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2020


Learning to Predict Perceptual Distributions of Haptic Adjectives
Learning to Predict Perceptual Distributions of Haptic Adjectives

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

Frontiers in Neurorobotics, 13(116):1-16, Febuary 2020 (article)

Abstract
When humans touch an object with their fingertips, they can immediately describe its tactile properties using haptic adjectives, such as hardness and roughness; however, human perception is subjective and noisy, with significant variation across individuals and interactions. Recent research has worked to provide robots with similar haptic intelligence but was focused on identifying binary haptic adjectives, ignoring both attribute intensity and perceptual variability. Combining ordinal haptic adjective labels gathered from human subjects for a set of 60 objects with features automatically extracted from raw multi-modal tactile data collected by a robot repeatedly touching the same objects, we designed a machine-learning method that incorporates partial knowledge of the distribution of object labels into training; then, from a single interaction, it predicts a probability distribution over the set of ordinal labels. In addition to analyzing the collected labels (10 basic haptic adjectives) and demonstrating the quality of our method's predictions, we hold out specific features to determine the influence of individual sensor modalities on the predictive performance for each adjective. Our results demonstrate the feasibility of modeling both the intensity and the variation of haptic perception, two crucial yet previously neglected components of human haptic perception.

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DOI [BibTex]

2020


DOI [BibTex]


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Exercising with Baxter: Preliminary Support for Assistive Social-Physical Human-Robot Interaction

Fitter, N. T., Mohan, M., Kuchenbecker, K. J., Johnson, M. J.

Journal of NeuroEngineering and Rehabilitation, 17(19), Febuary 2020 (article)

Abstract
Background: The worldwide population of older adults will soon exceed the capacity of assisted living facilities. Accordingly, we aim to understand whether appropriately designed robots could help older adults stay active at home. Methods: Building on related literature as well as guidance from experts in game design, rehabilitation, and physical and occupational therapy, we developed eight human-robot exercise games for the Baxter Research Robot, six of which involve physical human-robot contact. After extensive iteration, these games were tested in an exploratory user study including 20 younger adult and 20 older adult users. Results: Only socially and physically interactive games fell in the highest ranges for pleasantness, enjoyment, engagement, cognitive challenge, and energy level. Our games successfully spanned three different physical, cognitive, and temporal challenge levels. User trust and confidence in Baxter increased significantly between pre- and post-study assessments. Older adults experienced higher exercise, energy, and engagement levels than younger adults, and women rated the robot more highly than men on several survey questions. Conclusions: The results indicate that social-physical exercise with a robot is more pleasant, enjoyable, engaging, cognitively challenging, and energetic than similar interactions that lack physical touch. In addition to this main finding, researchers working in similar areas can build on our design practices, our open-source resources, and the age-group and gender differences that we found.

hi

DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


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Sliding Mode Control with Gaussian Process Regression for Underwater Robots

Lima, G. S., Trimpe, S., Bessa, W. M.

Journal of Intelligent & Robotic Systems, January 2020 (article)

ics

DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


Hierarchical Event-triggered Learning for Cyclically Excited Systems with Application to Wireless Sensor Networks
Hierarchical Event-triggered Learning for Cyclically Excited Systems with Application to Wireless Sensor Networks

Beuchert, J., Solowjow, F., Raisch, J., Trimpe, S., Seel, T.

IEEE Control Systems Letters, 4(1):103-108, January 2020 (article)

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arXiv PDF DOI Project Page [BibTex]

arXiv PDF DOI Project Page [BibTex]


Control-guided Communication: Efficient Resource Arbitration and Allocation in Multi-hop Wireless Control Systems
Control-guided Communication: Efficient Resource Arbitration and Allocation in Multi-hop Wireless Control Systems

Baumann, D., Mager, F., Zimmerling, M., Trimpe, S.

IEEE Control Systems Letters, 4(1):127-132, January 2020 (article)

ics

arXiv PDF DOI [BibTex]

arXiv PDF DOI [BibTex]


Thermal Effects on the Crystallization Kinetics, and Interfacial Adhesion of Single-Crystal Phase-Change Gallium
Thermal Effects on the Crystallization Kinetics, and Interfacial Adhesion of Single-Crystal Phase-Change Gallium

Yunusa, M., Lahlou, A., Sitti, M.

Advanced Materials, Wiley Online Library, 2020 (article)

Abstract
Although substrates play an important role upon crystallization of supercooled liquids, the influences of surface temperature and thermal property have remained elusive. Here, the crystallization of supercooled phase‐change gallium (Ga) on substrates with different thermal conductivity is studied. The effect of interfacial temperature on the crystallization kinetics, which dictates thermo‐mechanical stresses between the substrate and the crystallized Ga, is investigated. At an elevated surface temperature, close to the melting point of Ga, an extended single‐crystal growth of Ga on dielectric substrates due to layering effect and annealing is realized without the application of external fields. Adhesive strength at the interfaces depends on the thermal conductivity and initial surface temperature of the substrates. This insight can be applicable to other liquid metals for industrial applications, and sheds more light on phase‐change memory crystallization.

