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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.

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


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Analytical classical density functionals from an equation learning network

Lin, S., Martius, G., Oettel, M.

The Journal of Chemical Physics, 152(2):021102, 2020, arXiv preprint \url{https://arxiv.org/abs/1910.12752} (article)

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Preprint_PDF DOI [BibTex]

Preprint_PDF DOI [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.

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[BibTex]


Differentiation of blackbox combinatorial solvers
Differentiation of blackbox combinatorial solvers

Vlastelica, M., Paulus, A., Musil, V., Martius, G., Rolı́nek, M.

In International Conference on Learning Representations, ICLR’20, 2020 (incollection)

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link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


Trunk pitch oscillations for energy trade-offs in bipedal running birds and robots
Trunk pitch oscillations for energy trade-offs in bipedal running birds and robots

Drama, Ö., Badri-Spröwitz, A.

Bioinspiration & Biomimetics, 2020 (article)

Abstract
Bipedal animals have diverse morphologies and advanced locomotion abilities. Terrestrial birds, in particular, display agile, efficient, and robust running motion, in which they exploit the interplay between the body segment masses and moment of inertias. On the other hand, most legged robots are not able to generate such versatile and energy-efficient motion and often disregard trunk movements as a means to enhance their locomotion capabilities. Recent research investigated how trunk motions affect the gait characteristics of humans, but there is a lack of analysis across different bipedal morphologies. To address this issue, we analyze avian running based on a spring-loaded inverted pendulum model with a pronograde (horizontal) trunk. We use a virtual point based control scheme and modify the alignment of the ground reaction forces to assess how our control strategy influences the trunk pitch oscillations and energetics of the locomotion. We derive three potential key strategies to leverage trunk pitch motions that minimize either the energy fluctuations of the center of mass or the work performed by the hip and leg. We suggest how these strategies could be used in legged robotics.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

2019


Series Elastic Behavior of Biarticular Muscle-Tendon Structure in a Robotic Leg
Series Elastic Behavior of Biarticular Muscle-Tendon Structure in a Robotic Leg

Ruppert, F., Badri-Spröwitz, A.

Frontiers in Neurorobotics, 64, pages: 13, 13, August 2019 (article)

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Frontiers YouTube link (url) DOI [BibTex]

2019


Frontiers YouTube link (url) DOI [BibTex]


Beyond Basins of Attraction: Quantifying Robustness of Natural Dynamics
Beyond Basins of Attraction: Quantifying Robustness of Natural Dynamics

Steve Heim, , Spröwitz, A.

IEEE Transactions on Robotics (T-RO) , 35(4), pages: 939-952, August 2019 (article)

Abstract
Properly designing a system to exhibit favorable natural dynamics can greatly simplify designing or learning the control policy. However, it is still unclear what constitutes favorable natural dynamics and how to quantify its effect. Most studies of simple walking and running models have focused on the basins of attraction of passive limit cycles and the notion of self-stability. We instead emphasize the importance of stepping beyond basins of attraction. In this paper, we show an approach based on viability theory to quantify robust sets in state-action space. These sets are valid for the family of all robust control policies, which allows us to quantify the robustness inherent to the natural dynamics before designing the control policy or specifying a control objective. We illustrate our formulation using spring-mass models, simple low-dimensional models of running systems. We then show an example application by optimizing robustness of a simulated planar monoped, using a gradient-free optimization scheme. Both case studies result in a nonlinear effective stiffness providing more robustness.

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arXiv preprint arXiv:1806.08081 T-RO link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]

arXiv preprint arXiv:1806.08081 T-RO link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]


Implementation of a 6-{DOF} Parallel Continuum Manipulator for Delivering Fingertip Tactile Cues
Implementation of a 6-DOF Parallel Continuum Manipulator for Delivering Fingertip Tactile Cues

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

IEEE Transactions on Haptics, 12(3):295-306, June 2019 (article)

Abstract
Existing fingertip haptic devices can deliver different subsets of tactile cues in a compact package, but we have not yet seen a wearable six-degree-of-freedom (6-DOF) display. This paper presents the Fuppeteer (short for Fingertip Puppeteer), a device that is capable of controlling the position and orientation of a flat platform, such that any combination of normal and shear force can be delivered at any location on any human fingertip. We build on our previous work of designing a parallel continuum manipulator for fingertip haptics by presenting a motorized version in which six flexible Nitinol wires are actuated via independent roller mechanisms and proportional-derivative controllers. We evaluate the settling time and end-effector vibrations observed during system responses to step inputs. After creating a six-dimensional lookup table and adjusting simulated inputs using measured Jacobians, we show that the device can make contact with all parts of the fingertip with a mean error of 1.42 mm. Finally, we present results from a human-subject study. A total of 24 users discerned 9 evenly distributed contact locations with an average accuracy of 80.5%. Translational and rotational shear cues were identified reasonably well near the center of the fingertip and more poorly around the edges.

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DOI [BibTex]


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How Does It Feel to Clap Hands with a Robot?

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

International Journal of Social Robotics, 2019 (article) Accepted

Abstract
Future robots may need lighthearted physical interaction capabilities to connect with people in meaningful ways. To begin exploring how users perceive playful human–robot hand-to-hand interaction, we conducted a study with 20 participants. Each user played simple hand-clapping games with the Rethink Robotics Baxter Research Robot during a 1-h-long session involving 24 randomly ordered conditions that varied in facial reactivity, physical reactivity, arm stiffness, and clapping tempo. Survey data and experiment recordings demonstrate that this interaction is viable: all users successfully completed the experiment and mentioned enjoying at least one game without prompting. Hand-clapping tempo was highly salient to users, and human-like robot errors were more widely accepted than mechanical errors. Furthermore, perceptions of Baxter varied in the following statistically significant ways: facial reactivity increased the robot’s perceived pleasantness and energeticness; physical reactivity decreased pleasantness, energeticness, and dominance; higher arm stiffness increased safety and decreased dominance; and faster tempo increased energeticness and increased dominance. These findings can motivate and guide roboticists who want to design social–physical human–robot interactions.

