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2020


Utilizing Interviews and Thematic Analysis to Uncover Specifications for a Companion Robot
Utilizing Interviews and Thematic Analysis to Uncover Specifications for a Companion Robot

Burns, R. B., Seifi, H., Lee, H., Kuchenbecker, K. J.

Workshop paper (2 pages) presented at the ICSR Workshop on Enriching HRI Research with Qualitative Methods, Virtual, November 2020 (misc)

Abstract
We will share our experiences designing and conducting structured video-conferencing interviews with autism specialists and utilizing thematic analysis to create qualitative requirements and quantitative specifications for a touch-perceiving robot companion tailored for children with autism. We will also explain how we wrote about our qualitative approaches for a journal setting.

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link (url) [BibTex]

2020


link (url) [BibTex]


Label Efficient Visual Abstractions for Autonomous Driving
Label Efficient Visual Abstractions for Autonomous Driving

Behl, A., Chitta, K., Prakash, A., Ohn-Bar, E., Geiger, A.

IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS), IEEE, October 2020 (conference)

Abstract
It is well known that semantic segmentation can be used as an effective intermediate representation for learning driving policies. However, the task of street scene semantic segmentation requires expensive annotations. Furthermore, segmentation algorithms are often trained irrespective of the actual driving task, using auxiliary image-space loss functions which are not guaranteed to maximize driving metrics such as safety or distance traveled per intervention. In this work, we seek to quantify the impact of reducing segmentation annotation costs on learned behavior cloning agents. We analyze several segmentation-based intermediate representations. We use these visual abstractions to systematically study the trade-off between annotation efficiency and driving performance, ie, the types of classes labeled, the number of image samples used to learn the visual abstraction model, and their granularity (eg, object masks vs. 2D bounding boxes). Our analysis uncovers several practical insights into how segmentation-based visual abstractions can be exploited in a more label efficient manner. Surprisingly, we find that state-of-the-art driving performance can be achieved with orders of magnitude reduction in annotation cost. Beyond label efficiency, we find several additional training benefits when leveraging visual abstractions, such as a significant reduction in the variance of the learned policy when compared to state-of-the-art end-to-end driving models.

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pdf slides video Project Page [BibTex]

pdf slides video Project Page [BibTex]


Characterization of a Magnetic Levitation Haptic Interface for Realistic Tool-Based Interactions
Characterization of a Magnetic Levitation Haptic Interface for Realistic Tool-Based Interactions

Lee, H., Tombak, G. I., Park, G., Kuchenbecker, K. J.

Work-in-progress poster presented at EuroHaptics, Leiden, The Netherlands, September 2020 (misc)

Abstract
We introduce our recent study on the characterization of a commercial magnetic levitation haptic interface (MagLev 200, Butterfly Haptics LLC) for realistic high-bandwidth interactions. This device’s haptic rendering scheme can provide strong 6-DoF (force and torque) feedback without friction at all poses in its small workspace. The objective of our study is to enable the device to accurately render realistic multidimensional vibrotactile stimuli measured from a stylus-like tool. Our approach is to characterize the dynamics between the commanded wrench and the resulting translational acceleration across the frequency range of interest. To this end, we first custom-designed and attached a pen-shaped manipulandum (11.5 cm, aluminum) to the top of the MagLev 200’s end-effector for better usability in grasping. An accelerometer (ADXL354, Analog Devices) was rigidly mounted inside the manipulandum. Then, we collected a data set where the input is a 30-second-long force and/or torque signal commanded as a sweep function from 10 to 500 Hz; the output is the corresponding acceleration measurement, which we collected both with and without a user holding the handle. We succeeded at fitting both non-parametric and parametric versions of the transfer functions for both scenarios, with a fitting accuracy of about 95% for the parametric transfer functions. In the future, we plan to find the best method of applying the inverse parametric transfer function to our system. We will then employ that compensation method in a user study to evaluate the realism of different algorithms for reducing the dimensionality of tool-based vibrotactile cues.

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link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


Tactile Textiles: An Assortment of Fabric-Based Tactile Sensors for Contact Force and Contact Location
Tactile Textiles: An Assortment of Fabric-Based Tactile Sensors for Contact Force and Contact Location

Burns, R. B., Thomas, N., Lee, H., Faulkner, R., Kuchenbecker, K. J.