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[BibTex]


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Nanoerythrosome-functionalized biohybrid microswimmers

Nicole, Oncay, Yunus, Birgul, Metin Sitti

2020 (article) Accepted

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[BibTex]

[BibTex]


Injectable Nanoelectrodes Enable Wireless Deep Brain Stimulation of Native Tissue in Freely Moving Mice
Injectable Nanoelectrodes Enable Wireless Deep Brain Stimulation of Native Tissue in Freely Moving Mice

Kozielski, K. L., Jahanshahi, A., Gilbert, H. B., Yu, Y., Erin, O., Francisco, D., Alosaimi, F., Temel, Y., Sitti, M.

bioRxiv, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, 2020 (article)

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[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Statistical reprogramming of macroscopic self-assembly with dynamic boundaries

Utku, , Massimo, , Zoey, , Sitti,

2020 (article) Accepted

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[BibTex]

[BibTex]


Controlling two-dimensional collective formation and cooperative behavior of magnetic microrobot swarms
Controlling two-dimensional collective formation and cooperative behavior of magnetic microrobot swarms

Dong, X., Sitti, M.

The International Journal of Robotics Research, 2020 (article)

Abstract
Magnetically actuated mobile microrobots can access distant, enclosed, and small spaces, such as inside microfluidic channels and the human body, making them appealing for minimally invasive tasks. Despite their simplicity when scaling down, creating collective microrobots that can work closely and cooperatively, as well as reconfigure their formations for different tasks, would significantly enhance their capabilities such as manipulation of objects. However, a challenge of realizing such cooperative magnetic microrobots is to program and reconfigure their formations and collective motions with under-actuated control signals. This article presents a method of controlling 2D static and time-varying formations among collective self-repelling ferromagnetic microrobots (100 μm to 350 μm in diameter, up to 260 in number) by spatially and temporally programming an external magnetic potential energy distribution at the air–water interface or on solid surfaces. A general design method is introduced to program external magnetic potential energy using ferromagnets. A predictive model of the collective system is also presented to predict the formation and guide the design procedure. With the proposed method, versatile complex static formations are experimentally demonstrated and the programmability and scaling effects of formations are analyzed. We also demonstrate the collective mobility of these magnetic microrobots by controlling them to exhibit bio-inspired collective behaviors such as aggregation, directional motion with arbitrary swarm headings, and rotational swarming motion. Finally, the functions of the produced microrobotic swarm are demonstrated by controlling them to navigate through cluttered environments and complete reconfigurable cooperative manipulation tasks.

pi

DOI [BibTex]


Characterization and Thermal Management of a DC Motor-Driven Resonant Actuator for Miniature Mobile Robots with Oscillating Limbs
Characterization and Thermal Management of a DC Motor-Driven Resonant Actuator for Miniature Mobile Robots with Oscillating Limbs

Colmenares, D., Kania, R., Liu, M., Sitti, M.

arXiv preprint arXiv:2002.00798, 2020 (article)

Abstract
In this paper, we characterize the performance of and develop thermal management solutions for a DC motor-driven resonant actuator developed for flapping wing micro air vehicles. The actuator, a DC micro-gearmotor connected in parallel with a torsional spring, drives reciprocal wing motion. Compared to the gearmotor alone, this design increased torque and power density by 161.1% and 666.8%, respectively, while decreasing the drawn current by 25.8%. Characterization of the actuator, isolated from nonlinear aerodynamic loading, results in standard metrics directly comparable to other actuators. The micro-motor, selected for low weight considerations, operates at high power for limited duration due to thermal effects. To predict system performance, a lumped parameter thermal circuit model was developed. Critical model parameters for this micro-motor, two orders of magnitude smaller than those previously characterized, were identified experimentally. This included the effects of variable winding resistance, bushing friction, speed-dependent forced convection, and the addition of a heatsink. The model was then used to determine a safe operation envelope for the vehicle and to design a weight-optimal heatsink. This actuator design and thermal modeling approach could be applied more generally to improve the performance of any miniature mobile robot or device with motor-driven oscillating limbs or loads.

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[BibTex]


Magnetic Resonance Imaging System--Driven Medical Robotics
Magnetic Resonance Imaging System–Driven Medical Robotics

Erin, O., Boyvat, M., Tiryaki, M. E., Phelan, M., Sitti, M.

Advanced Intelligent Systems, 2, Wiley Online Library, 2020 (article)

Abstract
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) system–driven medical robotics is an emerging field that aims to use clinical MRI systems not only for medical imaging but also for actuation, localization, and control of medical robots. Submillimeter scale resolution of MR images for soft tissues combined with the electromagnetic gradient coil–based magnetic actuation available inside MR scanners can enable theranostic applications of medical robots for precise image‐guided minimally invasive interventions. MRI‐driven robotics typically does not introduce new MRI instrumentation for actuation but instead focuses on converting already available instrumentation for robotic purposes. To use the advantages of this technology, various medical devices such as untethered mobile magnetic robots and tethered active catheters have been designed to be powered magnetically inside MRI systems. Herein, the state‐of‐the‐art progress, challenges, and future directions of MRI‐driven medical robotic systems are reviewed.

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[BibTex]

[BibTex]


Pros and Cons: Magnetic versus Optical Microrobots
Pros and Cons: Magnetic versus Optical Microrobots

Sitti, M., Wiersma, D. S.