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[BibTex]

[BibTex]


Autonomous Identification and Goal-Directed Invocation of Event-Predictive Behavioral Primitives
Autonomous Identification and Goal-Directed Invocation of Event-Predictive Behavioral Primitives

Gumbsch, C., Butz, M. V., Martius, G.

IEEE Transactions on Cognitive and Developmental Systems, 2019 (article)

Abstract
Voluntary behavior of humans appears to be composed of small, elementary building blocks or behavioral primitives. While this modular organization seems crucial for the learning of complex motor skills and the flexible adaption of behavior to new circumstances, the problem of learning meaningful, compositional abstractions from sensorimotor experiences remains an open challenge. Here, we introduce a computational learning architecture, termed surprise-based behavioral modularization into event-predictive structures (SUBMODES), that explores behavior and identifies the underlying behavioral units completely from scratch. The SUBMODES architecture bootstraps sensorimotor exploration using a self-organizing neural controller. While exploring the behavioral capabilities of its own body, the system learns modular structures that predict the sensorimotor dynamics and generate the associated behavior. In line with recent theories of event perception, the system uses unexpected prediction error signals, i.e., surprise, to detect transitions between successive behavioral primitives. We show that, when applied to two robotic systems with completely different body kinematics, the system manages to learn a variety of complex behavioral primitives. Moreover, after initial self-exploration the system can use its learned predictive models progressively more effectively for invoking model predictive planning and goal-directed control in different tasks and environments.

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arXiv PDF video link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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Machine Learning for Haptics: Inferring Multi-Contact Stimulation From Sparse Sensor Configuration

Sun, H., Martius, G.

Frontiers in Neurorobotics, 13, pages: 51, 2019 (article)

Abstract
Robust haptic sensation systems are essential for obtaining dexterous robots. Currently, we have solutions for small surface areas such as fingers, but affordable and robust techniques for covering large areas of an arbitrary 3D surface are still missing. Here, we introduce a general machine learning framework to infer multi-contact haptic forces on a 3D robot’s limb surface from internal deformation measured by only a few physical sensors. The general idea of this framework is to predict first the whole surface deformation pattern from the sparsely placed sensors and then to infer number, locations and force magnitudes of unknown contact points. We show how this can be done even if training data can only be obtained for single-contact points using transfer learning at the example of a modified limb of the Poppy robot. With only 10 strain-gauge sensors we obtain a high accuracy also for multiple-contact points. The method can be applied to arbitrarily shaped surfaces and physical sensor types, as long as training data can be obtained.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

2015


Exciting Engineered Passive Dynamics in a Bipedal Robot
Exciting Engineered Passive Dynamics in a Bipedal Robot

Renjewski, D., Spröwitz, A., Peekema, A., Jones, M., Hurst, J.

{IEEE Transactions on Robotics and Automation}, 31(5):1244-1251, IEEE, New York, NY, 2015 (article)

Abstract
A common approach in designing legged robots is to build fully actuated machines and control the machine dynamics entirely in soft- ware, carefully avoiding impacts and expending a lot of energy. However, these machines are outperformed by their human and animal counterparts. Animals achieve their impressive agility, efficiency, and robustness through a close integration of passive dynamics, implemented through mechanical components, and neural control. Robots can benefit from this same integrated approach, but a strong theoretical framework is required to design the passive dynamics of a machine and exploit them for control. For this framework, we use a bipedal spring–mass model, which has been shown to approximate the dynamics of human locomotion. This paper reports the first implementation of spring–mass walking on a bipedal robot. We present the use of template dynamics as a control objective exploiting the engineered passive spring–mass dynamics of the ATRIAS robot. The results highlight the benefits of combining passive dynamics with dynamics-based control and open up a library of spring–mass model-based control strategies for dynamic gait control of robots.

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link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]

2015


link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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Novel plasticity rule can explain the development of sensorimotor intelligence

Der, R., Martius, G.

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 112(45):E6224-E6232, 2015 (article)

Abstract
Grounding autonomous behavior in the nervous system is a fundamental challenge for neuroscience. In particular, self-organized behavioral development provides more questions than answers. Are there special functional units for curiosity, motivation, and creativity? This paper argues that these features can be grounded in synaptic plasticity itself, without requiring any higher-level constructs. We propose differential extrinsic plasticity (DEP) as a new synaptic rule for self-learning systems and apply it to a number of complex robotic systems as a test case. Without specifying any purpose or goal, seemingly purposeful and adaptive rhythmic behavior is developed, displaying a certain level of sensorimotor intelligence. These surprising results require no system-specific modifications of the DEP rule. They rather arise from the underlying mechanism of spontaneous symmetry breaking, which is due to the tight brain body environment coupling. The new synaptic rule is biologically plausible and would be an interesting target for neurobiological investigation. We also argue that this neuronal mechanism may have been a catalyst in natural evolution.

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link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]

link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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Quantifying Emergent Behavior of Autonomous Robots

Martius, G., Olbrich, E.

Entropy, 17(10):7266, 2015 (article)

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]