Hands-on demonstration presented at EuroHaptics, Leiden, The Netherlands, September 2020, Rachael Bevill Burns, Neha Thomas, and Hyosang Lee contributed equally to this publication (misc)

Abstract
Fabric-based tactile sensors are promising for the construction of robotic skin due to their soft and flexible nature. Conductive fabric layers can be used to form piezoresistive structures that are sensitive to contact force and/or contact location. This demonstration showcases three diverse fabric-based tactile sensors we have created. The first detects dynamic tactile events anywhere within a region on a robot’s body. The second design measures the precise location at which a single low-force contact is applied. The third sensor uses electrical resistance tomography to output both the force and location of multiple simultaneous contacts applied across a surface.

hi

Project Page Project Page [BibTex]

Project Page Project Page [BibTex]


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Estimating Human Handshape by Feeling the Wrist

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

Work-in-progress poster presented at EuroHaptics, Leiden, The Netherlands, September 2020 (misc)

hi

[BibTex]

[BibTex]


Sweat Softens the Outermost Layer of the Human Finger Pad: Evidence from Simulations and Experiments
Sweat Softens the Outermost Layer of the Human Finger Pad: Evidence from Simulations and Experiments

Nam, S., Kuchenbecker, K. J.

Work-in-progress poster presented at EuroHaptics, Leiden, The Netherlands, September 2020, Award for best poster in 2020 (misc)

hi

Project Page [BibTex]

Project Page [BibTex]


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Intermediate Ridges Amplify Mechanoreceptor Strains in Static and Dynamic Touch

Serhat, G., Kuchenbecker, K. J.

Work-in-progress poster presented at EuroHaptics, Leiden, The Netherlands, September 2020 (misc)

hi

[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Seeing Through Touch: Contact-Location Sensing and Tactile Feedback for Prosthetic Hands

Thomas, N., Kuchenbecker, K. J.

Work-in-progress poster presented at EuroHaptics, Leiden, The Netherlands, September 2020 (misc)

Abstract
Locating and picking up an object without vision is a simple task for able-bodied people, due in part to their rich tactile perception capabilities. The same cannot be said for users of standard myoelectric prostheses, who must rely largely on visual cues to successfully interact with the environment. To enable prosthesis users to locate and grasp objects without looking at them, we propose two changes: adding specialized contact-location sensing to the dorsal and palmar aspects of the prosthetic hand’s fingers, and providing the user with tactile feedback of where an object touches the fingers. To evaluate the potential utility of these changes, we developed a simple, sensitive, fabric-based tactile sensor which provides continuous contact location information via a change in voltage of a voltage divider circuit. This sensor was wrapped around the fingers of a commercial prosthetic hand (Ottobock SensorHand Speed). Using an ATI Nano17 force sensor, we characterized the tactile sensor’s response to normal force at distributed contact locations and obtained an average detection threshold of 0.63 +/- 0.26 N. We also confirmed that the voltage-to-location mapping is linear (R squared = 0.99). Sensor signals were adapted to the stationary vibrotactile funneling illusion to provide haptic feedback of contact location. These preliminary results indicate a promising system that imitates a key aspect of the sensory capabilities of the intact hand. Future work includes testing the system in a modified reach-grasp-and-lift study, in which participants must accomplish the task blindfolded.

hi

[BibTex]

[BibTex]


Do Touch Gestures Affect How Electrovibration Feels?
Do Touch Gestures Affect How Electrovibration Feels?

Vardar, Y., Javot, B., Kuchenbecker, K. J.

Hands-on demonstration presented at EuroHaptics, Leiden, The Netherlands, September 2020 (misc)

Abstract
Our interactions with current electronic devices involve different finger gestures such as tapping, sliding, and pinching. Hence, when electrovibration technology is used for generating tactile feedback on these devices, the interaction of the user will not be limited to only one sliding finger. Does the perception of an electrovibration stimulus depend on the gesture being used? This demonstration lets attendees answer this question for themselves by interacting with an electrostatic display using four representative gestures: one finger stationary, one finger sliding, two fingers sliding, and one finger stationary and another finger sliding.

hi

[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Haptify: a Comprehensive Benchmarking System for Grounded Force-Feedback Haptic Devices

Fazlollahi, F., Kuchenbecker, K. J.

Work-in-progress poster presented at EuroHaptics, Leiden, The Netherlands, September 2020 (misc)

hi

[BibTex]

[BibTex]


Convolutional Occupancy Networks
Convolutional Occupancy Networks

Peng, S., Niemeyer, M., Mescheder, L., Pollefeys, M., Geiger, A.