Advanced Materials, Wiley Online Library, 2020 (article)

Abstract
Mobile microrobotics has emerged as a new robotics field within the last decade to create untethered tiny robots that can access and operate in unprecedented, dangerous, or hard‐to‐reach small spaces noninvasively toward disruptive medical, biotechnology, desktop manufacturing, environmental remediation, and other potential applications. Magnetic and optical actuation methods are the most widely used actuation methods in mobile microrobotics currently, in addition to acoustic and biological (cell‐driven) actuation approaches. The pros and cons of these actuation methods are reported here, depending on the given context. They can both enable long‐range, fast, and precise actuation of single or a large number of microrobots in diverse environments. Magnetic actuation has unique potential for medical applications of microrobots inside nontransparent tissues at high penetration depths, while optical actuation is suitable for more biotechnology, lab‐/organ‐on‐a‐chip, and desktop manufacturing types of applications with much less surface penetration depth requirements or with transparent environments. Combining both methods in new robot designs can have a strong potential of combining the pros of both methods. There is still much progress needed in both actuation methods to realize the potential disruptive applications of mobile microrobots in real‐world conditions.

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[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Selectively Controlled Magnetic Microrobots with Opposing Helices

Joshua, , Wendong, , Panayiota, , Eric, , Sitti,

2020 (article) Accepted

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[BibTex]

[BibTex]


Acoustically powered surface-slipping mobile microrobots
Acoustically powered surface-slipping mobile microrobots

Aghakhani, A., Yasa, O., Wrede, P., Sitti, M.

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 117, National Acad Sciences, 2020 (article)

Abstract
Untethered synthetic microrobots have significant potential to revolutionize minimally invasive medical interventions in the future. However, their relatively slow speed and low controllability near surfaces typically are some of the barriers standing in the way of their medical applications. Here, we introduce acoustically powered microrobots with a fast, unidirectional surface-slipping locomotion on both flat and curved surfaces. The proposed three-dimensionally printed, bullet-shaped microrobot contains a spherical air bubble trapped inside its internal body cavity, where the bubble is resonated using acoustic waves. The net fluidic flow due to the bubble oscillation orients the microrobot's axisymmetric axis perpendicular to the wall and then propels it laterally at very high speeds (up to 90 body lengths per second with a body length of 25 µm) while inducing an attractive force toward the wall. To achieve unidirectional locomotion, a small fin is added to the microrobot’s cylindrical body surface, which biases the propulsion direction. For motion direction control, the microrobots are coated anisotropically with a soft magnetic nanofilm layer, allowing steering under a uniform magnetic field. Finally, surface locomotion capability of the microrobots is demonstrated inside a three-dimensional circular cross-sectional microchannel under acoustic actuation. Overall, the combination of acoustic powering and magnetic steering can be effectively utilized to actuate and navigate these microrobots in confined and hard-to-reach body location areas in a minimally invasive fashion.

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[BibTex]

[BibTex]


Bio-inspired Flexible Twisting Wings Increase Lift and Efficiency of a Flapping Wing Micro Air Vehicle
Bio-inspired Flexible Twisting Wings Increase Lift and Efficiency of a Flapping Wing Micro Air Vehicle

Colmenares, D., Kania, R., Zhang, W., Sitti, M.

arXiv preprint arXiv:2001.11586, 2020 (article)

Abstract
We investigate the effect of wing twist flexibility on lift and efficiency of a flapping-wing micro air vehicle capable of liftoff. Wings used previously were chosen to be fully rigid due to modeling and fabrication constraints. However, biological wings are highly flexible and other micro air vehicles have successfully utilized flexible wing structures for specialized tasks. The goal of our study is to determine if dynamic twisting of flexible wings can increase overall aerodynamic lift and efficiency. A flexible twisting wing design was found to increase aerodynamic efficiency by 41.3%, translational lift production by 35.3%, and the effective lift coefficient by 63.7% compared to the rigid-wing design. These results exceed the predictions of quasi-steady blade element models, indicating the need for unsteady computational fluid dynamics simulations of twisted flapping wings.

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[BibTex]

[BibTex]


Cohesive self-organization of mobile microrobotic swarms
Cohesive self-organization of mobile microrobotic swarms

Yigit, B., Alapan, Y., Sitti, M.

arXiv preprint arXiv:1907.05856, 2020 (article)

pi

[BibTex]

[BibTex]


Physical Variables Underlying Tactile Stickiness during Fingerpad Detachment
Physical Variables Underlying Tactile Stickiness during Fingerpad Detachment

Nam, S., Vardar, Y., Gueorguiev, D., Kuchenbecker, K. J.

Frontiers in Neuroscience, 2020 (article) Accepted

Abstract
One may notice a relatively wide range of tactile sensations even when touching the same hard, flat surface in similar ways. Little is known about the reasons for this variability, so we decided to investigate how the perceptual intensity of light stickiness relates to the physical interaction between the skin and the surface. We conducted a psychophysical experiment in which nine participants actively pressed their finger on a flat glass plate with a normal force close to 1.5 N and detached it after a few seconds. A custom-designed apparatus recorded the contact force vector and the finger contact area during each interaction as well as pre- and post-trial finger moisture. After detaching their finger, participants judged the stickiness of the glass using a nine-point scale. We explored how sixteen physical variables derived from the recorded data correlate with each other and with the stickiness judgments of each participant. These analyses indicate that stickiness perception mainly depends on the pre-detachment pressing duration, the time taken for the finger to detach, and the impulse in the normal direction after the normal force changes sign; finger-surface adhesion seems to build with pressing time, causing a larger normal impulse during detachment and thus a more intense stickiness sensation. We additionally found a strong between-subjects correlation between maximum real contact area and peak pull-off force, as well as between finger moisture and impulse.

hi

[BibTex]


Spatial Scheduling of Informative Meetings for Multi-Agent Persistent Coverage
Spatial Scheduling of Informative Meetings for Multi-Agent Persistent Coverage

Haksar, R. N., Trimpe, S., Schwager, M.

