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2020


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]

2020


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.

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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)

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[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.

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[BibTex]

[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)

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[BibTex]

[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

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[BibTex]

[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]


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.

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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)

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[BibTex]

[BibTex]