In European Conference on Computer Vision (ECCV), Springer International Publishing, Cham, August 2020 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Recently, implicit neural representations have gained popularity for learning-based 3D reconstruction. While demonstrating promising results, most implicit approaches are limited to comparably simple geometry of single objects and do not scale to more complicated or large-scale scenes. The key limiting factor of implicit methods is their simple fully-connected network architecture which does not allow for integrating local information in the observations or incorporating inductive biases such as translational equivariance. In this paper, we propose Convolutional Occupancy Networks, a more flexible implicit representation for detailed reconstruction of objects and 3D scenes. By combining convolutional encoders with implicit occupancy decoders, our model incorporates inductive biases, enabling structured reasoning in 3D space. We investigate the effectiveness of the proposed representation by reconstructing complex geometry from noisy point clouds and low-resolution voxel representations. We empirically find that our method enables the fine-grained implicit 3D reconstruction of single objects, scales to large indoor scenes, and generalizes well from synthetic to real data.

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pdf suppmat video Project Page [BibTex]

pdf suppmat video Project Page [BibTex]


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Vision-based Force Estimation for a da Vinci Instrument Using Deep Neural Networks

Lee, Y., Husin, H. M., Forte, M., Lee, S., Kuchenbecker, K. J.

Extended abstract presented as an Emerging Technology ePoster at the Annual Meeting of the Society of American Gastrointestinal and Endoscopic Surgeons (SAGES), Cleveland, Ohio, USA, August 2020 (misc) Accepted

hi

[BibTex]

[BibTex]


Category Level Object Pose Estimation via Neural Analysis-by-Synthesis
Category Level Object Pose Estimation via Neural Analysis-by-Synthesis

Chen, X., Dong, Z., Song, J., Geiger, A., Hilliges, O.

In European Conference on Computer Vision (ECCV), Springer International Publishing, Cham, August 2020 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Many object pose estimation algorithms rely on the analysis-by-synthesis framework which requires explicit representations of individual object instances. In this paper we combine a gradient-based fitting procedure with a parametric neural image synthesis module that is capable of implicitly representing the appearance, shape and pose of entire object categories, thus rendering the need for explicit CAD models per object instance unnecessary. The image synthesis network is designed to efficiently span the pose configuration space so that model capacity can be used to capture the shape and local appearance (i.e., texture) variations jointly. At inference time the synthesized images are compared to the target via an appearance based loss and the error signal is backpropagated through the network to the input parameters. Keeping the network parameters fixed, this allows for iterative optimization of the object pose, shape and appearance in a joint manner and we experimentally show that the method can recover orientation of objects with high accuracy from 2D images alone. When provided with depth measurements, to overcome scale ambiguities, the method can accurately recover the full 6DOF pose successfully.

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Project Page pdf suppmat [BibTex]

Project Page pdf suppmat [BibTex]


Learning of sub-optimal gait controllers for magnetic walking soft millirobots
Learning of sub-optimal gait controllers for magnetic walking soft millirobots

Culha, U., Demir, S. O., Trimpe, S., Sitti, M.

In Proceedings of Robotics: Science and Systems, 2020 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Untethered small-scale soft robots have promising applications in minimally invasive surgery, targeted drug delivery, and bioengineering applications as they can access confined spaces in the human body. However, due to highly nonlinear soft continuum deformation kinematics, inherent stochastic variability during fabrication at the small scale, and lack of accurate models, the conventional control methods cannot be easily applied. Adaptivity of robot control is additionally crucial for medical operations, as operation environments show large variability, and robot materials may degrade or change over time,which would have deteriorating effects on the robot motion and task performance. Therefore, we propose using a probabilistic learning approach for millimeter-scale magnetic walking soft robots using Bayesian optimization (BO) and Gaussian processes (GPs). Our approach provides a data-efficient learning scheme to find controller parameters while optimizing the stride length performance of the walking soft millirobot robot within a small number of physical experiments. We demonstrate adaptation to fabrication variabilities in three different robots and to walking surfaces with different roughness. We also show an improvement in the learning performance by transferring the learning results of one robot to the others as prior information.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]


Actively Learning Gaussian Process Dynamics
Actively Learning Gaussian Process Dynamics

Buisson-Fenet, M., Solowjow, F., Trimpe, S.

2nd Annual Conference on Learning for Dynamics and Control, June 2020 (conference) Accepted

Abstract
Despite the availability of ever more data enabled through modern sensor and computer technology, it still remains an open problem to learn dynamical systems in a sample-efficient way. We propose active learning strategies that leverage information-theoretical properties arising naturally during Gaussian process regression, while respecting constraints on the sampling process imposed by the system dynamics. Sample points are selected in regions with high uncertainty, leading to exploratory behavior and data-efficient training of the model. All results are verified in an extensive numerical benchmark.