IEEE Robotics and Automation Letters, 2020 (article) Accepted

ics

DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


Bioinspired underwater locomotion of light-driven liquid crystal gels
Bioinspired underwater locomotion of light-driven liquid crystal gels

Shahsavan, H., Aghakhani, A., Zeng, H., Guo, Y., Davidson, Z. S., Priimagi, A., Sitti, M.

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, National Acad Sciences, 2020 (article)

Abstract
Untethered dynamic shape programming and control of soft materials have significant applications in technologies such as soft robots, medical devices, organ-on-a-chip, and optical devices. Here, we present a solution to remotely actuate and move soft materials underwater in a fast, efficient, and controlled manner using photoresponsive liquid crystal gels (LCGs). LCG constructs with engineered molecular alignment show a low and sharp phase-transition temperature and experience considerable density reduction by light exposure, thereby allowing rapid and reversible shape changes. We demonstrate different modes of underwater locomotion, such as crawling, walking, jumping, and swimming, by localized and time-varying illumination of LCGs. The diverse locomotion modes of smart LCGs can provide a new toolbox for designing efficient light-fueled soft robots in fluid-immersed media.

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[BibTex]

[BibTex]


Event-triggered Learning
Event-triggered Learning

Solowjow, F., Trimpe, S.

Automatica, 2020 (article) Submitted

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arXiv PDF Project Page [BibTex]


Safe and Fast Tracking on a Robot Manipulator: Robust MPC and Neural Network Control
Safe and Fast Tracking on a Robot Manipulator: Robust MPC and Neural Network Control

Nubert, J., Koehler, J., Berenz, V., Allgower, F., Trimpe, S.

IEEE Robotics and Automation Letters, 2020 (article) Accepted

Abstract
Fast feedback control and safety guarantees are essential in modern robotics. We present an approach that achieves both by combining novel robust model predictive control (MPC) with function approximation via (deep) neural networks (NNs). The result is a new approach for complex tasks with nonlinear, uncertain, and constrained dynamics as are common in robotics. Specifically, we leverage recent results in MPC research to propose a new robust setpoint tracking MPC algorithm, which achieves reliable and safe tracking of a dynamic setpoint while guaranteeing stability and constraint satisfaction. The presented robust MPC scheme constitutes a one-layer approach that unifies the often separated planning and control layers, by directly computing the control command based on a reference and possibly obstacle positions. As a separate contribution, we show how the computation time of the MPC can be drastically reduced by approximating the MPC law with a NN controller. The NN is trained and validated from offline samples of the MPC, yielding statistical guarantees, and used in lieu thereof at run time. Our experiments on a state-of-the-art robot manipulator are the first to show that both the proposed robust and approximate MPC schemes scale to real-world robotic systems.

am ics

arXiv PDF DOI [BibTex]

arXiv PDF DOI [BibTex]


Additive manufacturing of cellulose-based materials with continuous, multidirectional stiffness gradients
Additive manufacturing of cellulose-based materials with continuous, multidirectional stiffness gradients

Giachini, P., Gupta, S., Wang, W., Wood, D., Yunusa, M., Baharlou, E., Sitti, M., Menges, A.

Science Advances, 6, American Association for the Advancement of Science, 2020 (article)

Abstract
Functionally graded materials (FGMs) enable applications in fields such as biomedicine and architecture, but their fabrication suffers from shortcomings in gradient continuity, interfacial bonding, and directional freedom. In addition, most commercial design software fail to incorporate property gradient data, hindering explorations of the design space of FGMs. Here, we leveraged a combined approach of materials engineering and digital processing to enable extrusion-based multimaterial additive manufacturing of cellulose-based tunable viscoelastic materials with continuous, high-contrast, and multidirectional stiffness gradients. A method to engineer sets of cellulose-based materials with similar compositions, yet distinct mechanical and rheological properties, was established. In parallel, a digital workflow was developed to embed gradient information into design models with integrated fabrication path planning. The payoff of integrating these physical and digital tools is the ability to achieve the same stiffness gradient in multiple ways, opening design possibilities previously limited by the rigid coupling of material and geometry.

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[BibTex]

[BibTex]

2018


Swimming Back and Forth Using Planar Flagellar Propulsion at Low Reynolds Numbers
Swimming Back and Forth Using Planar Flagellar Propulsion at Low Reynolds Numbers

Khalil, I. S. M., Tabak, A. F., Hamed, Y., Mitwally, M. E., Tawakol, M., Klingner, A., Sitti, M.

Advanced Science, 5(2):1700461, 2018 (article)

Abstract
Abstract Peritrichously flagellated Escherichia coli swim back and forth by wrapping their flagella together in a helical bundle. However, other monotrichous bacteria cannot swim back and forth with a single flagellum and planar wave propagation. Quantifying this observation, a magnetically driven soft two‐tailed microrobot capable of reversing its swimming direction without making a U‐turn trajectory or actively modifying the direction of wave propagation is designed and developed. The microrobot contains magnetic microparticles within the polymer matrix of its head and consists of two collinear, unequal, and opposite ultrathin tails. It is driven and steered using a uniform magnetic field along the direction of motion with a sinusoidally varying orthogonal component. Distinct reversal frequencies that enable selective and independent excitation of the first or the second tail of the microrobot based on their tail length ratio are found. While the first tail provides a propulsive force below one of the reversal frequencies, the second is almost passive, and the net propulsive force achieves flagellated motion along one direction. On the other hand, the second tail achieves flagellated propulsion along the opposite direction above the reversal frequency.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

2018


link (url) DOI [BibTex]


Universal Custom Complex Magnetic Spring Design Methodology
Universal Custom Complex Magnetic Spring Design Methodology

Woodward, M. A., Sitti, M.

