gait similarities between crawling human infants and other quadruped mammals

Righetti, L., Nylen, A., Rosander, K., Ijspeert, A.

Frontiers in Neurology, 6(17), February 2015 (article)

Abstract
Crawling on hands and knees is an early pattern of human infant locomotion, which offers an interesting way of studying quadrupedalism in one of its simplest form. We investigate how crawling human infants compare to other quadruped mammals, especially primates. We present quantitative data on both the gait and kinematics of seven 10-month-old crawling infants. Body movements were measured with an optoelectronic system giving precise data on 3-dimensional limb movements. Crawling on hands and knees is very similar to the locomotion of non-human primates in terms of the quite protracted arm at touch-down, the coordination between the spine movements in the lateral plane and the limbs, the relatively extended limbs during locomotion and the strong correlation between stance duration and speed of locomotion. However, there are important differences compared to primates, such as the choice of a lateral-sequence walking gait, which is similar to most non-primate mammals and the relatively stiff elbows during stance as opposed to the quite compliant gaits of primates. These finding raise the question of the role of both the mechanical structure of the body and neural control on the determination of these characteristics.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

2015


link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Trajectory generation for multi-contact momentum control

Herzog, A., Rotella, N., Schaal, S., Righetti, L.

In 2015 IEEE-RAS 15th International Conference on Humanoid Robots (Humanoids), pages: 874-880, IEEE, Seoul, South Korea, 2015 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Simplified models of the dynamics such as the linear inverted pendulum model (LIPM) have proven to perform well for biped walking on flat ground. However, for more complex tasks the assumptions of these models can become limiting. For example, the LIPM does not allow for the control of contact forces independently, is limited to co-planar contacts and assumes that the angular momentum is zero. In this paper, we propose to use the full momentum equations of a humanoid robot in a trajectory optimization framework to plan its center of mass, linear and angular momentum trajectories. The model also allows for planning desired contact forces for each end-effector in arbitrary contact locations. We extend our previous results on linear quadratic regulator (LQR) design for momentum control by computing the (linearized) optimal momentum feedback law in a receding horizon fashion. The resulting desired momentum and the associated feedback law are then used in a hierarchical whole body control approach. Simulation experiments show that the approach is computationally fast and is able to generate plans for locomotion on complex terrains while demonstrating good tracking performance for the full humanoid control.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Humanoid Momentum Estimation Using Sensed Contact Wrenches

Rotella, N., Herzog, A., Schaal, S., Righetti, L.

In 2015 IEEE-RAS 15th International Conference on Humanoid Robots (Humanoids), pages: 556-563, IEEE, Seoul, South Korea, 2015 (inproceedings)

Abstract
This work presents approaches for the estimation of quantities important for the control of the momentum of a humanoid robot. In contrast to previous approaches which use simplified models such as the Linear Inverted Pendulum Model, we present estimators based on the momentum dynamics of the robot. By using this simple yet dynamically-consistent model, we avoid the issues of using simplified models for estimation. We develop an estimator for the center of mass and full momentum which can be reformulated to estimate center of mass offsets as well as external wrenches applied to the robot. The observability of these estimators is investigated and their performance is evaluated in comparison to previous approaches.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

2009


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Modelling the interplay of central pattern generation and sensory feedback in the neuromuscular control of running

Daley, M., Righetti, L., Ijspeert, A.

In Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology - Part A: Molecular & Integrative Physiology. Annual Main Meeting for the Society for Experimental Biology, 153, Glasgow, Scotland, 2009 (inproceedings)

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

2009


link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Adaptive Frequency Oscillators and Applications

Righetti, L., Buchli, J., Ijspeert, A.

The Open Cybernetics \& Systemics Journal, 3, pages: 64-69, 2009 (article)

Abstract
In this contribution we present a generic mechanism to transform an oscillator into an adaptive frequency oscillator, which can then dynamically adapt its parameters to learn the frequency of any periodic driving signal. Adaptation is done in a dynamic way: it is part of the dynamical system and not an offline process. This mechanism goes beyond entrainment since it works for any initial frequencies and the learned frequency stays encoded in the system even if the driving signal disappears. Interestingly, this mechanism can easily be applied to a large class of oscillators from harmonic oscillators to relaxation types and strange attractors. Several practical applications of this mechanism are then presented, ranging from adaptive control of compliant robots to frequency analysis of signals and construction of limit cycles of arbitrary shape.

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link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]

2003


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Evolution of Fault-tolerant Self-replicating Structures

Righetti, L., Shokur, S., Capcarre, M.

In Advances in Artificial Life, pages: 278-288, Lecture Notes in Computer Science, Springer Berlin Heidelberg, 2003 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Designed and evolved self-replicating structures in cellular automata have been extensively studied in the past as models of Artificial Life. However, CAs, unlike their biological counterpart, are very brittle: any faulty cell usually leads to the complete destruction of any emerging structures, let alone self-replicating structures. A way to design fault-tolerant structures based on error-correcting-code has been presented recently [1], but it required a cumbersome work to be put into practice. In this paper, we get back to the original inspiration for these works, nature, and propose a way to evolve self-replicating structures, faults here being only an idiosyncracy of the environment.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

2003


link (url) DOI [BibTex]