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ArXiv [BibTex]

ArXiv [BibTex]


Learning Constrained Dynamics with Gauss Principle adhering Gaussian Processes
Learning Constrained Dynamics with Gauss Principle adhering Gaussian Processes

Geist, A. R., Trimpe, S.

In Proceedings of the 2nd Conference on Learning for Dynamics and Control, pages: 225-234, 2nd Annual Conference on Learning for Dynamics and Control, June 2020 (inproceedings) Accepted

Abstract
The identification of the constrained dynamics of mechanical systems is often challenging. Learning methods promise to ease an analytical analysis, but require considerable amounts of data for training. We propose to combine insights from analytical mechanics with Gaussian process regression to improve the model's data efficiency and constraint integrity. The result is a Gaussian process model that incorporates a priori constraint knowledge such that its predictions adhere to Gauss' principle of least constraint. In return, predictions of the system's acceleration naturally respect potentially non-ideal (non-)holonomic equality constraints. As corollary results, our model enables to infer the acceleration of the unconstrained system from data of the constrained system and enables knowledge transfer between differing constraint configurations.

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Proceedings of Machine Learning Research [BibTex]

Proceedings of Machine Learning Research [BibTex]


Bayesian Optimization in Robot Learning - Automatic Controller Tuning and Sample-Efficient Methods
Bayesian Optimization in Robot Learning - Automatic Controller Tuning and Sample-Efficient Methods

Marco-Valle, A.

University of Tübingen, June 2020 (thesis)

Abstract
The problem of designing controllers to regulate dynamical systems has been studied by engineers during the past millennia. Ever since, suboptimal performance lingers in many closed loops as an unavoidable side effect of manually tuning the parameters of the controllers. Nowadays, industrial settings remain skeptic about data-driven methods that allow one to automatically learn controller parameters. In the context of robotics, machine learning (ML) keeps growing its influence on increasing autonomy and adaptability, for example to aid automating controller tuning. However, data-hungry ML methods, such as standard reinforcement learning, require a large number of experimental samples, prohibitive in robotics, as hardware can deteriorate and break. This brings about the following question: Can manual controller tuning, in robotics, be automated by using data-efficient machine learning techniques? In this thesis, we tackle the question above by exploring Bayesian optimization (BO), a data-efficient ML framework, to buffer the human effort and side effects of manual controller tuning, while retaining a low number of experimental samples. We focus this work in the context of robotic systems, providing thorough theoretical results that aim to increase data-efficiency, as well as demonstrations in real robots. Specifically, we present four main contributions. We first consider using BO to replace manual tuning in robotic platforms. To this end, we parametrize the design weights of a linear quadratic regulator (LQR) and learn its parameters using an information-efficient BO algorithm. Such algorithm uses Gaussian processes (GPs) to model the unknown performance objective. The GP model is used by BO to suggest controller parameters that are expected to increment the information about the optimal parameters, measured as a gain in entropy. The resulting “automatic LQR tuning” framework is demonstrated on two robotic platforms: A robot arm balancing an inverted pole and a humanoid robot performing a squatting task. In both cases, an existing controller is automatically improved in a handful of experiments without human intervention. BO compensates for data scarcity by means of the GP, which is a probabilistic model that encodes prior assumptions about the unknown performance objective. Usually, incorrect or non-informed assumptions have negative consequences, such as higher number of robot experiments, poor tuning performance or reduced sample-efficiency. The second to fourth contributions presented herein attempt to alleviate this issue. The second contribution proposes to include the robot simulator into the learning loop as an additional information source for automatic controller tuning. While doing a real robot experiment generally entails high associated costs (e.g., require preparation and take time), simulations are cheaper to obtain (e.g., they can be computed faster). However, because the simulator is an imperfect model of the robot, its information is biased and could have negative repercussions in the learning performance. To address this problem, we propose “simu-vs-real”, a principled multi-fidelity BO algorithm that trades off cheap, but inaccurate information from simulations with expensive and accurate physical experiments in a cost-effective manner. The resulting algorithm is demonstrated on a cart-pole system, where simulations and real experiments are alternated, thus sparing many real evaluations. The third contribution explores how to adequate the expressiveness of the probabilistic prior to the control problem at hand. To this end, the mathematical structure of LQR controllers is leveraged and embedded into the GP, by means of the kernel function. Specifically, we propose two different “LQR kernel” designs that retain the flexibility of Bayesian nonparametric learning. Simulated results indicate that the LQR kernel yields superior performance than non-informed kernel choices when used for controller learning with BO. Finally, the fourth contribution specifically addresses the problem of handling controller failures, which are typically unavoidable in practice while learning from data, specially if non-conservative solutions are expected. Although controller failures are generally problematic (e.g., the robot has to be emergency-stopped), they are also a rich information source about what should be avoided. We propose “failures-aware excursion search”, a novel algorithm for Bayesian optimization under black-box constraints, where failures are limited in number. Our results in numerical benchmarks indicate that by allowing a confined number of failures, better optima are revealed as compared with state-of-the-art methods. The first contribution of this thesis, “automatic LQR tuning”, lies among the first on applying BO to real robots. While it demonstrated automatic controller learning from few experimental samples, it also revealed several important challenges, such as the need of higher sample-efficiency, which opened relevant research directions that we addressed through several methodological contributions. Summarizing, we proposed “simu-vs-real”, a novel BO algorithm that includes the simulator as an additional information source, an “LQR kernel” design that learns faster than standard choices and “failures-aware excursion search”, a new BO algorithm for constrained black-box optimization problems, where the number of failures is limited.