IEEE Transactions on Magnetics, 54(1):1-13, October 2018 (article)

Abstract
A design methodology is presented for creating custom complex magnetic springs through the design of force-displacement curves. This methodology results in a magnet configuration, which will produce a desired force-displacement relationship. Initially, the problem is formulated and solved as a system of linear equations. Then, given the limited likelihood of a single solution being feasibly manufactured, key parameters of the solution are extracted and varied to create a family of solutions. Finally, these solutions are refined using numerical optimization. Given the properties of magnets, this methodology can create any well-defined function of force versus displacement and is model-independent. To demonstrate this flexibility, a number of example magnetic springs are designed; one of which, designed for use in a jumping-gliding robot's shape memory alloy actuated clutch, is manufactured and experimentally characterized. Due to the scaling of magnetic forces, the displacement region which these magnetic springs are most applicable is that of millimeters and below. However, this region is well situated for miniature robots and smart material actuators, where a tailored magnetic spring, designed to compliment a component, can enhance its performance while adding new functionality. The methodology is also expendable to variable interactions and multi-dimensional magnetic field design.

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


A Value-Driven Eldercare Robot: Virtual and Physical Instantiations of a Case-Supported Principle-Based Behavior Paradigm
A Value-Driven Eldercare Robot: Virtual and Physical Instantiations of a Case-Supported Principle-Based Behavior Paradigm

Anderson, M., Anderson, S., Berenz, V.

Proceedings of the IEEE, pages: 1,15, October 2018 (article)

Abstract
In this paper, a case-supported principle-based behavior paradigm is proposed to help ensure ethical behavior of autonomous machines. We argue that ethically significant behavior of autonomous systems should be guided by explicit ethical principles determined through a consensus of ethicists. Such a consensus is likely to emerge in many areas in which autonomous systems are apt to be deployed and for the actions they are liable to undertake. We believe that this is the case since we are more likely to agree on how machines ought to treat us than on how human beings ought to treat one another. Given such a consensus, particular cases of ethical dilemmas where ethicists agree on the ethically relevant features and the right course of action can be used to help discover principles that balance these features when they are in conflict. Such principles not only help ensure ethical behavior of complex and dynamic systems but also can serve as a basis for justification of this behavior. The requirements, methods, implementation, and evaluation components of the paradigm are detailed as well as its instantiation in both a simulated and real robot functioning in the domain of eldercare.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]


Softness, Warmth, and Responsiveness Improve Robot Hugs
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]

link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]


Playful: Reactive Programming for Orchestrating Robotic Behavior
Playful: Reactive Programming for Orchestrating Robotic Behavior

Berenz, V., Schaal, S.

IEEE Robotics Automation Magazine, 25(3):49-60, September 2018 (article) In press

Abstract
For many service robots, reactivity to changes in their surroundings is a must. However, developing software suitable for dynamic environments is difficult. Existing robotic middleware allows engineers to design behavior graphs by organizing communication between components. But because these graphs are structurally inflexible, they hardly support the development of complex reactive behavior. To address this limitation, we propose Playful, a software platform that applies reactive programming to the specification of robotic behavior.

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playful website playful_IEEE_RAM link (url) DOI [BibTex]


ClusterNet: Instance Segmentation in RGB-D Images
ClusterNet: Instance Segmentation in RGB-D Images

Shao, L., Tian, Y., Bohg, J.

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

Abstract
We propose a method for instance-level segmentation that uses RGB-D data as input and provides detailed information about the location, geometry and number of {\em individual\/} objects in the scene. This level of understanding is fundamental for autonomous robots. It enables safe and robust decision-making under the large uncertainty of the real-world. In our model, we propose to use the first and second order moments of the object occupancy function to represent an object instance. We train an hourglass Deep Neural Network (DNN) where each pixel in the output votes for the 3D position of the corresponding object center and for the object's size and pose. The final instance segmentation is achieved through clustering in the space of moments. The object-centric training loss is defined on the output of the clustering. Our method outperforms the state-of-the-art instance segmentation method on our synthesized dataset. We show that our method generalizes well on real-world data achieving visually better segmentation results.

am

link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


 Programmable collective behavior in dynamically self-assembled mobile microrobotic swarms
Programmable collective behavior in dynamically self-assembled mobile microrobotic swarms

B Yigit, , Y Alapan, , Sitti, M.

Advanced Science, July 2018 (article)

Abstract
Collective control of mobile microrobotic swarms is indispensable for their potential high-impact applications in targeted drug delivery, medical diagnostics, parallel micromanipulation, and environmental sensing and remediation. Lack of on-board computational and sensing capabilities in current microrobotic systems necessitates use of physical interactions among individual microrobots for local physical communication and cooperation. Here, we show that mobile microrobotic swarms with well-defined collective behavior can be designed by engineering magnetic interactions among individual units. Microrobots, consisting of a linear chain of self-assembled magnetic microparticles, locomote on surfaces in response to a precessing magnetic field. Control over the direction of precessing magnetic field allows engineering attractive and repulsive interactions among microrobots and, thus, collective order with well-defined spatial organization and parallel operation over macroscale distances (~ 1 cm). These microrobotic swarms can be guided through confined spaces, while preserving microrobot morphology and function. These swarms can further achieve directional transport of large cargoes on surfaces and small cargoes in bulk fluids. Described design approach, exploiting physical interactions among individual robots, enables facile and rapid formation of self-organized and reconfigurable microrobotic swarms with programmable collective order.