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Repository (Universitätsbibliothek) - University of Tübingen PDF DOI [BibTex]


Changes in Normal Force During Passive Dynamic Touch: Contact Mechanics and Perception
Changes in Normal Force During Passive Dynamic Touch: Contact Mechanics and Perception

Gueorguiev, D., Lambert, J., Thonnard, J., Kuchenbecker, K. J.

In Proceedings of the IEEE Haptics Symposium (HAPTICS), pages: 746-752, Washington, USA, March 2020 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Using a force-controlled robotic platform, we investigated the contact mechanics and psychophysical responses induced by negative and positive modulations in normal force during passive dynamic touch. In the natural state of the finger, the applied normal force modulation induces a correlated change in the tangential force. In a second condition, we applied talcum powder to the fingerpad, which induced a significant modification in the slope of the correlated tangential change. In both conditions, the same ten participants had to detect the interval that contained a decrease or an increase in the pre-stimulation normal force of 1 N. In the natural state, the 75% just noticeable difference for this task was found to be a ratio of 0.19 and 0.18 for decreases and increases, respectively. With talcum powder on the fingerpad, the normal force thresholds remained stable, following the Weber law of constant just noticeable differences, while the tangential force thresholds changed in the same way as the correlation slopes. This result suggests that participants predominantly relied on the normal force changes to perform the detection task. In addition, participants were asked to report whether the force decreased or increased. Their performance was generally poor at this second task even for above-threshold changes. However, their accuracy slightly improved with the talcum powder, which might be due to the reduced finger-surface friction.

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


A Fabric-Based Sensing System for Recognizing Social Touch
A Fabric-Based Sensing System for Recognizing Social Touch

Burns, R. B., Lee, H., Seifi, H., Kuchenbecker, K. J.

Work-in-progress paper (3 pages) presented at the IEEE Haptics Symposium, Washington, DC, USA, March 2020 (misc)

Abstract
We present a fabric-based piezoresistive tactile sensor system designed to detect social touch gestures on a robot. The unique sensor design utilizes three layers of low-conductivity fabric sewn together on alternating edges to form an accordion pattern and secured between two outer high-conductivity layers. This five-layer design demonstrates a greater resistance range and better low-force sensitivity than previous designs that use one layer of low-conductivity fabric with or without a plastic mesh layer. An individual sensor from our system can presently identify six different communication gestures – squeezing, patting, scratching, poking, hand resting without movement, and no touch – with an average accuracy of 90%. A layer of foam can be added beneath the sensor to make a rigid robot more appealing for humans to touch without inhibiting the system’s ability to register social touch gestures.

hi

Project Page [BibTex]

Project Page [BibTex]


Do Touch Gestures Affect How Electrovibration Feels?
Do Touch Gestures Affect How Electrovibration Feels?

Vardar, Y., Kuchenbecker, K. J.

Hands-on demonstration (1 page) presented at the IEEE Haptics Symposium, Washington, DC, USA, March 2020 (misc)

hi

[BibTex]

[BibTex]


Acoustofluidic Tweezers for the 3D Manipulation of Microparticles
Acoustofluidic Tweezers for the 3D Manipulation of Microparticles

Guo, X., Ma, Z., Goyal, R., Jeong, M., Pang, W., Fischer, P., Dian, X., Qiu, T.

In 2020 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA),, Febuary 2020 (conference)

Abstract
Non-contact manipulation is of great importance in the actuation of micro-robotics. It is challenging to contactless manipulate micro-scale objects over large spatial distance in fluid. Here, we describe a novel approach for the dynamic position control of microparticles in three-dimensional (3D) space, based on high-speed acoustic streaming generated by a micro-fabricated gigahertz transducer. Due to the vertical lifting force and the horizontal centripetal force generated by the streaming, microparticles are able to be stably trapped at a position far away from the transducer surface, and to be manipulated over centimeter distance in all three directions. Only the hydrodynamic force is utilized in the system for particle manipulation, making it a versatile tool regardless the material properties of the trapped particle. The system shows high reliability and manipulation velocity, revealing its potentials for the applications in robotics and automation at small scales.

pf

[BibTex]

[BibTex]


Learning Unsupervised Hierarchical Part Decomposition of 3D Objects from a Single RGB Image
Learning Unsupervised Hierarchical Part Decomposition of 3D Objects from a Single RGB Image

Paschalidou, D., Gool, L., Geiger, A.

In Proceedings IEEE Conf. on Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition (CVPR), IEEE International Conference on Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition (CVPR) 2020, 2020 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Humans perceive the 3D world as a set of distinct objects that are characterized by various low-level (geometry, reflectance) and high-level (connectivity, adjacency, symmetry) properties. Recent methods based on convolutional neural networks (CNNs) demonstrated impressive progress in 3D reconstruction, even when using a single 2D image as input. However, the majority of these methods focuses on recovering the local 3D geometry of an object without considering its part-based decomposition or relations between parts. We address this challenging problem by proposing a novel formulation that allows to jointly recover the geometry of a 3D object as a set of primitives as well as their latent hierarchical structure without part-level supervision. Our model recovers the higher level structural decomposition of various objects in the form of a binary tree of primitives, where simple parts are represented with fewer primitives and more complex parts are modeled with more components. Our experiments on the ShapeNet and D-FAUST datasets demonstrate that considering the organization of parts indeed facilitates reasoning about 3D geometry.

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pdf suppmat Video 2 Project Page Slides Poster Video 1 [BibTex]

pdf suppmat Video 2 Project Page Slides Poster Video 1 [BibTex]


GRAF: Generative Radiance Fields for 3D-Aware Image Synthesis
GRAF: Generative Radiance Fields for 3D-Aware Image Synthesis

Schwarz, K., Liao, Y., Niemeyer, M., Geiger, A.

In Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems (NeurIPS), 2020 (inproceedings)

Abstract
While 2D generative adversarial networks have enabled high-resolution image synthesis, they largely lack an understanding of the 3D world and the image formation process. Thus, they do not provide precise control over camera viewpoint or object pose. To address this problem, several recent approaches leverage intermediate voxel-based representations in combination with differentiable rendering. However, existing methods either produce low image resolution or fall short in disentangling camera and scene properties, eg, the object identity may vary with the viewpoint. In this paper, we propose a generative model for radiance fields which have recently proven successful for novel view synthesis of a single scene. In contrast to voxel-based representations, radiance fields are not confined to a coarse discretization of the 3D space, yet allow for disentangling camera and scene properties while degrading gracefully in the presence of reconstruction ambiguity. By introducing a multi-scale patch-based discriminator, we demonstrate synthesis of high-resolution images while training our model from unposed 2D images alone. We systematically analyze our approach on several challenging synthetic and real-world datasets. Our experiments reveal that radiance fields are a powerful representation for generative image synthesis, leading to 3D consistent models that render with high fidelity.

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pdf suppmat video Project Page [BibTex]

pdf suppmat video Project Page [BibTex]


Towards Unsupervised Learning of Generative Models for 3D Controllable Image Synthesis
Towards Unsupervised Learning of Generative Models for 3D Controllable Image Synthesis

Liao, Y., Schwarz, K., Mescheder, L., Geiger, A.

In Proceedings IEEE Conf. on Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition (CVPR), IEEE International Conference on Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition (CVPR) 2020, 2020 (inproceedings)

Abstract
In recent years, Generative Adversarial Networks have achieved impressive results in photorealistic image synthesis. This progress nurtures hopes that one day the classical rendering pipeline can be replaced by efficient models that are learned directly from images. However, current image synthesis models operate in the 2D domain where disentangling 3D properties such as camera viewpoint or object pose is challenging. Furthermore, they lack an interpretable and controllable representation. Our key hypothesis is that the image generation process should be modeled in 3D space as the physical world surrounding us is intrinsically three-dimensional. We define the new task of 3D controllable image synthesis and propose an approach for solving it by reasoning both in 3D space and in the 2D image domain. We demonstrate that our model is able to disentangle latent 3D factors of simple multi-object scenes in an unsupervised fashion from raw images. Compared to pure 2D baselines, it allows for synthesizing scenes that are consistent wrt. changes in viewpoint or object pose. We further evaluate various 3D representations in terms of their usefulness for this challenging task.