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link (url) [BibTex]


3D-Printed Biodegradable Microswimmer for Drug Delivery and Targeted Cell Labeling
3D-Printed Biodegradable Microswimmer for Drug Delivery and Targeted Cell Labeling

Hakan Ceylan, , I. Ceren Yasa, , Oncay Yasa, , Ahmet Fatih Tabak, , Joshua Giltinan, , Sitti, M.

bioRxiv, pages: 379024, July 2018 (article)

Abstract
Miniaturization of interventional medical devices can leverage minimally invasive technologies by enabling operational resolution at cellular length scales with high precision and repeatability. Untethered micron-scale mobile robots can realize this by navigating and performing in hard-to-reach, confined and delicate inner body sites. However, such a complex task requires an integrated design and engineering strategy, where powering, control, environmental sensing, medical functionality and biodegradability need to be considered altogether. The present study reports a hydrogel-based, biodegradable microrobotic swimmer, which is responsive to the changes in its microenvironment for theranostic cargo delivery and release tasks. We design a double-helical magnetic microswimmer of 20 micrometers length, which is 3D-printed with complex geometrical and compositional features. At normal physiological concentrations, matrix metalloproteinase-2 (MMP-2) enzyme can entirely degrade the microswimmer body in 118 h to solubilized non-toxic products. The microswimmer can respond to the pathological concentrations of MMP-2 by swelling and thereby accelerating the release kinetics of the drug payload. Anti-ErbB 2 antibody-tagged magnetic nanoparticles released from the degraded microswimmers serve for targeted labeling of SKBR3 breast cancer cells to realize the potential of medical imaging of local tissue sites following the therapeutic intervention. These results represent a leap forward toward clinical medical microrobots that are capable of sensing, responding to the local pathological information, and performing specific therapeutic and diagnostic tasks as orderly executed operations using their smart composite material architectures.

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DOI Project Page [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.

hi

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Learning an Approximate Model Predictive Controller with Guarantees

Hertneck, M., Koehler, J., Trimpe, S., Allgöwer, F.

IEEE Control Systems Letters, 2(3):543-548, July 2018 (article)

Abstract
A supervised learning framework is proposed to approximate a model predictive controller (MPC) with reduced computational complexity and guarantees on stability and constraint satisfaction. The framework can be used for a wide class of nonlinear systems. Any standard supervised learning technique (e.g. neural networks) can be employed to approximate the MPC from samples. In order to obtain closed-loop guarantees for the learned MPC, a robust MPC design is combined with statistical learning bounds. The MPC design ensures robustness to inaccurate inputs within given bounds, and Hoeffding’s Inequality is used to validate that the learned MPC satisfies these bounds with high confidence. The result is a closed-loop statistical guarantee on stability and constraint satisfaction for the learned MPC. The proposed learning-based MPC framework is illustrated on a nonlinear benchmark problem, for which we learn a neural network controller with guarantees.

ics

arXiv PDF DOI [BibTex]

arXiv PDF DOI [BibTex]


Teaching a Robot Bimanual Hand-Clapping Games via Wrist-Worn {IMU}s
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.

hi

DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


Real-time Perception meets Reactive Motion Generation
Real-time Perception meets Reactive Motion Generation

(Best Systems Paper Finalists - Amazon Robotics Best Paper Awards in Manipulation)

Kappler, D., Meier, F., Issac, J., Mainprice, J., Garcia Cifuentes, C., Wüthrich, M., Berenz, V., Schaal, S., Ratliff, N., Bohg, J.

IEEE Robotics and Automation Letters, 3(3):1864-1871, July 2018 (article)

Abstract
We address the challenging problem of robotic grasping and manipulation in the presence of uncertainty. This uncertainty is due to noisy sensing, inaccurate models and hard-to-predict environment dynamics. Our approach emphasizes the importance of continuous, real-time perception and its tight integration with reactive motion generation methods. We present a fully integrated system where real-time object and robot tracking as well as ambient world modeling provides the necessary input to feedback controllers and continuous motion optimizers. Specifically, they provide attractive and repulsive potentials based on which the controllers and motion optimizer can online compute movement policies at different time intervals. We extensively evaluate the proposed system on a real robotic platform in four scenarios that exhibit either challenging workspace geometry or a dynamic environment. We compare the proposed integrated system with a more traditional sense-plan-act approach that is still widely used. In 333 experiments, we show the robustness and accuracy of the proposed system.

am

arxiv video video link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]


Innate turning preference of leaf-cutting ants in the absence of external orientation cues
Innate turning preference of leaf-cutting ants in the absence of external orientation cues

Endlein, T., Sitti, M.

Journal of Experimental Biology, The Company of Biologists Ltd, June 2018 (article)

Abstract
Many ants use a combination of cues for orientation but how do ants find their way when all external cues are suppressed? Do they walk in a random way or are their movements spatially oriented? Here we show for the first time that leaf-cutting ants (Acromyrmex lundii) have an innate preference of turning counter-clockwise (left) when external cues are precluded. We demonstrated this by allowing individual ants to run freely on the water surface of a newly-developed treadmill. The surface tension supported medium-sized workers but effectively prevented ants from reaching the wall of the vessel, important to avoid wall-following behaviour (thigmotaxis). Most ants ran for minutes on the spot but also slowly turned counter-clockwise in the absence of visual cues. Reconstructing the effectively walked path revealed a looping pattern which could be interpreted as a search strategy. A similar turning bias was shown for groups of ants in a symmetrical Y-maze where twice as many ants chose the left branch in the absence of optical cues. Wall-following behaviour was tested by inserting a coiled tube before the Y-fork. When ants traversed a left-coiled tube, more ants chose the left box and vice versa. Adding visual cues in form of vertical black strips either outside the treadmill or on one branch of the Y-maze led to oriented walks towards the strips. It is suggested that both, the turning bias and the wall-following are employed as search strategies for an unknown environment which can be overridden by visual cues.

pi

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


Motility and chemotaxis of bacteria-driven microswimmers fabricated using antigen 43-mediated biotin display
Motility and chemotaxis of bacteria-driven microswimmers fabricated using antigen 43-mediated biotin display

Schauer, O., Mostaghaci, B., Colin, R., Hürtgen, D., Kraus, D., Sitti, M., Sourjik, V.

Scientific Reports, 8(1):9801, Nature Publishing Group, June 2018 (article)

Abstract
Bacteria-driven biohybrid microswimmers (bacteriabots) combine synthetic cargo with motile living bacteria that enable propulsion and steering. Although fabrication and potential use of such bacteriabots have attracted much attention, existing methods of fabrication require an extensive sample preparation that can drastically decrease the viability and motility of bacteria. Moreover, chemotactic behavior of bacteriabots in a liquid medium with chemical gradients has remained largely unclear. To overcome these shortcomings, we designed Escherichia coli to autonomously display biotin on its cell surface via the engineered autotransporter antigen 43 and thus to bind streptavidin-coated cargo. We show that the cargo attachment to these bacteria is greatly enhanced by motility and occurs predominantly at the cell poles, which is greatly beneficial for the fabrication of motile bacteriabots. We further performed a systemic study to understand and optimize the ability of these bacteriabots to follow chemical gradients. We demonstrate that the chemotaxis of bacteriabots is primarily limited by the cargo-dependent reduction of swimming speed and show that the fabrication of bacteriabots using elongated E. coli cells can be used to overcome this limitation.

pi

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


Multifunctional ferrofluid-infused surfaces with reconfigurable multiscale topography
Multifunctional ferrofluid-infused surfaces with reconfigurable multiscale topography

Wang, W., Timonen, J. V. I., Carlson, A., Drotlef, D., Zhang, C. T., Kolle, S., Grinthal, A., Wong, T., Hatton, B., Kang, S. H., Kennedy, S., Chi, J., Blough, R. T., Sitti, M., Mahadevan, L., Aizenberg, J.

Nature, June 2018 (article)

Abstract
Developing adaptive materials with geometries that change in response to external stimuli provides fundamental insights into the links between the physical forces involved and the resultant morphologies and creates a foundation for technologically relevant dynamic systems1,2. In particular, reconfigurable surface topography as a means to control interfacial properties 3 has recently been explored using responsive gels 4 , shape-memory polymers 5 , liquid crystals6-8 and hybrid composites9-14, including magnetically active slippery surfaces12-14. However, these designs exhibit a limited range of topographical changes and thus a restricted scope of function. Here we introduce a hierarchical magneto-responsive composite surface, made by infiltrating a ferrofluid into a microstructured matrix (termed ferrofluid-containing liquid-infused porous surfaces, or FLIPS). We demonstrate various topographical reconfigurations at multiple length scales and a broad range of associated emergent behaviours. An applied magnetic-field gradient induces the movement of magnetic nanoparticles suspended in the ferrofluid, which leads to microscale flow of the ferrofluid first above and then within the microstructured surface. This redistribution changes the initially smooth surface of the ferrofluid (which is immobilized by the porous matrix through capillary forces) into various multiscale hierarchical topographies shaped by the size, arrangement and orientation of the confining microstructures in the magnetic field. We analyse the spatial and temporal dynamics of these reconfigurations theoretically and experimentally as a function of the balance between capillary and magnetic pressures15-19 and of the geometric anisotropy of the FLIPS system. Several interesting functions at three different length scales are demonstrated: self-assembly of colloidal particles at the micrometre scale; regulated flow of liquid droplets at the millimetre scale; and switchable adhesion and friction, liquid pumping and removal of biofilms at the centimetre scale. We envision that FLIPS could be used as part of integrated control systems for the manipulation and transport of matter, thermal management, microfluidics and fouling-release materials.

pi

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


Self-Sensing Paper Actuators Based on Graphite–Carbon Nanotube Hybrid Films
Self-Sensing Paper Actuators Based on Graphite–Carbon Nanotube Hybrid Films

Amjadi, M., Sitti, M.