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pdf suppmat Video 2 Project Page Video 1 Slides Poster [BibTex]

pdf suppmat Video 2 Project Page Video 1 Slides Poster [BibTex]


Exploring Data Aggregation in Policy Learning for Vision-based Urban Autonomous Driving
Exploring Data Aggregation in Policy Learning for Vision-based Urban Autonomous Driving

Prakash, A., Behl, A., Ohn-Bar, E., Chitta, K., Geiger, A.

In Proceedings IEEE Conf. on Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition (CVPR), IEEE International Conference on Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition (CVPR) 2020, 2020 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Data aggregation techniques can significantly improve vision-based policy learning within a training environment, e.g., learning to drive in a specific simulation condition. However, as on-policy data is sequentially sampled and added in an iterative manner, the policy can specialize and overfit to the training conditions. For real-world applications, it is useful for the learned policy to generalize to novel scenarios that differ from the training conditions. To improve policy learning while maintaining robustness when training end-to-end driving policies, we perform an extensive analysis of data aggregation techniques in the CARLA environment. We demonstrate how the majority of them have poor generalization performance, and develop a novel approach with empirically better generalization performance compared to existing techniques. Our two key ideas are (1) to sample critical states from the collected on-policy data based on the utility they provide to the learned policy in terms of driving behavior, and (2) to incorporate a replay buffer which progressively focuses on the high uncertainty regions of the policy's state distribution. We evaluate the proposed approach on the CARLA NoCrash benchmark, focusing on the most challenging driving scenarios with dense pedestrian and vehicle traffic. Our approach improves driving success rate by 16% over state-of-the-art, achieving 87% of the expert performance while also reducing the collision rate by an order of magnitude without the use of any additional modality, auxiliary tasks, architectural modifications or reward from the environment.

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pdf suppmat Video 2 Project Page Slides Video 1 [BibTex]

pdf suppmat Video 2 Project Page Slides Video 1 [BibTex]


Learning Situational Driving
Learning Situational Driving

Ohn-Bar, E., Prakash, A., Behl, A., Chitta, K., Geiger, A.

In Proceedings IEEE Conf. on Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition (CVPR), IEEE International Conference on Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition (CVPR) 2020, 2020 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Human drivers have a remarkable ability to drive in diverse visual conditions and situations, e.g., from maneuvering in rainy, limited visibility conditions with no lane markings to turning in a busy intersection while yielding to pedestrians. In contrast, we find that state-of-the-art sensorimotor driving models struggle when encountering diverse settings with varying relationships between observation and action. To generalize when making decisions across diverse conditions, humans leverage multiple types of situation-specific reasoning and learning strategies. Motivated by this observation, we develop a framework for learning a situational driving policy that effectively captures reasoning under varying types of scenarios. Our key idea is to learn a mixture model with a set of policies that can capture multiple driving modes. We first optimize the mixture model through behavior cloning, and show it to result in significant gains in terms of driving performance in diverse conditions. We then refine the model by directly optimizing for the driving task itself, i.e., supervised with the navigation task reward. Our method is more scalable than methods assuming access to privileged information, e.g., perception labels, as it only assumes demonstration and reward-based supervision. We achieve over 98% success rate on the CARLA driving benchmark as well as state-of-the-art performance on a newly introduced generalization benchmark.

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pdf suppmat Video 2 Project Page Video 1 Slides [BibTex]

pdf suppmat Video 2 Project Page Video 1 Slides [BibTex]


On Joint Estimation of Pose, Geometry and svBRDF from a Handheld Scanner
On Joint Estimation of Pose, Geometry and svBRDF from a Handheld Scanner

Schmitt, C., Donne, S., Riegler, G., Koltun, V., Geiger, A.

In Proceedings IEEE Conf. on Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition (CVPR), IEEE International Conference on Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition (CVPR) 2020, 2020 (inproceedings)

Abstract
We propose a novel formulation for joint recovery of camera pose, object geometry and spatially-varying BRDF. The input to our approach is a sequence of RGB-D images captured by a mobile, hand-held scanner that actively illuminates the scene with point light sources. Compared to previous works that jointly estimate geometry and materials from a hand-held scanner, we formulate this problem using a single objective function that can be minimized using off-the-shelf gradient-based solvers. By integrating material clustering as a differentiable operation into the optimization process, we avoid pre-processing heuristics and demonstrate that our model is able to determine the correct number of specular materials independently. We provide a study on the importance of each component in our formulation and on the requirements of the initial geometry. We show that optimizing over the poses is crucial for accurately recovering fine details and that our approach naturally results in a semantically meaningful material segmentation.

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pdf Project Page Slides Video Poster [BibTex]

pdf Project Page Slides Video Poster [BibTex]


Intrinsic Autoencoders for Joint Neural Rendering and Intrinsic Image Decomposition
Intrinsic Autoencoders for Joint Neural Rendering and Intrinsic Image Decomposition

Hassan Alhaija, Siva Mustikovela, Varun Jampani, Justus Thies, Matthias Niessner, Andreas Geiger, Carsten Rother

In International Conference on 3D Vision (3DV), 2020 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Neural rendering techniques promise efficient photo-realistic image synthesis while providing rich control over scene parameters by learning the physical image formation process. While several supervised methods have been pro-posed for this task, acquiring a dataset of images with accurately aligned 3D models is very difficult. The main contribution of this work is to lift this restriction by training a neural rendering algorithm from unpaired data. We pro-pose an auto encoder for joint generation of realistic images from synthetic 3D models while simultaneously decomposing real images into their intrinsic shape and appearance properties. In contrast to a traditional graphics pipeline, our approach does not require to specify all scene properties, such as material parameters and lighting by hand.Instead, we learn photo-realistic deferred rendering from a small set of 3D models and a larger set of unaligned real images, both of which are easy to acquire in practice. Simultaneously, we obtain accurate intrinsic decompositions of real images while not requiring paired ground truth. Our experiments confirm that a joint treatment of rendering and de-composition is indeed beneficial and that our approach out-performs state-of-the-art image-to-image translation base-lines both qualitatively and quantitatively.

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pdf suppmat [BibTex]

pdf suppmat [BibTex]


Differentiable Volumetric Rendering: Learning Implicit 3D Representations without 3D Supervision
Differentiable Volumetric Rendering: Learning Implicit 3D Representations without 3D Supervision

Niemeyer, M., Mescheder, L., Oechsle, M., Geiger, A.

In Proceedings IEEE Conf. on Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition (CVPR), IEEE International Conference on Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition (CVPR) 2020, 2020 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Learning-based 3D reconstruction methods have shown impressive results. However, most methods require 3D supervision which is often hard to obtain for real-world datasets. Recently, several works have proposed differentiable rendering techniques to train reconstruction models from RGB images. Unfortunately, these approaches are currently restricted to voxel- and mesh-based representations, suffering from discretization or low resolution. In this work, we propose a differentiable rendering formulation for implicit shape and texture representations. Implicit representations have recently gained popularity as they represent shape and texture continuously. Our key insight is that depth gradients can be derived analytically using the concept of implicit differentiation. This allows us to learn implicit shape and texture representations directly from RGB images. We experimentally show that our single-view reconstructions rival those learned with full 3D supervision. Moreover, we find that our method can be used for multi-view 3D reconstruction, directly resulting in watertight meshes.

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pdf suppmat Video 2 Project Page Video 1 Video 3 Slides Poster [BibTex]

pdf suppmat Video 2 Project Page Video 1 Video 3 Slides Poster [BibTex]


Learning Implicit Surface Light Fields
Learning Implicit Surface Light Fields

Oechsle, M., Niemeyer, M., Reiser, C., Mescheder, L., Strauss, T., Geiger, A.

In International Conference on 3D Vision (3DV), 2020 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Implicit representations of 3D objects have recently achieved impressive results on learning-based 3D reconstruction tasks. While existing works use simple texture models to represent object appearance, photo-realistic image synthesis requires reasoning about the complex interplay of light, geometry and surface properties. In this work, we propose a novel implicit representation for capturing the visual appearance of an object in terms of its surface light field. In contrast to existing representations, our implicit model represents surface light fields in a continuous fashion and independent of the geometry. Moreover, we condition the surface light field with respect to the location and color of a small light source. Compared to traditional surface light field models, this allows us to manipulate the light source and relight the object using environment maps. We further demonstrate the capabilities of our model to predict the visual appearance of an unseen object from a single real RGB image and corresponding 3D shape information. As evidenced by our experiments, our model is able to infer rich visual appearance including shadows and specular reflections. Finally, we show that the proposed representation can be embedded into a variational auto-encoder for generating novel appearances that conform to the specified illumination conditions.

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pdf suppmat Project Page [BibTex]

pdf suppmat Project Page [BibTex]