Advanced Science, pages: 1800239, May 2018 (article)

Abstract
Abstract Soft actuators have demonstrated potential in a range of applications, including soft robotics, artificial muscles, and biomimetic devices. However, the majority of current soft actuators suffer from the lack of real-time sensory feedback, prohibiting their effective sensing and multitask function. Here, a promising strategy is reported to design bilayer electrothermal actuators capable of simultaneous actuation and sensation (i.e., self-sensing actuators), merely through two input electric terminals. Decoupled electrothermal stimulation and strain sensation is achieved by the optimal combination of graphite microparticles and carbon nanotubes (CNTs) in the form of hybrid films. By finely tuning the charge transport properties of hybrid films, the signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) of self-sensing actuators is remarkably enhanced to over 66. As a result, self-sensing actuators can actively track their displacement and distinguish the touch of soft and hard objects.

pi

link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]


Soft erythrocyte-based bacterial microswimmers for cargo delivery
Soft erythrocyte-based bacterial microswimmers for cargo delivery

Alapan, Y., Yasa, O., Schauer, O., Giltinan, J., Tabak, A. F., Sourjik, V., Sitti, M.

Science Robotics, 3(17):eaar4423, Science Robotics, April 2018 (article)

Abstract
Bacteria-propelled biohybrid microswimmers have recently shown to be able to actively transport and deliver cargos encapsulated into their synthetic constructs to specific regions locally. However, usage of synthetic materials as cargo carriers can result in inferior performance in load-carrying efficiency, biocompatibility, and biodegradability, impeding clinical translation of biohybrid microswimmers. Here, we report construction and external guidance of bacteria-driven microswimmers using red blood cells (RBCs; erythrocytes) as autologous cargo carriers for active and guided drug delivery. Multifunctional biohybrid microswimmers were fabricated by attachment of RBCs [loaded with anticancer doxorubicin drug molecules and superparamagnetic iron oxide nanoparticles (SPIONs)] to bioengineered motile bacteria, Escherichia coli MG1655, via biotin-avidin-biotin binding complex. Autonomous and on-board propulsion of biohybrid microswimmers was provided by bacteria, and their external magnetic guidance was enabled by SPIONs loaded into the RBCs. Furthermore, bacteria-driven RBC microswimmers displayed preserved deformability and attachment stability even after squeezing in microchannels smaller than their sizes, as in the case of bare RBCs. In addition, an on-demand light-activated hyperthermia termination switch was engineered for RBC microswimmers to control bacteria population after operations. RBCs, as biological and autologous cargo carriers in the biohybrid microswimmers, offer notable advantages in stability, deformability, biocompatibility, and biodegradability over synthetic cargo-carrier materials. The biohybrid microswimmer design presented here transforms RBCs from passive cargo carriers into active and guidable cargo carriers toward targeted drug and other cargo delivery applications in medicine.

pi

link (url) DOI Project Page Project Page [BibTex]

link (url) DOI Project Page Project Page [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)

hi

DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


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Miniature soft robots – road to the clinic

Sitti, M.

Nature Reviews Materials, April 2018 (article)

Abstract
Soft small robots offer the opportunity to non-invasively access human tissue to perform medical operations and deliver drugs; however, challenges in materials design, biocompatibility and function control remain to be overcome for soft robots to reach the clinic.

pi

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


Wrinkling Instability and Adhesion of a Highly Bendable Gallium Oxide Nanofilm Encapsulating a Liquid-Gallium Droplet
Wrinkling Instability and Adhesion of a Highly Bendable Gallium Oxide Nanofilm Encapsulating a Liquid-Gallium Droplet

Yunusa, M., Amador, G. J., Drotlef, D., Sitti, M.

Nano Letters, 18(4):2498-2504, March 2018 (article)

Abstract
The wrinkling and interfacial adhesion mechanics of a gallium-oxide nanofilm encapsulating a liquid-gallium droplet are presented. The native oxide nanofilm provides mechanical stability by preventing the flow of the liquid metal. We show how a crumpled oxide skin a few nanometers thick behaves akin to a highly bendable elastic nanofilm under ambient conditions. Upon compression, a wrinkling instability emerges at the contact interface to relieve the applied stress. As the load is further increased, radial wrinkles evolve, and, eventually, the oxide nanofilm ruptures. The observed wrinkling closely resembles the instability experienced by nanofilms under axisymmetric loading, thus providing further insights into the behaviors of elastic nanofilms. Moreover, the mechanical attributes of the oxide skin enable high surface conformation by exhibiting liquid-like behavior. We measured an adhesion energy of 0.238 ± 0.008 J m–2 between a liquid-gallium droplet and smooth flat glass, which is close to the measurements of thin-sheet nanomaterials such as graphene on silicon dioxide.

pi

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


Magnetic-Visual Sensor Fusion-based Dense 3D Reconstruction and Localization for Endoscopic Capsule Robots
Magnetic-Visual Sensor Fusion-based Dense 3D Reconstruction and Localization for Endoscopic Capsule Robots

Turan, M., Almalioglu, Y., Ornek, E. P., Araujo, H., Yanik, M. F., Sitti, M.

ArXiv e-prints, March 2018 (article)

Abstract
Reliable and real-time 3D reconstruction and localization functionality is a crucial prerequisite for the navigation of actively controlled capsule endoscopic robots as an emerging, minimally invasive diagnostic and therapeutic technology for use in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. In this study, we propose a fully dense, non-rigidly deformable, strictly real-time, intraoperative map fusion approach for actively controlled endoscopic capsule robot applications which combines magnetic and vision-based localization, with non-rigid deformations based frame-to-model map fusion. The performance of the proposed method is demonstrated using four different ex-vivo porcine stomach models. Across different trajectories of varying speed and complexity, and four different endoscopic cameras, the root mean square surface reconstruction errors 1.58 to 2.17 cm.

pi

link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]